“I am not my shame”

I was 11 years old, he was a family friend, someone I thought of as a father figure and trusted adult. My mother and Step-Dad were across the hall asleep, my younger brother was downstairs. Most of that vacation to Massachusetts is a blur, but I know my immediate thoughts were that it must have been a dream, something I made up. I kept telling myself that for 6 months. I finally realized I had not made it up, how could I? I didn’t even know what it meant or what it was.
After I told my mom, there were the investigations, interviews, and the trial. There are some things I remember vividly; what kind of markers they gave me to draw a diagram of his room, loud phone conversations that I didn’t understand. I decided not to testify at the trial, I regret not testifying, but at the same time I don’t think my 12 year old self could have handled it.
As the years went on my feelings about myself fluctuated from feeling strong to being incredibly depressed. The feeling of shame is something I am not a stranger to. Feeling shameful that I let it happen. Shameful that I didn’t yell. Shameful that I didn’t fight it. Shameful that I didn’t tell earlier. Shameful of what people think of me. Shameful of what society says about me. Shameful of what I think of myself.

The way society has treated rape and molestation is to put the blame on the ‘victim’, it’s easier than to have to do all the work to change a mindset that has been engrained for generations. Why didn’t you say no? Why didn’t you fight back? He must have thought it was ok. What did you do? It has never and will never be the victim’s fault. Prevention shouldn’t be about women’s clothing choices, it should be about impulse control and morals. If someone says no, they mean no. If someone is too drunk, that is not consent. If someone is being flirtatious, that does not mean it is ok. Many people who do not understand will say things commenting on a woman’s clothing choices and insist that is the reason many women are raped or molested. What about me? I was 11 and wearing my pajamas. I don’t think that excuse applies to me or anyone else. It is a choice to exert power over someone; it has nothing to do with how ‘sexy’ someone looks. It is a choice society is letting people make, and letting them get away with.

I have become more comfortable with my past and my voice, I hope by putting my story out for people to see, that I will be able to help someone find their voice.