He was one of my closest cousins. Like a brother. And I loved my brother. And my cousins. I really didn’t want him to not love me anymore. So I followed him to the room and the way that I got down on my knees and waited for him to put his penis in my mouth is the reason why I think I must have normalised the general experience of giving him a blow job, because how would 4 year old me know what to do like that? It really was as if I knew what I needed to do in preparation for me giving him a blow job. Because of our close family dynamics I continued to have a lot to do with this cousin following what I think was this last sexual encounter but I have no recollection of anything sexual taking place again by him. I would have been around 5 at the time of the second offence.
At the same time as the above incident however, I was starting to be violated in a much more invasive way by another cousin who was also of similar age to my first violator. Both of them were my first cousin so both their parents are siblings to my Mum. This other cousin would babysit my brother and I while my mum went out in the evenings which meant he would usually stay the night. The abuse from him was continuous for several years. I never ever said anything. Right from when I was very young I was aware that what my cousin was doing was very wrong and very not ok. My mum had made my brother and I aware from a very young age as to what was ok and what wasn’t in terms of someone touching your private parts or getting you to touch theirs. I always knew I had a safe space to go to and tell someone if it was happening, but I was super resistant to that for various reasons. I was really scared of being told I was a liar. I just didn’t want to be in the position of who’s story they were going to believe. As a little kid my head went streaight to the extreme outcome of what the fall out could be, which was that I was going to get disowned by my family, my Mum would be ostracized, and then we would have no one but each other. So I didn’t say anything.
The abuse that happened with this cousin often involved being fingered which was excruciatingly painful. He would always get me to French kiss him. I would wake up and he’d be kneeling over me wanking onto my stomach where he would then rub it in a circular motion until the cum was completely dry on me. Then he would lay down and sleep. I would pretend I was asleep the whole time. I’d wait for him to actually fall asleep next to me and then I’d get up and go toilet where I would be in immense pain as Id literally just had his grown man hands rammed repeatedly into my tiny 5 year old vagina. The first time I told anyone what had happened I was 16. I told my Mum and she had a little cry and asked if I wanted to do anything about it. But at the time I just wanted to share the burden of what had happened. I wasn’t ready or even emotionally capable to be responsible for actioning the next step.
This first step of just giving voice to my experience was hard enough to make. It had taken me 11 years from when it first happened for me to find the courage to share my story after all. Talking about it came with the feeling of ‘what a relief! I’ve finally told someone. You’re the adult…. you take the reigns from here’. I just wanted to know I didn’t have to be in charge of protecting my abusers secrets anymore. Or exposing them. I really believed that once I shared it, someone else would be there to stick up for me.
Since I told my mum at aged 16 about what had happened and by whom, members of my family have also come to know about it. In my adult years I’ve talked about it with a couple of close cousins. Noones said anything to anyone about it. Not even amongst ourselves as family. When I shared my story with my cousins, that’s exactly how it felt, like a story – someones else’s story to be exact. I shared my childhood experience in such a detached, controlled and measured way. I was very factual about the details. There was never too much emotion in it. It was like describing a menu or reading an ok book. I cared a little but I wasn’t too invested in it. I would say who had done it and share some of the details but I never felt any need for either of my cousins to be held accountable for it.
Im 32 now and in all that time I never felt that my abusers needed to be held responsible for their actions. I had all but written them out of the script. That was until a friend mentioned about the US project.
It was just a casual remark but it was said amongst a group of 3 woman who all admitted to having been groomed or sexually violated themselves. I too admitted to them to having had that happen to me, but this time when I spoke, it was different. It was as if a connection to what I was saying and what had actually happened to me as a child, had finally clicked into place and suddenly I was a main character inside my own story book with these two cousins right along side me, apart of my story just as much as I was. It was one of lifes few defining moments where I realised I had bought into the whole silence and shame aspect of my childhood experiences. I had helped to shift the focus away from the violators to me as the violated, all the while wanting to appear in control of my memories and emotions around it.
So following that conversation taking place I went home and I gave it a lot of thought as to what I wanted to do with this unexpected bubble of truth that had risen to the surface of my conscious field. I could already feel the ripple effects just from that first wave of awareness crashing in on me, knowing that when that wave receeded another wave would come crashing in carrying a different level of awareness offering new insight and perspective. I decided to start a conversation around it and just get curious as to what my own family thought about it. When I first told my mum at aged 16 she did nothing about it beyond acknowledging it. This time round when I spoke of it to her, I had phoned her and said Mum I just want you to know, I’ve written this poem and I’ve put my name forward to be apart of this project for sexual abuse survivors and in the process of doing that some stuff has come up for me, one being that Im really curious as to why you never said anything from when I first told you, to now, 16 years later? It was you that I came to with my experience and you did nothing about it. In all that time, nothing’. ‘I haven’t done anything yet’ she replied. It was a slap in the face to say the least. What could she possibly mean? How long did she need? Its been exactly half my life time – exactly 16 years since I told her- when was the violation against me as a child, under her care, going to be a priority for her to address? When was she going to confront those men on my behalf? I know she found the conversation really confronting for her own reasons, and as a result, her way of dealing with it was to minimise what I had said and put the guilt back on me like ‘oh well, sorry im failing you as a Mum again’.
The night before I had phoned my mum to have this conversation, I had written a letter to my 4 year old self promising to protect her, saying sorry for not acknowledging her in all this time, for ignoring her experience and not allowing it to have a voice. I promised to be there for her in a way I wish someone had actually been there for me at the time. I think if I hadn’t of done that prior to ringing her, I wouldn’t have been able to address my Mum the way I subsequently did, because as soon as she said to me ‘sorry I haven’t been the mum you wanted’ I immediately responded from a space deep within me, where my inner child dwells, and I said to her ‘No. NO. You do not get to put that back on me. You can completely own that for 16 years you have chosen to not say or do anything to stand up for me. Those are your actions. Those are all yours and not mine’. I did very empowered being able to stand up for myself, but it was still extremely hard having to say that to her as I wouldn’t usually address my mum in such a direct, assertive and forceful way. But something in me told me this is not ok for you to have to take that guilt on. This is not ok for you to be told that. This is not ok to have your experience minimised. To have your feelings and voice minimised. So I ended that conversation over the phone with my mum in a very disempowering way. It was not what I expected to hear coming from her. I really wanted more from her, more love, more nurturing, more support, more compassion, more anger, more protection. So then I phoned my older by 3 years brother. I say to him hey look this is whats come up, this is what im doing and this is what’s just happened with Mum. He got so irate with me with me for addressing our Mum like that. He was super pissed and kept yelling at me that I cant be upset with her for not speaking up when it was me that should have spoken up at the time when it all happened. I cant expect her to say something when I wasn’t willing to say something myself and how dare I get angry at everyone else around me for remaining silent when I couldn’t speak up for myself. I was still super calm at this point and said to him actually I'm not angry. Im really disappointed.
My experience wasn’t the first we knew of within our family. Infact, it was so openly known who had done what, and by such variety of uncles, I grew up thinking it was a normal part of family dynamics and history. I said to my brother over the phone that I was actually trying to highlight the fact that we’ve had silence in our family around a very shameful and hurtful subject for the person being abused yet by doing that all we’re doing is protecting the person who did it – in this instance – our cousins. But why are we doing that? They are potentially out there still doing that but to other family members. My brother wasn’t open at all to having any dialogue around it unless it involved me acknowledging I was in the wrong and I’m going about it all the wrong way. As if anyone ever has a right way of dealing with this situation, especially when they find their having to do it entirely on their own. I ended that conversation with squeezing my eyes shut as if to block his voice out and then screaming down the phone to him FUCKKKK YOUUUU!!!!!!! Before hanging up. And everyone knows, I'm not a screamer. I'm a voice goes low, words are spoken very slowly, kind of angry. My brother had provoked me to a completely new and foreign anger. I don’t think he acted out of malice or contempt but more from a place of arrogance and ignorance. It was the first time I had felt true anger towards the fucked up-ness of the whole situation and viscious cycle that we each buy into when we remain silent. It highlighted how silence can shame the victim but give licence to the perpetrator too. I’ve watched my mum, aunties, uncles, cousins and brother shake hands and embrace the same cousins who did those things to me. They’ve all known about it and still they’ve embraced them. Where was their anger for me? Where was their hurt for me? Where was their sense of having been wronged on my behalf? There hasn’t been any because they were all too worried about ensuring the cousin that did it didn’t feel alienated or worse…wrongly accused. It’s a warped sense of loyalty that I too had bought into because that’s what had been role modelled, thats what had been normalised in my family, that’s what had been accepted. I think I found a sense of empowerment in the fact that I could give voice to my experience now through a forum like the US project. I could shed light on being sexually violated from a place of this is what happened to me, it shouldn’t be happening but it is, so why not talk about it? I know for some of my family members their looking at me at me like ‘ah, do you have to be so graphic about it?’ but yes! Actually I do. I do have to go into detail about it because how else will anyone ever know the impact these violators actions are having on their victims?? A man shoving his adult hands into a tiny 6 year old girls vagina should be talked about. And that’s just as a girl. I hate to think what boys go through especially because of the stigma attached to boys is just so vastly different. With girls its almost as if we say ‘oh you too?’ yet with boys its even more of a shock as we so rarely hear their experiences being told.
I feel so much clarity now around how I feel and how I hope other survivors would feel. I don’t want others to feel shameful of having something happen to them that was completely and totally out of their control. Its all well and good to tell victims to come forward and talk about whats happened to them but what care do they receive from their family once they have? What next? No-one else is going to come in to our families and say ok lets have that conversation…. We have to do that for ourselves. If we really loved and cared for each other we would make those conversations a priority. Especially for our kids.
Part of my remaining silent was because I had stories to compare mine to and based on that continuum my experience seemed so mild. I had heard stories first hand from other girls and woman who had stories of sexual violation that made mine seem almost like a treat and not a violation. Like rape for instance. I feel like that would be the ultimate act of violation someone could do to you so who was I to say ‘oh I’ve been fingered’ or ‘oh I’ve had to give someone a blow job’. It was literally like a whoop de do and what? That’s so minimal in comparison. So in my own way I minimised my experience because it wasn’t as great a violation as other people who I reasoned had suffered much worse.
Me: Reading of Poem:
An innocent girls voice as written by an adult:
Like tar, you stained my memories of childhood and attached your desire, your immediate need for gratification, your sexual passion, to my childhood innocence and coming of age womanhood.
My first kiss, you were there. Exploring my teeth, my gums, the weird cavity inside my mouth with your tongue, before I even knew a French kiss is what you would call it.
My first fingering, you were there. Shoving the full length of your grown man hands into the space of my tiny 6 year old vagina. Thrusting, searching, for what exactly I wasn't sure. I found refuge from you in the toilet, where I would sit for what felt like hours, and just cry and cry. The pain between my legs so excruciating I would bite into my arm to stop any sound of pain from escaping.
My first blowjob, you were there. Exploding cum into my mouth over my face and hands. I tasted you before I even knew sex had a flavour.
Because of you, I associated a mans sexual pleasure & desires with my own pain both physical and emotional. Seen and unseen.
Because of you, I grew to believe sex and shame were one and the same.
Because of you, I thought trust and secrecy were apart of some grown up adults game.
Because of you, I thought being loved accepted and acknowledged meant being silent compliant and remaining unseen.
And you made a liar out of me.
When was the first time you touched a boys penis? My high school friends asked.
15 I said. It was a lie. I wanked a mans stiff penis in the seat of a red van parked in our homes driveway until he came in my mouth. I was 4.
When was your first kiss? My tween aged daughter asked. 13 I replied. It was a lie. I had no idea than what it was, but it happened a lot with a man I called cousin, and I was 6.
Have you ever given a blowjob before? My first lover asked.
No, I said, you are my first. And just like before - that was a lie.
She gets violated and her outlook on life is completely marred. Altered. Distorted. Whilst he continues through life, content with his deceit, smug at everyone's silence. He remains in every sense of the word; satisfied.