Don’t talk to strangers. The infamous piece of “wisdom” told to every small child as a precaution against kidnapping, rape, and trauma, but they neglected to tell us that, for the most part, it’s not strangers committing these crimes. It’s the people we already know.
You can be a happy child, in a loving home. Attentive parents who are actively involved in your lives, and still be molested. They prey on the weak, but it’s not exclusionary to the weakest.
You see it’s not always the fearful exchange you hear about on tv, the ones your parents warn you about. They take their time, spending months or years to groom you to be their “best friend”. So that you start to see them as your “best friend”, someone trustworthy and on your side. Not like other adults, but a giant kid you can play with and vent your frustrations about other adults to.
And as that trust grows they begin to ask increasingly boundary pushing requests, but you comply, because you are young and because you don’t understand the risks. You comply because you trust them. Because you have no reason not to. You comply, because maybe your parents even trust them too. You comply, because we are engrained at a young age from multiple sources that adults are to be obeyed and that we do not have full bodily autonomy. You comply because they told you it would hurt them if you don’t. And they are your best friend.
And so you do it. It feels wrong, but you are so desperate to have this “positive” influence in your life, this cool person who cares, who treats you like an adult. Trusts you with secrets. And makes you feel like you are special. Unique. You do it because you think you are just too young to understand and they must know better.
And they teach you how to lie. And they accidentally show up places they know your parents won’t be at to spend alone time with you. Fill your head with valid reasons why we should keep secrets from every body. Because to you, even as a child, this feels like a real relationship.
Not all abuse is what we classically describe as violent. It can take years to even come to the realization that your relationship was sick. That this person has preyed on you. That what happened was wrong, that a 10 year old and an adult shouldn’t be in a partnered sexual relationship. You excuse it to yourself that they were just immature, and you were just mature for you age… and that they truly loved you. You even referred to them as your first boyfriend for more than a decade after your “relationship”. Because you still actually believed that and called them a “good” guy who didn’t mean to do wrong but was just so attracted to you and your body that they couldn’t help themselves. Then you remember that they were attracted to your undeveloped, child body. That they couldn’t resist the charm of a 10 year old. And you start to rethink your position. The trauma is felt. Your entire life is changed by the experience. Your trust for people. Your sex life. Your self-worth.
But remember. Don’t talk to strangers. Because they’re the ones who’ll hurt you.
When I think about the choices I have made in my life, the places those choices have taken me and how I’ve changed, even over the last couple of years and months, I always start to wonder how my life could be different.
I was always a strong over-achiever. When I was in high school, I got great grades, played on numerous teams, was in the band, several clubs and did ballet, jazz, tap, acro, swimming, volleyball, baseball and piano all outside of school. I took night school courses from local community colleges for added skills training. I worked as a Personal Support Worker for an NGO during my senior year, going into people’s homes in the mornings, evenings and weekends, getting them up in the morning, ready for bed at night, changing their diapers, giving them showers, helping them with their schedules, before and after my classes. I saved up all my extra money, enough to pay for my university for the next four years. Didn’t matter. I got a full ride scholarship to go to a very posh university in the UK straight out of high school for a biological science degree. I was going to be a doctor.
But I never went.
Instead. I took all the money I had saved. Cashed it out of the bank and took off without a word to anyone. Hitched south for the start of a two-and-a-half year, multi-country bender and never looked back.
Quite possibly the WORST, or maybe the best, decision of my life. I’ll never know.
In another dimension, one where I accept the scholarship. Go overseas. Get my science degrees. Become a doctor. Am I happy?
Did I get to experience the world at all like I did in this one?
Did I do good with my life?
I think about that trajectory. Fuck. I could have been sitting so pretty right now. Debt-free out of school. Right into a good, high-paying and immensely rewarding career. Instead, I’m high. Writing a story on a blog about PTSD. I’ve been in and out of several different careers. Lived on next to nothing. Racked up debt for school years later. But at least I’ve lived. And not many can say that.
I think about what life would have been like if he had never molested me. Think about whether I’d be happily married and actually believe in monogamy if that had never happened. Think about how much my emotions and relationships have been affected by that trauma. I probably would have gone to the UK. I would have become a doctor. I would not have cracked like I did.
Or maybe I would have never had the overachieving need to be the best and get the top grades and thick resume. To prove my worth. My self-confidence riding on my intelligence, my diligence, my academic capabilities because I felt so vile in every other aspect. I am good. I am worthy of love. I am a person worth knowing. My body has nothing to do with that. Please don’t want me for that. That’s all he wanted me for. That’s what ruined my life.
I would have never got into the drugs I did in high school, drugs I needed simply to maintain that level of achievement, that’s for sure. My secret stashes of speed, coke and whatever other uppers I could find to get me through the long days. Days where I would start at 4 am and be going until 10 pm, running from one activity to the next, padding my resume with tons of extracurriculars and experience. Trying to show the world that I was worthy.
All I know, is that this path has made me who I am today. Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I hate it. But nothing can change it.