I didn’t say no or try to stop it. I didn’t avoid the situation, and so it went on for years. And I guess because of that, it didn’t seem bad to me until I was older and could look back and understand. I don’t want to try to predict what would have happened, but maybe it could have been prevented. I wish things were different.
When It Was Happening
I wish my parents wouldn’t have assumed that I knew better. I wish there would have been plenty more open conversations (individually and as a family) about all things body and sex. Sex wasn’t freely discussed. I knew I could ask my parents anything, but I can’t think of a time when they initiated the conversation. I remember feeling awkward if there was a sex scene on a TV show we were watching together. I was shamed and grounded when my mom found my thong underwear in high school. When my mom wasn’t home, I couldn’t even ask my dad to buy tampons when I needed them. Unsurprisingly, when it came time to talk about the abuse, I was mortified.
I wish things would have been clearer concerning good touch and bad touch. It’s confusing when the bad touch feels good. I wish it would have been clarified that bad touch can feel good and that just because something feels good, it may still be bad touch. I distinctly remember the abuse feeling really good. That was the first time I learned about my body in that way, and that’s not how it should have happened.
I wish there would have been less emphasis on stranger danger and more placed on how to protect myself in all situations, including those where familiar people violate trust. The lines were blurred since my abuser was a trusted and beloved family member. It just didn’t feel totally wrong to me at the time.
I wish I would have known more about trusting that little voice in your head. Because it felt good physically and because it was with a person I loved and trusted, it only felt a teeny bit wrong. It was easy to hush that little voice.
I wish I would have known the terms and what they mean: carnal knowledge, molestation, battery, assault, rape, incest. I believe that being able to give my experience a name and recognize it as a crime would have empowered me to stop it sooner.
I wish I would have known how common sexual assault is and how it doesn’t discriminate. Since I was smart and talented and popular from an upper-middle-class family, I might not have realized that I could be a victim. Maybe I wouldn’t have let my guard down.
I wish I would have had a better understanding of consent. That consent must be given every time. That consent can be withdrawn at any time and needs no reason. That minors cannot legally consent.
I wish I would have been told about the scary stuff. I wish there would have been a “no secrets” rule. Maybe being asked to keep it a secret would have sent up a red flag. I know it’s scary to think about explaining to a young child, but I wish I would have been able to recognize grooming. Looking back now, I can see that it was textbook. The signs were there; I just wish I would have noticed them then.
Once I Told My Parents
I wish I would have been taken more seriously when I told my parents. Don’t get me wrong; they tried, but because I chose not to pursue charges, I think that must have conveyed that I wasn’t too badly impacted. But I chose not to press charges because I didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed — not because it wasn’t serious or because I was fine.
I wish my parents would have controlled their emotions more. They were so upset sometimes that it seemed more about them than me. I had a hard time talking about it because I didn’t want to hurt them.
I wish I would have had the opportunity to meet other victims or attend support group meetings. I didn’t have anyone who truly understood. My parents knew enough to send me to therapy, but I don’t think they were aware of all the resources available.
I wish I would have been told about the potential impact my assault would have on me when I eventually became a mother. Just when I thought I’d healed, all the feelings came back when I became a mom. I get so anxious when I leave my kids with others (even family), and I have not yet allowed them to attend sleepovers.
It took me a long time to say this, but none of this was my fault. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. One hundred percent of this was my abuser’s fault. He knew better. I was violated. My brain knows that. Still, things might have been different. Knowledge is power. It’s not one conversation. It’s a series of ongoing conversations, and it’s not too late or too early to have these conversations in your home.