I don’t even want to write about this, but I want it to be written, and maybe, if I peel back the layers slow enough, I can explain why.
[content notes: graphic description]
I don’t like reading posts like this. Not always. That’s layer one. Sometimes I get something out of them, and sometimes I don’t. It’s hard to gauge what ratio of comfort to discomfort I’ll get from them — what will work as reassurance and what will just make me feel sick. And I think that’s mostly a matter of how it’s all framed. I guess I need a window into what’s happening as it’s being written, some kind of clue into what the author is experiencing as they’re sharing it, something to orient me, because otherwise, I tend to get sucked into the story itself, experiencing that and that only, stuck inside it without a context to step out into, and come away feeling worse. I want to put up some kind of barrier there. I want you to hear the author, me, thinking this through, as a sort of overlay, holding the subject at arm’s length. I don’t know how to do this otherwise.
Layer two, then. I don’t want to face up to it. Not for what it is, but for what it means about the relationships I still have now. We never talked about it after it happened. Now I’m wondering if we should have. But you won’t understand what I mean by that until I tell you.
I don’t want to put words to it. But I know, also, the strange relief I’ve found in hearing others’ reflections on their own stories, especially stories they wonder don’t “count,” and I’ve found a strange gratification in mentally retagging this memory as CSA, almost as much as I found relief in finally, finally letting myself ID as ace. By now I’ve mostly quieted a voice that says it’s silly and pathetic to even write about this with the tone I’m setting. And maybe that, itself, is a layer three as much as a reason to write this anyway.
My culture gives us very specific narratives of sexual violence — a short script, narrow roles, cardboard characters with tightly scripted lines that don’t account for the diversity of reality. Any deviation from the imposed mold feels “fake.” The way I figure, the more you hear the real stories that don’t follow that short script, the easier it might be discard it altogether. It should help. I can hope.
I, at least, know I wouldn’t be writing this at all if it weren’t for the others who wrote before me.
I don’t really know where the layers begin and end, really. I won’t be numbering any more.
Here’s what part of my mind tells me: CSA by grown adults is done by parents, or family, or mentors, or coaches, or teachers, or older friends, or older partners, and above all, by pedophiles. Labeling something as CSA goes hand in hand with accusing someone of being a pedophile. Or so I’m supposed to think, I guess. It’s different maybe if the perpetrator was the same age. But a grown adult? Has to have been a pedophile for it to really be CSA. Which, I’m not sure he was, so it can’t be. Determining that is part of the criteria. If I don’t think of him as a pedophile, then it can’t have been CSA. That’s how it works, right? Just because I know how I experienced it doesn’t mean I know how he did — and that’s what matters, right?
Or so I tell myself.
I’m putting this out there because I can’t stand the thought of someone thinking I hadn’t already thought through all this myself.
That’s one of my hangups, in all this. Calling it CSA feels like it wouldn’t be fair to him, or to her. Abuse is only done by abusers, after all, or something. And if I can’t be sure enough, can’t be confident enough in categorizing either of them that way, can’t make myself believe in that, then I know I’m not supposed to call it CSA at all.
And then, as a complication, there’s the small matter of having seen, more than once, in multiple ways, an element of my experience written in as an explicit exception to what counts as CSA.
As we’re all supposed to know, it can’t be CSA if it was a legitimate medical examination by a doctor.
Which, it was. A legitimate medical examination. I have to assume.
I find myself wondering now if the people who know me will draw a link between this and other things they know about me, like this will explain why I think X Y or Z. I shouldn’t deny it, I guess. Seems fitting, almost, in a twisted way. I’m anxious of people attributing to it overly much, though, even if it contributed somehow, as much as anything.
There’s really too much in the way of disorganized anxious thoughts to fit in one post. I’m trying.
But yes, that’s one thing I want people to understand, I guess: that doctors aren’t exempt. That a medical license doesn’t put you above the possibility. That seeing someone say “no one should ever touch a child there, except for a doctor” made me want to curl up behind a locked door and turn to stone.
I didn’t recognize it as wrong at first either, you know? I didn’t have a concept for it. He was a doctor. It was a part of the exam. And more importantly: I didn’t have a concept of getting to reject to what adults decided to do to me. I didn’t have a concept of… anything being sexual except for sex itself — or, well, no, that’s not true. But I didn’t know that that was an applicable way to describe how I was experiencing it. Which, I was. It was. Because that’s a pretty normal reaction, I think, when a man has his hand inside your underwear.
I don’t want to hear again about how this is acceptable and fine because of the context. I’ve heard it enough from myself.
I want to finally let myself believe that the way I felt, and feel, actually matters in any kind of way. No matter what adults I couldn’t say no to decided was best for me.
It would be better if I could let it rest, but I can’t, until I figure out what this means, among so many other things, about still talking to her.
The other day, I saw this billboard that must have been part of some awareness campaign. It had a picture of a child’s painted fingernails, with a letter painted on each nail, that read the word “molested.” And it had a caption something like, “kids won’t just tell you,” and then something about learning to recognize the signs. Which is a good point, I guess, but made me feel pretty stupid, seeing that while in the car with her.
Here’s another thing I’m hung up on: everything I’ve ever heard about parents & CSA of their children by-other-adults has been about their children telling them.
There’s nothing in the script for if they already know.
There’s nothing in the script for how to bring it up, years later, if they were there when it happened.
That’s what’s actually even harder to write about, actually. My mom being there in the room, which I guess made it feel more like something that was supposed to be happening and that I was just supposed to endure it, the way I endured anything else about being a child subject to the will of its adults. God, you know I don’t even remember how old I was? I was younger than ten, I know that. I feel like I might have been about six, maybe. Maybe younger.
What confounds me still is that it’s not like she was completely impassive as she watched this unfold. Her face contorted and she started crying. I didn’t get why. I get it now, more. Doesn’t make it better. Actually makes it worse.
I remember her saying something like, “I’ll never let anyone hurt you,” which at the time was an utterly mystifying thing to say because the discomfort wasn’t the kind I would have labeled as pain, so I was confused why she was even saying that. He wasn’t hurting me, I remember thinking. It was just… really uncomfortable. Really, really uncomfortable.
What it felt like at the time was… more than I would have allowed anyone to do, given the choice. Not something I would have given permission for if asked. It’s not like I was given any kind of opportunity for giving informed consent. Not in the slightest.
It fit the bigger picture of what I knew about the world, though, because I effectively grew up being taught that I wasn’t allowed to set my own boundaries.
I think I’m disassociating a little bit now. Was a bit before, too. That’s okay.
Uneventfully we left the doctor’s office and I mostly forgot it happened and we never spoke about it. Ever. Because, I guess, there wasn’t really a reason to. As my guardian she could have done something and she didn’t. Doesn’t seem like there’s any reason to bring it up, now, if she won’t.
But, ever since I realized I could describe what he did as… molestation, if not CSA, it’s been plaguing my thoughts when I’m with her. She could have done something; she didn’t. Why didn’t she? I’m not sure I want to know the answer. I’m not sure it would leave me any better off than before.
It’s an ongoing dilemma of mine. It’d be nice if it could just be over.