Writing this blog has created a strong need in me of reading books about gender equality and female empowerment. Reading those books have opened up my mind into asking myself questions and discover answers that I feel it’s important to share and talk with my friends, family and readers. The two actions of writing and reading have pushed me in the most positive way to really get to know myself better and remain honest. It became the best catalyst effect.
Over a month ago, while reading my books and some social media inspirational quotes, I realized that I had buried for around twenty years a secret that I never dared to tell to anyone before. A secret that I did not even allow myself to remember.
When I was around 10 years old my cousin used to touch me.
Yes, down there in my private parts. It did not happen once or twice, it happened many times for around a year time. It happened at my home, in my parents car, in his parents car, at his house. It happened every time in family reunions (with less than 12 people around). It happened in places that were supposed to be safe for me. It happened at occasions that should have been nice family memories but that became extremely stressful.
First thing you may wonder is how old was him?
Well, he is a bit older than me so yes he was a still “a kid” but in all honesty not the most innocent of children. Touching someone else’s body and private parts goes beyond age. Forcing someone mentally and physically it is not a children’s game, it is still violence, disrespect and threat.
But this article is not about him, it’s about me. It’s for all victims of any gender and any age that have been through sexual aggressions or assaults. You do not need to be raped by someone you don’t know who’s over 18 to be a victim. If someone from your family or someone in the street touches you is equally wrong. If the person is 7 years old or 27 the action is equally wrong (even though the awareness of the situation increases with years).
Let’s put a very pragmatic and simple example: if a 4 year old child hits another 4 year old child it’s still aggression and you address the issue by teaching the child that hitting is violence and that nobody shall do it. Now, if a 34 year old man hits another 34 year old man, they are both adults and they both know hitting is wrong because it is still a violent act that nobody should do it and the consequences are different (for instance they could go to jail). What’s the difference besides consequences? Well, the only difference would be that when you are a child you have parents or tutors responsible for you because you are under 18 and still in a learning process. Whereas the grown men are considered already as individuals 100% aware of their responsibilities and their actions. Yet, the gravity of the action it is still there.
When I decided to write this story, I realized I would have to tell it to my family first. I did. It was hard for me to pick up the phone and say out loud something that I had buried for many years. My family was supportive as expected. After all they are my rock and have ALWAYS got my back.
To be honest, before calling them I was scared. I tried to do some soul digging to analyze the reason why I was so paralyzed. I knew my parents would support me, I knew my entourage would believe me. Nothing could happen to me. Yet, it was hard. I realized, one reason that could block me was if this caused a family situation with all my relatives. Then, I realized that I do not care about “the consequences” since I had already paid the price of silence for something I was victim many years ago. I am no longer a child scared of the world, I am no longer a little girl. I understand the situation and I am grateful for having friends and family that will always support me. I am grateful to live in a country that allows me to express myself openly and publicly for who I am, so I am going to do it.
I also decided to tell the story to my closest friends because I just do not want them to find out this story online before. What amazed me is that most of them had had many ‘situations’ with their cousins and with their childhood friends. Most of them was under consent from both sides (if we may put it like that). However, a couple of my friends to whom I told my story have been through the exact same thing as me and remain quiet.
Then it hit me, it’s really just not my case. As society & parents we are not talking enough at a very early stage to our children about bodies, hormones and sexuality. If parents talk openly about sex and bodies needs it’s because they know their children will soon become teenagers. We are failing for not talking about bodies, physical feelings or pleasures to kids and we wait until teenage years to talk about hormones and sex. We must educate kids and teenagers that respect is higher than our needs, curiosity or our hormones. If it is just pure curiosity (as many friends wondered when I told them my story) then us, adults, we have to find methods to be capable enough to answer to all questions and curiosity of our children.
I remember well, when I was 4 or 5 my mom repeated to me in many occasions that no one had the right to touch my body at any age without my consent. Of course she felt the need to teach this to her daughter because of all the risks and threats that may represent to bring a woman into this world. I wonder how many moms are also teaching their 5 year old boys that touching anyone at any age without their consent is not just wrong but actually a criminal act.
Therefore, when my cousin touched me not only I felt scared, threatened and weak but I also knew that what he was doing was not correct. I do not know exactly why he did it and why one day he decided not to do it anymore. I do not know either if he has not done it to someone else. And I really hope he will never dare to touch anyone again.
Let’s hope (for him) it was just “a phase”. But what we cannot accept is to cover sexual violence (even as children) as a game or discovery because IT ISN’T.
For almost twenty years I pretended with him and my family that I was ok with him. I treated him like I would treat any other cousin, for the sake of the family. But the truth is that each time I would see his face I would remember those touches and that feeling of being scared and threatened. I’ve decided that I am tired of pretending so I will not anymore. I do not care about him or his life, I do not hate him but he is no one for me. I do not care if he is going well or bad in life, I do not care about him. I do not consider him my family, I do not have respect for him and I am done with him.
This article is For All Those Women that have suffered any type of sexual aggression or harassment of any kind, at any level done by anyone. Embrace that you are a victim, give yourself lots of love and strength and get dozens of courage to speak up. It will be ok, people might question you but you shouldn’t care because at the end of the day, only you know what’s best for you. I know you can do it and, trust me, the minute you speak it up out loud, the memories and the problem become smaller and it’s easier to manage the situation. You are stronger than you think you are. Believe in you because you can always stand up for yourself. <3