I was Just a Kid, and So Was He
It started when I was nine. At my childhood home we had a wooden fence built in the backyard and behind those fences were a group of houses. You could look through the window of our old living room, and you could see the roof of the house behind us peaking out to greet you every time. A family of three, two brother close in my age range, and their darling little sister lived there with their parents, and since I was seven years old I had gone over there nearly every week to play with them. I had a lot in common with the oldest, he was the first one I met too. We both loved bugs and animals, he even gave me my own own bug jar to catch lady bugs in. He loved to come over to see my rabbit, even risked getting stung when he pulled a little wasp nest (at least he said it was or when he pulled it out to show us) out from my rabbit’s cage to help. The problem though wasn’t with this boy, it was his brother. A year younger then him. He was always little a bit off, always doing things like putting worms down my back to make me uncomfortable. But I brushed it off, thinking nothing of it, always told to give people a chance and time to show their best. And as the years rolled by he seemed to do that, and he stopped putting things down my shirt. He seemed to also show a nice side that I could appreciate. I started to like him as a genuine friend over time. Until, one day when he took me down to his room in his family’s basement, under the pretense of wanting to “show me something.” It was dark down there, quiet. Everyone was outside in the yard playing. His mom upstairs, unable to hear anything. When we got downstairs, I asked him what it he wanted me to see. He got really close to my face and whispered in my ear to kiss him. I had never been asked to do something so physical before. I was only nine. But I knew what kissing was. I’d seen my mom and dad do it, aunt and uncles. I watched a lot of cartoons that showed romance between kids; the classic Disney movies, a normal part of growing up they’d say. And it was always between two people who were in love. And as a little girl of course I would dream of finding my soulmate, the perfect wedding, dashing Princes from fairytales we’re what I dreamed of as an ideal match for me at that time. So when I heard what my friend wanted me to do, someone I never even thought of in that way. I was shocked. And startled. I was told to never do things that I was uncomfortable with and I was NOT comfortable with what he told me to do. I said no, and I tried to leave, exactly as I was taught. Unfortunately, nobody ever told me what to do when the person doesn’t take no for an answer. He wouldn’t let me leave, and he started pleading and begging for me to do it. Even though I kept saying no a dozen times he wouldn’t take it for an answer and he wouldn’t let me leave. I was scared, and confused. No one even told me what to do if it’s a friend that asks me to do something like this. Someone who, in my mind, I knew for a long time. Who I thought cared about me, or how they would use your friendship to manipulate you to get you to do what they wanted. No one told me that just saying no isn’t enough to protect you, especially if you’re only a kid. And I was being conditioned by several toxic people in my family life to value other people’s feelings over my own” cause what they feel “matters more then what I feel”. Schools are not exactly innocent in that department either. He told me that it would only be for a bit, and he was pleading with me as if rejecting him would break his heart. I was way too sweet at that time, and he knew it. I began to rationalize , thinking that since he’s my friend it would be fine, he’s not hurting me or anything, and he only said it would be for a bit. And he looks like he really want it. Besides there was no way he was going let me leave, and in the media, and with what I heard from my older cousins they always said what first kisses are like, so maybe it was time for me step into that threshold, I mean I was nine a “big kid” now. That’s the thing I was only nine, just a child. And already I was rationalizing my friend’s gross behavior. So I gave him what he wanted. I always dreamed my first kiss would be like fireworks like I saw in all those movies. But it felt gross and empty. I remember that slimy grin he had on his face, knowing he got me to do what he wanted while we kissed, and it went on longer then he said it was, making me feel bad if I pulled away “too soon.” He even tried to get me to take my pant’s down. Luckily, I didn’t let him coerce me into doing that, but he still got me to unbutton them. At least he didn’t touch me down there, but it’s still a frightening thought that a kid at such a young age would try to get another kid to do that. He forced me to kiss him some more and after he was done, he told me to keep it a secret. And I said I would. But I felt uneasy over what happened. But I figured since I gave him what he wanted, he’d never ask me again. But i was wrong. He forced me to kiss him down in that basement every time I came over. That little “secret” was starting to weight me down no matter how many times I tried to rationalize it. I even wondered if what we were doing meant that we were in, what the big kids called, a relationship. He talked like we were in one. “Was this how they worked?” I wondered. “It always looked so nice in the shows and movies I watch on T.V. The kids in those shows were about our age and they were always kissing and holding hands, smiling. So why did I feel like this?” It was a very uncomfortable and confusing time for me, cause stuff like this is never discussed in schools. They all think we need to experience a “childhood” first. They don’t get that by keeping us in the dark about this stuff, about our bodies, what consent actually is and isn’t, and teaching us to understand our bodies and healthy ways to cope with certain emotions and feelings were going through, the less time we actually be spend at being kids and more as victims, or in my friends case, offenders. People say kids can’t do this type of shit to other kids, but that is a gross misconception. Finally, I told my dad in the car one day about it and thankfully that stopped it. But things between me and his brother were never the same. I’m not sure how my dad handled it, but about a year or two afterwards him and his once sweet brother started to throw rocks at my house, and stalked, bullied and harassed me after we all entered middle school. Whether it was school or back at home, where there house loomed behind mine like a haunting. It caused a lot of stress I my life, and worsened my anxiety. I only found relief when I was at my father’s house. Away from them and their abuse. For a long time I blamed myself for what happened. Angry that I didn’t say no louder, try to leave harder, thinking my relationship with my friends got bad because I told “our secret”. However, years later as an adult woman, I am so thankful I told, and I understand that back then I did everything I could at that time as a nine year old to protect myself. It wasn’t my fault that my supposed friend violated my trust and took advantage of me like that, preying on my weakness. And instead of owning up to it, like a coward he got him and his brother to use acts of violence and harassment against me as a way to run away from the wrong he did to me. The only one to blame for the way things went was him. Though it does make me wonder what would make a kid in elementary school to do something so violating when the only thing he should get excited for is a scoop of double chocolate chip ice cream. As someone aiming to work with kids in the future I hope to understand it better and stop this kind of behavior from ever happening again. Since then I’ve moved away from that place, and started my own path to healing. Sharing this story and regaining my voice is part of the process. Though sadly this wasn’t the only time I suffered sexual assault/harassment growing up. But that’s for another time.
3 months later
They always told girls to keep themselves protected, to not do anything to “arouse” anyone. Don’t wear skimpy clothing. Don’t drink. Stay clean and don’t go to dangerous place by yourself, there will be all sorts of perverts to grab you and force themselves on you if you do. Just follow all these instructions, and you’ll be safe. Horseshit. You can dress like a nun, never touch a drop of alcohol in your life and go to the safest most public-lit place you know and it will STILL happen to you. Especially when those “teachers” who all told you those same little things, who are supposed to protect you, allow you to go through such trauma. Even worst when before it even happens, they make pretty damn sure that you blame yourself for it. Why else do you think those perverts in school keep doing it? After all, it’s always the victims fault, offenders can do no wrong, just “kids being kids” right? “Their hormones are all over the place”. It’s just regular teenage shit. Middle school was rough enough, with all the inappropriate poking, touching, “accidentally” bumping up against a girl and swiping their hands between their legs. I constantly had some boy come up to me to comment the size of my chest perversely. One boy in particular wouldn’t leave my alone. Not the same boy as before, though. But just as gross. Always making sexually inappropriate jokes at me, and at my body. “He just likes you.” They all said. Shut up. No one talks to someone they like like that. The only ones who do are those who grow up to be rapists or sex offenders. This was unfortunately what almost all the girls in middle school had to deal with. It was prevalent especially during gym class. And it doesn’t stop in High school. It happened at homecoming. My sophomore year. I bought I really cute dress, and went with my friends at the time. My cousin helped me with my make up. I loved how I looked. Pretty. Mature. It wasn’t layered on. Just the right amount. I felt very pretty. And for once I felt I fit in at school. When we got there, it was fun for a bit. I danced and hung out with my friends. Then they decided to go up stairs to get some pictures. I wasn’t too crazy about getting my picture taken at the time. So they decided to go by themselves, and I hung back on the dance floor. I had ulterior means though for staying back, I was looking for my crush at the time. I had a little fairy-tale in my head where maybe if I found him, I’d act all surprise, he’d be surprise, we would talk, and maybe, just maybe we would end up dancing together. Too many Disney Channel sitcoms will do that to your brain. Anyway, I was walking around the gymnasium, carefully looking into the dancing crowed, but I couldn’t find my crush. Then when I looked away for a bit, it happened. I felt arms grabbing around hips strongly, and pulling me towards the dance floor. I thought it was one of my friends but when I turned to face them, it wasn’t. It was a boy who was friends with one of my older friends from the bus. He seemed nice. We were all talking to each other on the bus. Laughing. Having fun. Least I thought so (looking back though my friend didn’t seem like she wasn’t having too much fun with him around. Would have been nice is she had at least warned me about him). He said I was funny, and cute. I went home that day feeling a little happy (I wasn’t very popular at school and bullied severely, and I’m pretty sure that “friend” from before spread an untrue rumor about what happened in that basement to make me look like the bad person in that scenario). I really wished someone had warned me about that. How it’s not always a sweet compliment when someone calls you cute. I thought he was was being nice. I didn’t even have a chance to say anything, he didn’t say anything either. No hi how are you, or asking me to dance. Nothing. Before I even had a chance to process what was happening I was hauled into a group with his friends at the dance floor. Again, no says anything to me and next thing I know I have that fucking asshole rubbing against me in front with a friend of his doing the same thing to me behind me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what “grinding” was. For those of you who don’t know it’s a sexually themed dance involving two guys rubbing against a girl sandwhiched between them. It’s a dance where consent is needed. And nobody fucking asked me for consent. In a way I just froze but I ended up jumping around with them cause I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what was happening. But the fear and confusion was evident on my face, cause one girl in that group saw how I looked, and her face fell. But she didn’t attempt to stop it. Maybe she didn’t know what to do either. All I could do was jump around, and wait till it was over—his friend in the back was tugging up the skirt of my dress and their grips were strong. They were both smiling the whole time. Didn’t care how o felt. I didn’t know what else to do. Once the song ended they released me. But I was silent and shaken. I didn’t know what just transpired. I saw them dancing with their other friends and decided to go and find my friends now that they seemed occupied. Nope. When I almost made it to the door that same fucker grabbed my hips and hauled me right back to the same spot and another one of his friends trapped me from behind and the whole process started again. He even “jokingly” said, smiling the whole time “this is called rape.” Growing up in the environment I was in, around a time where rape jokes, transphobic, sexist, homophobic and racist jokes and other cringe worthy behaviors was applauded and prevalent, if you said anything against it, or said how deeply hurtful or offensive you were by it, you’d be faced with bullying, harrrasment, rejection, any form of insensitivity and cruelty in response. I had been so mistreated by my peers, by even own members of my family, brainwashed by a society that victim blames, that the only thing I had learned on how to deal with a situation like was to just sit there and take it. Silent. Cause if you didn’t , you’re sure to suffer worst. And it doesn’t help when everyone around you, including teachers, who are supposed to protect you allow this kind of disgusting display of non-consensual acts continue in places you are suppose to feel safe at, like a school dance. I don’t know what those teachers were doing back then, but not one stepped into to stop it, despite being so “passionate” about proper behavior in schools. Obviously those teachers don’t believe what they preach. And I think that is so very common in schools across not just America but everywhere in the world. And not just the teachers, but this was going on a in a public place where the fear on my face was evident. So many don’t stand up to do what’s right to protect someone from this. But I got lucky. Because a small group of boys saw what was happening, they saw how scared I looked. And they charged in and shoved those two right off of me. They even berated the guy who attacked me, telling him to stop because I was scared. I left right there and finally found my friends but I have never forgotten that night. I hate that I stood there and took it, but at the same time that’s common when something like that happens. You freeze. Your scared. And people like that asshole and his friends took advantage of that. I can’t beat myself up. I didn’t do anything wrong. That boy and his friends were as gross and twisted as my friend who manipulated me in the basement that day. I thought too that that guy was nice, but he was just another predator. Another gross individual. He even acted the next time I saw him in the hallway like it was no big deal, chuckling by how scared I looked, he even hugged me, again WITHOUT ASKING MY PERMISSION, like he was saying “sorry you took it the wrong way,” I didn’t take anything the wrong way. You just couldn’t be bothered with respecting a woman, asking her for permission and keeping your filthy hands to yourself. You are a disgrace! But I’ve also never forgot, that some people saw me in trouble and took it upon themselves to help me out of it. That’s all it takes. Is for someone to stand up for what’s right. That moment told everyone who was watching to stop standing by and do something. If I could I would love to thank those boys for coming to me rescue. That doesn’t happen a whole lot. But I am grateful to them. So very grateful.