According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before turning 18.
As I try writing about this it brings up all the guilt and shame that I experienced as a child. Guild and shame that I have buried deep inside my soul hoping that it would dissipate into nothingness. Those feelings though do not disappear. They filter out into life and existence. Guilt and Shame have colored all of my life experiences, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. The darkness is where things fester and destroy life and so I am bringing my guilt and shame out into the light.
Memory is a weird thing sometime but it is my narrative and interpretation of those experiences. I was six and the neighbor was 12. I looked up to him. I thought it was cool he was my friend. It was a summer day, and most likely a Saturday. My father was outside mowing the lawn. I was sitting on a bed in my sister’s room and the neighbor was sitting on the bed next to me. He ask me if I wanted to play a game called “Truth or Dare”. I agreed. Without saying anything to my parents I was lead to a field behind the houses across the street. In the field was a ditch that had not been used in a number of years. There was a section along the ditch that had a thicket of Coyote Willows still growing. We sat down in this thicket of willows and began to play this game “Truth or Dare”.
I do not remember the whole series of events. In the end, we were both naked and there was touching and exploring of bodies. Upon hearing my mother calling my name I was told to quickly get dressed and that if my mother found out what we had done she would stop loving me. At that moment my innocence of this experience was shattered and in flooded the guild and shame. I had managed to put my shirt on backwards. My mother commented on it and I remember thinking that I hoped she would figure out what had happened. I could not explain to my mother what had happened. I did not have the vocabulary to describe it. We did not talk about bodies and sex in my home.
For the next six months the interactions continued. The pretext of playing a game was dropped. The neighbor’s personality changed from being kind to threatening. Almost daily he would threaten me with violence and revealing or “secret” to my mother if I did not do what he told me to do. I had six months of sexual encounters with a 12 year old where I was threatened with violence if I did not participate.
The very last time I saw this kid sticks out in my mind so clearly that even today it feels like it happened yesterday. He came over to my house with the usual threats. I followed him over to his house. We walked in the back door and were walking down the hallway to his bedroom when his mom walked into the house. I was sent home because her son was grounded and I remember being flooded with this feeling of relief as I was inadvertently rescued from my abuser. Within a few days the family moved and I never saw this kid again.
The hard part for me to process today as I sit here writing this is my actions after all this ended. For the next couple of years I also had interactions with other boys. Sometimes we played “Doctor” or “Truth or Dare”. Did I act out my abuse on others and become the victimizer? When I was eight one such encounter felt like that to the other person. Much later in life I wrote them a letter. What follows is part of that letter:
My son is currently in counseling for sexual abuse. He was sexually abused about three or four years ago. The first time he was in counseling he would not talk about it or deal with it. During that time I was not being a responsible father or person and was not able to be there for him. It was during this time that your father sent me an email and told me that you had told him I had sexually abused you.
My recollection all these years has been of two boys experimenting. But that really is irrelevant if you experienced it as abuse. When I was five or six, I was sexually abused by my next door neighbor. It was very traumatic for me and because I did not start dealing with it until I was an adult it has had a big effect upon my life.
I am sorry for any ill affects my actions have caused you. I was not seeking to harm you or cause you pain. I am sorry that you have suffered because of my actions. I wish that I could go back and undo them, but since life is not designed that way I must accept the reality of today and be responsible for myself.
Those six months when I was six have had such a profound effect upon my life in so many ways, anorexia, depression, outburst of anger, being sexually assaulted as an adult and the list goes on. I have hurt others. I have hurt myself. I have often suffered in silence.
Last year I wrote the poem Coyote Willow. It was the first time in years where I really tried to process through my own sexual abuse as a child. I shared the poem with my son and for the first time he felt he could trust me with his own experiences of sexual abuse. He had never been willing to talk to me about it before. I have since learned that I did not believe him when I should have and I over reacted when I should not have. Our relationship has improved and doors have opened for healing. This is why I choose to bring my guilt and shame into the light.