I was a normal 12-year-old girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, walking with my friends to and from middle school and taking to the pool each summer for swim team. My biggest problems were trying to sneak episodes of Dawson’s Creek — a show my parents thought was too mature.
Until a sunny spring afternoon, I was a normal 12-year-old girl, until I looked in an old address book in our home office. Until I found the name of a doctor I didn’t recognize, with my name written beside it. Until I found out that this normal 12-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted when she was 2 years old. When I was 2 years old.
I’m nosy, I always have been. It’s why I grew up to be a journalist. So, at 12, I asked my mother who this doctor was and why I had seen him. I didn’t think it would be a big conversation; I was en route to a friend’s house down the street and wasn’t really in the mood to be waylaid.
She calmly called my dad into the living room and sat down on the faded floral couch and told me that something had happened to me that I didn’t remember. I don’t remember too much that they actually said, but I can remember the sun being really bright against the shiny wooden floor and getting distracted by it.
They started to explain they had never meant to keep it from me; it wasn’t a deep, dark family secret or anything to be embarrassed about. I had just never brought it up, and my parents didn’t know the right time to tell their thriving daughter she had been molested and had no idea it happened.
Apparently I had been afraid of my father and my three uncles; I didn’t want to be around adult men. I don’t know exactly how I told them what happened, but somehow they found out. I spent the next year going to child psychiatrists and therapists and taking part in the trial.
In the span of five minutes, my life changed. Or, more accurately, I found out that my life had been irrevocably changed a decade before.
But if a life doesn’t know it was meant to change, does it matter?
I was an extremely precocious 2-and-a half-year-old that talked like a champ. He was the teenage babysitter that our family friends trusted and my parents used for one rare night out.
The details of the incident don’t really matter. Frankly, I don’t even want to know. No one wants to hear the graphic details of child sexual abuse, myself included.
What I couldn’t wrap my head around, and very much still can’t, is that it happened to this body. The body that recently stood to accept an international award. The body that moved overseas as soon as I graduated. The body that has only slept with a few men (definitely still countable on two hands).
My parents didn’t want it to define me. To be the victim. To put me at a disadvantage. I was headstrong and confident; I would not let one night with a horrible person define who I was. I wasn’t going to be damaged.
Yet, that was how I felt immediately after they told me and still sometimes how I feel.
After it happened, the child psychiatrist told my parents I was likely able to process the event as much as possible and then block it from my memory. A toddler doesn’t have the capacity to understand implications of what happened or why. No one really does.
At the time, my parents did everything they could once they discovered why their usually vivacious toddler was withdrawn and afraid to be touched. They found the best child psychiatrists in the area.
I talked to the police, and my comments were used as part of the teenage boy’s trial. Because he was underage, he got community service and his record expunged at 18. And apparently then I expunged them from my blond little head.
I still don’t remember anything. But I think about it often, sometimes I think too often. It’s odd to spend so much time over the last fifteen years thinking about something that I know so little about.
Is there something deep inside me that knows? That has to prove that I don’t need anyone to succeed and I have to do everything for myself? I have a dogmatic view of right and wrong, sometimes to my own detriment. Something had to be made right, even if I didn’t know what.
I am very picky about men, I tend to be standoffish, and it takes awhile to warm up. Is that my subconscious trying to warn me? Telling me to be safe and guard myself? Or is it just a product of being a woman today, brought up with stranger danger and a startlingly lack of selection of quality men.
I’ll never know if what happened to me causes these quirks, but the not knowing is okay. I don’t think that many people are completely comfortable in their own skin, and that is what makes each person interesting, discovering what makes them tick and how they change and grow. These are things that I think I will need to overcome no matter what happened when I was 2.
It isn’t something that I dwell on; weeks will go by without thinking about it, and then sometimes I can’t get it out of my head.
I’m still in therapy now. This isn’t the only reason, but it comes up from time to time. Sometimes even as something I think I use as an excuse for any kind of relationship issues. Right now, I’m in the process of trying to find out more information about what actually happened. I’m not sure if having another talk with my parents is something I can handle. I don’t know if I can take watching them go through it all again.
I’m sure it will continue to come up in the future. What about when I want to tell someone I am dating about it? Or when I have to leave my hypothetical child with a babysitter for the first time?
I’m not overly concerned. I’m the person I am now regardless.
I don’t think that scumbag defined me. I think he helped shape me into what I am today. The brave girl that told her parents where the man touched her is the woman I am today, whether I like it or not.
As far as the babysitter goes, I have no idea where he is. The state stopped tracking him once he turned 18, and I don’t have access to the court files because they are sealed. But I don’t think I want to know. He doesn’t deserve the memory.