When I first entered the world of social media it was mainly for fun: finding like-minded people, sharing stuff about favourite TV shows and so on.Over the years, though, things changed: these days I use it to read the news I wouldn’t get from the regular media. I also use it to fact check and share things to warn others.
The fun has long since gone out of it, the last few months my default attitude has been anger.
The main source of my anger is at how lightly people are taking rape these days. Victims are judged the second they open their mouths; they are branded “liars” before an investigation has ever started. Their lives are the ones wrecked after daring to speak out. Cases are dropped or refused for no good reason, because, most police officials, around the world, see it either as a waste of time to pursue a sexual attack or just protect the aggressor by default.
Even when found guilty the victim ends up tainted, and the perpetrator is given the lightest of punishments and sometimes even pitied. Blame the victim is at an all time high. Don’t you dare be a woman accusing a famous or beloved media celebrity of hurting you!
Over the last few months, I watched the steady rise of Donald Trump. I looked on in astonishment as he sailed past a few dozen sexual accusations including tapes where he even admitted to touching women inappropriately. In the past, he’d been investigated and tainted from one charge, now … now this man is president. President in a world where there is a rape epidemic that will probably only grow over the years, because the election of Donald Trump has proven that no-one cares about women, about victims.
Will this damage our children? Yes, because I have experienced first hand that a child’s attitude towards sexuality and women is developed at an early age.
I know there is another world of abuse that hardly anyone ever talks about, a world I’ve experienced several times when I was a child: the world of child on child abuse. A child forcing another child to perform sexual acts.
This happened to me.
The first time it happened was when I was four years old attending Kindergarten, during unsupervised free play. There was a gang of boys that cornered me, pinned me down on the floor, they pushed another boy on top of me and then placed a row of chairs over us. Some boys sat on the chairs, while others stood next to us. The boy on top of me started gyrating, and the others cheered him on. I told them to stop, tried to get away, but I couldn’t.
Even though it happened several times, I remember that the teacher only came in once to stop it. I thought she came to help me, but instead, she blamed me. According to her, “I let them” she even had the gall to say that I was “dirty” for allowing it to happen. I was the only coloured (mixed-race) kid at Kindergarten, so when looking back at these events, I have always wondered if she was biased.
I was young; I didn’t understand what had happened, but I knew I didn’t like it. I was scared and have had flashbacks throughout my life. A big thing I remember is that the boys always hummed the theme of a TV sex show, that was popular at the time before they started the abuse. Sometimes that memory worms its way back into my head and causes me to panic. For reasons I still don’t understand, I never talked about what was happening to me at home.
Thankfully, my mum still found out when my rapport card said I shouldn’t let kids “use me as a pillow” or let them “lay on me”.
She asked me what that meant, and was furious when I told her. She immediately tried to take action against the staff, but everyone just ignored her. According to the people involved what happened to me was just “boys being boys”. That was the first time I ever heard that sentence it was a weak excuse then and it’s a poor excuse now.
I can’t shake off the thought that these “boys” are amongst the ones endorsing Trump. The people that voted for him are condoning the things he said about touching women as “locker room talk”. They are probably fathers now, how do they raise their children?
Sadly this wasn’t my only experience with abuse. During my first year at Primary School, a girl I was friendly with and I were forced to come behind a school wall several times to touch and pull an older boys penis – and worse!! It was then that I began to develop OCD: I always felt dirty and had to wash my hands constantly. This habit never went away, whenever something triggers me, I still have to wash my hands.
With these experiences, so early on in life, it is hard to remember how I was before all this happened. I’ll never truly know how these events have changed or affected me. But I’m pretty sure they did.
Looking back through my childhood art, I can see some subtle changes. In drawings I did, for example, things got a lot darker: the style the colours, everything. I was getting stranger and angrier. I noticed this on the tapes that I recorded about stories that I made up. According to my mother, I began to withdraw into a fantasy world where I wasn’t me, instead, I was characters from cartoons, books and fairy tales.
When I was about 11, it happened again. A boy that came to play and forced down my underwear, put his hands into my vagina. I felt sick and upset and hurried away to tell my mum; she threw him out. This time the school listened to her and disciplined him. The boy never wanted to talk to me again. Well, I didn’t want to speak to him again either.
The same year I found myself in the same situation at the home of a much younger boy that I was babysitting. It was his birthday, and I slept over, but sadly his nephew did too. He was older and crept into bed with me, and forced me to hold his penis, while he touched me. I was petrified and didn’t know what to do.
I always regressed back into the petrified four-year-old in my mind when these things happened. Once more I felt dirty and bad.
My mother knew something was wrong when I came home, stormed upstairs and put on music. I told her. She contacted the parents. But the boy’s mother didn’t want to listen. Her “angel” was not a bad boy.
Meanwhile, things were not over yet. Imagine my surprise when on a bad day the boy I babysitting began to make advances. I told him he was naughty and that he had to stop it, but he pushed me on the bed and said he wanted to have sex with me. I pushed him away, told his mum and left. I was shocked and never returned.
The last time it happened was when I was fourteen. I stayed the night with my best friend at her father’s house. He had remarried, and his wife had a 16-year-old son. My friend and I slept in the same room with her father and three other kids, the son included. I cannot remember why, but somehow, at night his son was next to me, touching me and pestering me and once more there was a boy that wanted me to touch his penis and threatened me. I never stayed over at that house again.
It happening once at Kindergarten should have been enough, but having to endure the same circumstances time and time again left me feeling worthless and depressed. It also made me feel guilty, as I thought I was to blame. To top it all off I was also severely and violently bullied at school, so yes, I felt pretty worthless throughout my childhood.
My mum was always there for me to protect me and tried to do her best to keep me safe. But she could not stay at school with me, of course.
Despite the deep scars from the abuse, for years I didn’t know if I could call it abuse because no-one ever said that this type of abuse existed or could happen.
I never dared talk about it to anyone except my mother.
I was afraid they would say that I was to blame as most teachers had done.
I was to blame for the abuse.
I was to blame for the bullying.
I was strange, weird, dirty.
Even my brother said I deserved the bullying. He said that I had the “sort of face” that deserved to be bullied. He also said I had to get over what those boys had done to me because it happened “so long ago”.
For many, many years I lived with feelings of dread, hurt and haunting. I felt I never fit in anywhere. I felt wrong. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t have friends. In the end, I wasn’t even sure about my gender anymore.
I could not relate to my peers. I was scared of them. I was depressed. I suffered OCD.
During early adulthood, I suffered a few more bad experiences with men and was almost raped on several occasions. No, we did not live in a bad neighbourhood, and I certainly did not give off any vibe.
I grew up to be asexual; I never had any interest in sex. The moment a guy would wrap his arm around me I would freeze. Sex became a taboo for me, something that was dirty and wrong.
Interestingly I became a performer for a while, feeling strong on-stage despite being shy and distant off-stage. Sadly I lost the joy of performing when my best friend left me. I became successful as a writer, but one day, shortly after she left, I became blocked. I was depressed, confused and just couldn’t write anymore. It took me long to realise why. I had not dealt with my past.
It took me years to work out what my identity was. I was mature in knowledge; I was mature as a writer. But I didn’t know about love, about friendship. After my best friend left me, I never found another friend. It took me years to work out that she had been my muse and that I had been in love with her. It took me even longer to work out that I might be bisexual.
But that scared me; I felt scared to feel attraction. I felt dirty for having sexual thoughts about anyone. I locked myself away, I was confused for years.
Every time flashbacks or thoughts about sex or myself popped up I blocked them by displacing myself. I became obsessed with celebrities that had suffered the same problems I did. The moment I started to think about my problems I checked for news about these artists on Google and later Twitter. Turning my thoughts, worrying about them.
In this modern age, media is as good as any conventional drug. If you don’t want to think, you don’t have to.
I was always interested in mental illness, the mind, and psychology. I often searched the internet for interesting theories and articles. One day I decided that I wanted to do something about my interest, I decided to study psychology. I wanted to become a doctor and help others. So I did. Learning about psychology thought me a lot about how the mind works, and about me.
Still, I had a nagging feeling that to be good at my job I needed to help myself first.
This happened sooner than I thought when one day, I stumbled on an article on Oprah Winfrey’s website called: “The Secrets You’re Not Telling Yourself” by Martha Beck. It talked about repression, the things we almost know but never admit, and how this damages you.
To move forward, I had to face up to my past.
I had to admit to myself that I was abused.
Acknowledge that even though other children did it and not adults, abuse was abuse.
And most of all I had to know that my abuse mattered as much as any other form of child-abuse.
It was an intensive and challenging process. It was hard, I had never wanted to face up to it. I had deeply repressed it. I never wanted to be one of “those” abuse victims. But it did happen, I had walked on this earth damaged and scarred for years and had to take charge of myself.
I am still on the path to recovery, and there are still many aspects of myself that need to be worked on. It is a challenging road that I am on. I often take one step forward then three steps back.
I have written this piece to help others by raising awareness of child-on-child abuse, and it’s damaging consequences. I want to warn, help and advise.
To be a voice for those without one.
Recently I found there are more victims of this taboo. Most of them have not been believed. They were told it was “just playing doctors” or “just a joke.”
Parents and teachers often think it is nothing, and because of this the victims are left traumatized and with no way of speaking out. The victims I talked to all felt unsure about who to tell and how to deal with it all.
This has got to change.
The NSPCC in the UK found that there were more than 5,000 cases of abuse by under 18s reported to the police in the last three years and the numbers are growing.
In some instances, acts of sexual violence were committed by children as young as five or six.
My experience isn’t unique. But still, the media remains as silent as possible on the issue. Children are innocent and not sexual. This is true, in an ideal world, but the media itself has played a significant part in changing this.
A child becoming an abuser does not start out of the blue; it has to do with surroundings, the behaviour of his or her family, the things seen on TV. (I remember the kids abusing me that sang the songs from TV sex shows were also very aware of Playboy.)
The seed for sexual violence is sown at an early age – especially in this day and age where the music industry and the internet sexualise young minds almost from the day they are born.
Also, many kids abusing other children could have learned this behaviour by being abused by others. It is an endless cycle of violence.
Children need to be protected from becoming either a victim or an abuser.
The media needs to stop treating rape and abusive behavior as “just a bit of fun.” These last few months, during the Trump campaign, have been especially damaging.
If parents and officials continue to ignore what is going on, the cycle of abuse will never stop, and things will get worse.
For many adults – especially parents- the reality of all this might be hard to fathom, hard to accept, but they have to accept this as a fact, because they have the power, from it happening again. The have the power to prevent abuse.
Once parents and teachers truly watch their children, protect them from things that can corrupt them, and tell them that certain behaviors are wrong, only then will we have the key to restoring the innocence of childhood.