I was eleven years old, when I was molested. My mother had just found the love of her life after suffering through years of abuse, at the hands of my biological father. She and my step father had now started their new life. There were no fights to be heard in the middle of the night…no yelling to be heard from the other room. This was my new normal. Things were good. They were happy. I was happy. Prior to their marriage, I was introduced to extended family members, welcoming me with open arms. They all seemed healthy. Up until that point, I had been a product of an pretty unhealthy family dynamic. Being met with hugs and laughter, were exactly what my eleven year old heart needed at the time. It was around this time, when I was introduced to one of my stepfather’s uncles. He was an older man. He had grey hair and seemed kind. He seemed trustworthy. I remember going over to his house, while he cooked fried bologna sandwiches for me and another relative. 'So this is what family feels like,' I thought to myself. Honestly, the only sense of extended family that I had known prior to that, was from my mother’s side of the family. You can imagine how refreshing it was to experience a sense of family from my newly acquired paternal side.
One evening, my parents decided to have a night out. Arrangements were made for my sister and I to stay with this particular uncle. When it was time for bedtime, my sister and I put on our pajamas and headed for the palate that was made for us on the living room floor. I remember laying on the floor watching television, and then falling asleep…
When I awoke… I felt hands… I felt a body next to me that was not my sisters. I felt an adult hand touch me. As I awoke I felt this hand go under my pajamas, and touch my vagina. I froze. What do I do? My eleven year old mind started racing a million miles a minute… time was freezing in its tracks. I had heard stories and my fair share of after school specials on “bad touch.” However… somehow… I was now in this situation. My reaction… I jumped up, ran to the bathroom and locked the door. I froze again. Where do I go from here? Was this my fault? Why would a grown man do this? Is he going to hurt me? What happens now? These thoughts flooded my eleven year old mind. He seemed so kind. ‘My younger sister!!!’ I quickly remembered that she was still in the living room. I had to go back in there. I unlocked the door and proceeded to walk back to the living room. He was now in his bedroom… in the dark. He then tells me to come here. I go in… he apologizes. He then proceeds to hug me and attempts to pull me on to the bed with him. I managed to push him away and walk out of the bedroom. He then follows me to the living room. He asks that I don't tell and apologizes again. I promised to not tell. Once he left the room, I laid back down on my palate, pretending to fall asleep. Minutes later, I reach for the closest phone in the house to call my parents. I remember praying, ‘please pick up the phone.’ It was super late… past midnight. “Hello?” I whisper into the phone, “come get me…” My parents, reply, “Is everything ok?” I can hear the developing panic in their voices. All that I could manage to say was, “Come get me…” I quickly and quietly hang up and return back to my palate, next to my 4 year old sister, who was still asleep. Ten minutes passed. It felt like an eternity… I finally spot headlights shining through the window. I immediately, run for the door.
I carried the trauma of being molested for years afterward. It was hard for me to trust. I had been violated. This person felt that it was ok to touch me… to fondle me… I was a child. This person felt that it was ok to grope me and force himself on me. I still remember the predatory way he waited for me to fall asleep. I remember feeling as a child this strange sense of silence. I didn’t feel empowered to speak on what happened. The truth is, I didn't even have the vocabulary to fully explain in detail.
It would take years for me to be ok with any sort of affection. Even hugs from those that meant well, could trigger the memory of that evening. I suffered in silence for years. Being a victim of molestation changed me… forever. It changed the way I perceived the world as a child. Everyone was now a stranger.
I pray that rape culture ends. However, I only see it ending when assault is no longer chalked up to “locker room banter.” I see it ending when molesters/rapists are held accountable for their actions with actual jail time, and not given three months and a slap on the wrist. The man who molested me never went to jail. The discussion of charges being pressed were never discussed. Because nothing happened to the individual who molested me, I was left feeling like I wasn't enough. Not only was my body violated, but so was my self esteem and how I would view my worth. Change will only happen when victims are no longer blamed for being attacked… When the phrase “boys will be boys” or “manish” is no longer used to describe non consensual touch. Change will happen when we begin to teach our children to respect and honor each other.
As I tell my story, my hands tremble remembering the horror of that night. I was assaulted by a man who thought it ok to “grab me by the pussy”. My body was touched. It was devalued. I was molested… and that is not… and was not... and will never be ok.
Photos by Jeanette Polynice.