Content warning for childhood sexual assault:
So, here goes. When I was 10 years old I was sitting inside the bedroom of my best friend’s older brother, who was 13 at the time. Also present was the best friend, and another friend of mine, who was 8 at the time. Why were we in his room? I don’t remember exactly. I just remember the sense I had at the time that he was cool. Cool in the sense that he was both older than me and that he was relatively popular at school. And I most certainly was not cool. I was chubby and awkward. In any case, at the time he was really into card games. Poker, Texas Hold ‘Em, and so on. So he suggested we all play strip poker.
As far as sex goes, my knowledge at the time was limited, to say the least. Sex was something whose existence I was vaguely aware of, but at the same time it seemed like one of those bizarre adult things that I had no reason to worry about yet, like taxes or college. And body-wise, I was at the time in my life when I had just about started the big scary puberty. I had just started growing breasts and I had just started growing a few tiny pubic hairs. Also, I was, you know, a kid. I had light-up sneakers and I was learning the state capitals in school. I was a kid. I don’t think I can emphasize that enough.
So he suggests this, and we all kind of go along with it. What can I say? Three young girls and a guy who can be officially classified as a teenager. Never mind that only one person in the room knew how to play poker. Never mind that I really clearly had no desire to take off any of my clothes, or see anyone else in the room naked. I was trying to be cool, I guess. So I sort of pick and put down cards at random, and when he says I’ve lost and have to take something off, I do it. There go my socks. There go my pants. There goes my shirt. There go my day-of-the-week undies. I am naked and so is everyone else in the room.
The new “thing” we have to do once we lose a round is to do one of his dares. Of course, now it occurs to me that he was dictating all of the dares, that I was the only one who had to do anything sexual (as far as I remember), and that it’s more than a little fucked up to be daring little kids to be doing sex acts in front of you. I can say that suddenly I really didn’t want to be there, I really didn’t want to do the things he was daring, and I really had no idea what I was supposed to do.
He dared me to touch his penis. I now know that he had an erection, and I now know that when he took my wrist and moved it up and down, he was making me give him a hand job. I also know that he never asked. He never asked if this was what I wanted. He never told me it was ok to stop. He never told me it was ok to say no.
And then the next dare: me getting underneath a sleeping bag with him. He grabbed my shoulders. I turned my head away. And then, saying nothing about what he going to do, he raped me. It was over in about two minutes.
After, he let each of us put on one piece of clothing. I chose one of his sweatshirts because it covered my whole body. And then I don’t really remember what happened next. And then my brain blocked the whole thing out for the next eight years.
When it came back to me, at first I thought, “huh, that’s weird, some experimenting from my childhood”. And then I couldn’t stop remembering it. Flashes of the memory would stop me in the street, in the line at the grocery store, while out with friends, everywhere. I had nightmares about it, and woke up in a cold sweat, wondering why this had come back.
For a while, I didn’t think of it as sexual assault. Even when I became involved in sex education, even as a learned the meaning of consent, I was in denial. I had this idea that somehow it couldn’t happen to me. Of course I couldn’t have been assaulted. I knew what consent meant and I knew I had never consented to what he did. I was too young to understand. I was silent.
Even as I began to understand what had happened to me as assault, I still had this idea that it was somehow my fault. I can never imagine saying what I said to myself to another survivor. Why hadn’t I screamed? Why didn’t I run? Why didn’t I ever tell anyone? Because I was scared. Because I didn’t understand. And because I thought I would get in trouble. There’s a part of me that hates myself for staying quiet. It never occurred to me wonder why he had continued. Why he did what he wanted. Why he took my silence as a yes. Why he thought a girl much younger than him could understand what sex meant.
I so admire people who can talk about this publicly, because I can’t. I’m scared. I’m scared that people won’t believe me. That they won’t think of it as assault. That they’ll treat me like I’m fragile and helpless.
I’m also scared that there are other girls he assaulted. In high school, he had a “reputation” with girls. I’m afraid of what that means.
Sometimes I want to be angry that this happened to me. Mostly, I’m sad. I feel sad and helpless and I really wish it had never happened. I wish I never had to remember it. I wish I could make the memory disappear. I wish these nightmares would go away.
They won’t, and they never will.