As I discussed over on my personal Facebook account, I want to start a discussion and series of posts over here about some difficult issues: sexual assault, Lena Dunham, victims, the age of culpability, and other topics in that vein. I have seen this or similar articles shared so many times by many of my friends over on Facebook and/or Twitter, and I can’t keep quiet about it anymore. I had a piece published in 2014 in Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence, and yes, I am a survivor of child molestation (specifically child on child molestation, not by anyone in my immediate family, but by a cousin). It was something I never talked about for years and years and years. I thought I would take it to the grave with me, but some of my views on it have changed. As I mentioned over on Facebook, I also think one of the major problems in this country is how this is such a deep dark shameful topic and that no one talks about it because it happens to so many, and in so many families. I was at the Vagina Monologues in St. Louis once, and the narrator said, “If you or someone you know has every been a victim of sexual assault, please stand up.” In a massive auditorium, nearly every person was standing so why aren’t we discussing it more? I will get to Lena Dunham in a series of follow up posts, but first I’ll share my piece that was published in the book before I break down my thoughts and processing it over the years, and my thoughts on Lena Dunham’s admission in her book which I loved. Click read more to see the post that was published in the book, and then stay tuned for more posts regarding this topic very soon.
Preening bottles of perfume, lined up on shelves, their necks turned like pageant queens, and we’re sifting through scents, turning smells like pages in books. I shake my head or nod, uncommitted to that, or arrogant to this. Then I smell something powdery and youthful that I would’ve spritzed on a cloud of as a child, and it’s so fucking hard. I’m there again. I played in the floor then with multi-colored plastic ponies spread around me, braiding their manes. He always entered the room silently, and then I’d feel him pressing into my back, hot breath in my ear. I dreaded these moments as they unfolded, childhood stolen from me. The soft innocent scent of girlhood mingling with an unknown hot damp smell and fear as he manipulated my body and mouth to do things I didn’t understand but inherently knew were wrong. I’m there! Straight backed little girl with knocking knees and a silent mouth, and under my red school uniform, I’m screaming as another explores.
Another memory wafts up returning, I’m back in the bathroom with the bad girls, smoking and talking about blow jobs, and I thought about punching her in the face when she ridiculed a “naïve one,” who didn’t know the term, but oh a silent mouth that didn’t voice a defense because they might guess my past, a cowardly stone in my stomach.
All my life the firsts would be ruined with those doors he kept closed with the crib for my baby dolls scooted in front. His melting blue face in the tv glare worse than shark bites at sea.
I wore my guilt laced through my hair, dirty unraveled ribbons, and the sting of the wire end of the fly swat on the back of my legs when a relative had finally caught us in the act. I thought I’d been saved, but no. Looking into the sink back then, staring at my fuzzy reflection at its stainless steel bottom, silent, while punished for a crime I never committed. My victimization was swallowed with shame.
Above the moment then, I imagined jumping off mountains, ripping briars through my hand, anything to force my thoughts from what had happened so many times and from the guilt I then bore from accusation of those that loved me.
Above the many memories of that time that arose frequently later in my life, I polished hate into smooth little stones. I know every bone, hair, and scratch on myself. I know every single story I’ve told. I know how it feels to burn yourself alive; to be dead for so many years.
And because of what happened then and how it changed me forever, I now love. I love the flawed. I love the paunch of my stomach, the wrinkles around his eyes, and the beauty of her dragging her crippled leg behind her. I love their lazy eyes, and I love their mushed brains. I love scars; I love the bruises. I love those shattered, with the hollow in the bends of their arm that holds a cupful of secrets that you’ll probably never know. Because really, all these broken, all these survivors.