A handful of people in my life know this story. As part of my quest to write honesty into every word I publish, and more particularly to give my readers the kind of openness they deserve in a writer, I’ll put this fact in as broad a forum as I’m able: as a preschooler, I was sexually assaulted.
It happened in our home in Sacramento. The person who touched me was an adult. It was dark. It rearranged my psyche in dozens of ways. It exploded my three-year-old idea of sexuality, and ruined any chance of ever being a “normal” child.
I’d suffered symptoms of abuse for nearly two dozen years before I realized what had happened to me. The first time I had sex, the latent memory of my assault poured back into my head, fully formed. It’s as if my first time in bed with Judi was the trigger to the memory. Sex is (and was) a glorious thing but my preschool mind was indelibly seared when I was three. All those weird childhood (and a few adolescent) quirks began to make sense on a scale they never had before.
I’m not alone in my victimhood. Here are a few facts I found relevant, while I was writing this:
- 92,700 males are forcibly raped each year in the United States (1998)
- The year in a male’s life when he is most likely to be a victim of sexual assault is the age of 4 (1999. Note: I believe I was 3)
- One in four victims of sexual assault under the age of 12 are boys (1999)
- Depending on the source, between 25-33% of all women will have been victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.
- 90% of offenders are known to the child.
- 48% of males were raped by strangers, compared with 28% of females. (2000. Note: I’m not positive, but based on overwhelming emotion and a bit of recollection surrounding my abuse, I believe I was assaulted by an adult male acquaintance, not a family member)
- 11% of total sexual assault victims are male, 89% are female (2000)
- Boys are less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of the fear of retribution, the social stigma against homosexual behavior, the desire to appear self-reliant, and the concern about loss of independence following disclosure (1998)
I realize the statistics are a bit out of date, but still eye-opening enough to allow you to realize that sexual assault of young boys is not as uncommon as we’d like our culture to believe. I don’t know my offender’s name. I have suspicions, but it was too long ago, and too much water has flowed under the proverbial bridge for me to obsess about his identity. The act did happen, however, and it affected me in uncounted ways.
I don’t blame anyone for not protecting me. Life is too short to go around holding grudges. My parents did the best they could at the time, and I really can hold no anger. It doesn’t make the event any less real though. It’s as if I’ve assimilated the act. It became part of me. It’s always there, in the back of my head, the same way you think of an extra limb: if you’d had it from your early years, you’d eventually grow used to the silly thing being there, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You wouldn’t really think of it in your day-to-day living. It just is. It’s made me who I am; I can’t ultimately complain about that. I like me.
I’ve been conscious of my abuse for almost 20 years now. It’s time to share this fact to the world. The stigma surrounding it is quite weird; after all, why should I not tell others I was touched inappropriately? It doesn’t make me any less myself for withholding that information. Maybe it even makes me stronger for telling the tale. Because of my abuse, I’m a more thoughtful person than otherwise. I have a greater concern for the feelings of others. I’m more sensitive to the needs of my lover, and to my children. I have empathy for other victims of abuse. I wouldn’t trade that.
What I propose to do, however, as part of accepting my past, is to write out the whole story, and how it affected me. I will post it on the blog, and I won’t be holding back. Believe me when I say this: the project will be far more uncomfortable for the writer than it will for the reader, but in the interest of sparing sensibilities, I will link it separately, with a warning.
I’ll probably never be as brave a person as I’d like to be, but in the writing of extremely painful moments hope I become a brave writer. My story will be told in third person. I need to distance myself from the events somehow, without withholding details. Thanks, readers, for encouraging me, and listening attentively to my life and yearnings.