Friday, March 27, 2009

The Theft of Innocence

I’ve never seen this written about on a personal blog. I mean I’ve talked about it with friends, in recovery groups, in therapy and in discussions, but never have thrown it out there in an article or blog.

So here goes (and warning: there are possible triggers here for anyone who was sexually abused).

I was about 6 years old when my innocence was taken. There was this old fellow in a hut, a watchman, halfway down our newly built street, some of the houses weren’t yet finished and he’d watch the job sites after the workers left. He’d light a big fire in a brazier in front of the small wooden hut and he’d put me on his lap and touch my knickers and pay me a shilling not to tell anyone. I never did.

I was around nine when my innocence was taken again. Not in a brutal way. I wasn’t physically hurt. I was out walking with my little brother in his stroller, push-chairs we called them then, feeling very grown up as my mother had allowed me out beyond our gate and down the road with the baby for the first time, and this fellow, looking back he was under forty, jumped out at me from a hedge and exposed himself and asked me to touch him. He asked repeatedly working up to a threat that he would hurt me if I didn’t oblige him. I was rooted to the spot for what seemed like five minutes, but it was probably only a few seconds. I raced home and told my mother who told me to hush up and not to talk dirty.

I was thirteen when I was out fishing with a good friend of my father’s. I used to love fishing for pollock and really liked Patrick, my father’s farmer friend. We used to help him with threshing and churning the butter and working the separator and salting the fish.

I was shocked and very upset when he put a hand on my breast and squeezed it so hard it hurt. He told me if I didn’t stop crying he would do something worse. I was still shaking badly when I told my father later that evening. My father told me I was a liar, Patrick was a good man and me and my stories were not to be believed and I should tell the priest in confession what a rotten girl I was.

I was nineteen when the young local doctor of the small Italian town I was staying in took me out for dinner in San Marino and tried to rape me, my screaming and begging finally stopped his attempts and he didn’t speak to me again on the long ride home in his car. By that time I’d learned to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone of sexual assault, of any kind.

It was all in my head, you see. I couldn’t be trusted. And I’m only writing a few of the bare bones here, there were more incidents but you catch my drift.

One time, I took an informal survey amongst the women I knew. And every single last one of them had been sexually interfered with before the age of consent. Some far, far worse than others. And there are degrees, I suppose. Some were abused by their fathers, or uncles or brothers or cousins. And their mothers told them to shut up. Some got pregnant. Some became infertile. All were traumatized.

One never gets over this. It affected my self-esteem, my relationships, my sexuality. It ruined my trust for a long, long time.

I still view the patriarchy and its acolyte, religion, with disrespect, distrust and disdain. It does not protect innocence. It does not cherish children. And it particularly despises females.

And I’m putting all this out there. Because I know I’m not alone.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger The Finely Tuned Woman said...

This touches me very much and at first I could not leave a comment. I've had the usual stuff happen to me as a girl, nothing out of the ordinary, but I'm reacting to this so strongly that I wonder if I've forgotten something. It always plays in the back of my mind that something happened that I'm not remembering. Maybe that's for the best. Thank you for writing this post, it took courage. XOX

Sat Mar 28, 06:04:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Anonymous nick said...

Shocking experiences for an innocent child to have to go through. And as you say, it happens to many many women but usually it's hushed up. It's particularly appalling that your parents refused to believe you and made you feel even worse. It's lucky you've managed to overcome so much of the psychological harm such experiences are bound to cause. Even as a man, I have a fierce distrust of other men, as I know the sort of things they're capable of.

Sat Mar 28, 06:18:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Anne said...

I've had similar experiences, and the most painful part for me was having my parents refuse to believe when I screwed up the courage to speak about it. I sure learned a lesson from that! I was raped at age 18 and did not tell anyone, I knew very well by then that telling would only make matters worse. Ten years later, in my late 20s, I was sitting in someone's kitchen with a bunch of women and the talk came around to such experiences and it was a terrible revelation to me to learn that we all had such experiences in our short pasts. Like this was some kind of secret rite reserved only for girl-children, and we must never never tell.

Someone I know uses the term "Patrix", as in The Matrix only definitely not feminine. I think it's a good one.

Sat Mar 28, 09:43:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Twilight said...

I can't begin to imagine what scars your experiences must have left WWW.

I was lucky not to experience anything comparable at all. A young man exposed himself to me one night as I was going back to the hotel where I worked, but I was in my twenties by then, and well able to deal with it . I ran from him very fast though, once I'd told him what I thought about it!

It says volumes about your character that you have come through it all reasonably intact, and able to write about it as you have. I hope it will help others, still grappling with bad memories.

Sat Mar 28, 12:06:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I had buried most of this too until I was triggered many years ago by the honesty of another woman and it all came flooding back. One memory is still half buried, like yours, and it refuses to come to the surface. I was about 3. so I can relate to what you're saying.

Sat Mar 28, 12:53:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

In therapy, I learned that not having a champion or someone one can trust as a child is a very lonely place to be, it affects so much of who we grow into. Of how we see our place in the world and our relationships. I can attest to that!

Sat Mar 28, 12:55:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Thank you for validating and sharing your experience with the same evil force. I've been around tables of women where we all wept, the pain in the room was tangible. The recall of isolation as a small child with no where to turn and the violation of innocence sears the soul.
The Patrix. Yes. Good word.

Sat Mar 28, 12:57:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

The scar tissue is still there, T. I struggle with it at times, it can come out as meanness and defensiveness and overwhelming feelings of abandonment and of course I've had my addictions that I've written about in other posts.
It never quite goes away even though I count myself so lucky to have been able to embrace male friends. It took me a long time.

Sat Mar 28, 12:59:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger The Finely Tuned Woman said...

That's what I am thinking, Mary. It lies buried and I'm too scared to look at it on my own. Maybe it will lie buried forever and maybe some day, when I least expect it, it will come back to me. I have thought about hypnoses, because I know that works for me, but am not ready to try.

Sat Mar 28, 02:21:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Hullaballoo said...

Sending you warm hugs for breaking the taboo and being brave enough to share. Thank you WWW.

Sat Mar 28, 02:58:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Or maybe it's never meant to come to the surface. Who knows?
we need to be careful with this stuff especially if we are fragile emotionally.

Sat Mar 28, 07:58:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks, Hull, I thought long and hard about it and had not seen this shared, it is so pervasive and has affected so many women and girls.

Sat Mar 28, 07:58:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger The Finely Tuned Woman said...

You're right, Mary, probably it's best left beneath the surface. It just surprised me that I reacted so strongly to your post and that made me curious again. I'll let wisdom prevail and let sleeping dogs lie.

Sun Mar 29, 01:16:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger laurie said...

wow. i think you're right; there's a lot of this out there, in varying degrees. this is why we have fairy tales, i think--to teach us that evil and salvation come in many forms.

i remember walking to a friend's house when i ws in fourth grade (that means i was about 9 or 10) when a car pulled up and a man in a fedora told me to get in and he'd give me a ride downtown. he seemed like anyone's dad, nice car, nice hat, but everythiing about the situation screamed DANGER at me.

i was taught to be obedient and to do what adults asked of me. so it was very difficult for me to refuse, but i did. i said, "i'm not going downtown," and i ran like hell.

i have thought of this many many times over the years and wondered what would have happened to me if i had said yes.

Sun Mar 29, 05:52:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Anonymous Grannymar said...

The comments already here show that your opening the locked door to this topic was the right thing to do. So many girls from our era were seen as disposable playthings for men. We all carry scars of some kind and it is in airing them that we release the canker that abuse is.

Thank you WWW

Sun Mar 29, 08:57:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I had something very similar happen to me in London when I was fourteen, luckily I was with a cousin and my brother who were dawdling behind me.
Thank goodness, you refused as you were not street proofed - just like me. It is unthinkable what would have happened to you - a statistic in the local paper.

Sun Mar 29, 09:51:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

And when I read of those abused, raped and incested children in Austria, Italy and now Columbia I ask myself has anything changed? The low value placed on girl children by the patriarchy. No one looking out for them in those cases.
We need more floodlights put on these evil crimes and calling out the perpetrators.
You are right, the scars never leave.

Sun Mar 29, 09:53:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger The Poet Laura-eate said...

I remember being grabbed at by boys my own age at school occasionally if they got me on my own, but thankfully nothing worse than that. And frankly, I'm sure I can remember getting my own back with a swift kick in the appropriate place and a threat to tell teacher!

I think I would have lacked confidence as a young adult anyway to be honest and this was more about the dysfunctional upbringing I had.

But you are right that the type of incidents you mention seem to be far too common. Certainly it would be far more serious where an adult who is supposed to know better and has gone beyond childhood boundary testing/experimentation is concerned, let alone a trusted family friend! Your experiences sound nasty indeed WWW. And how awful that your father took his friend's word over yours. But I can't help wondering if their friendship was ever quite the same again whatever lies he accused you of telling!

Tue Mar 31, 11:13:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger William K Wolfrum said...

Wow. Just wow. Your bravery inspires me, WWW.


Tue Mar 31, 11:39:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I'll never know that, but it took me a long time to see it all clearly, therapy, etc. Females were so undervalued in the society I grew up in, that was part of the problem. And I felt so utterly alone until years later.

Tue Mar 31, 02:43:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks Bill!

Tue Mar 31, 02:44:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Jo said...

Wow - No words just {hugs}
The number of us who have been abused is just scary :-(

Wed Apr 01, 09:08:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

It's close to 100% I'd say!

Wed Apr 01, 11:14:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Anonymous Tessa said...

Reading what happened to you, WWW, and the comments from others makes me realise how blessed I was in having the father I had. When I was about 11, a man approached me and some other girls as we were playing at the back of our houses, and exposed himself to us. We all ran off to tell our parents - but my father was the only one to believe our story. The next time we were in the lane, he kept a watch and, when the guy appeared again, collared him and frog-marched him off to the police station.

All of the other girls were told to hush up and not speak of such dirty things. My father sat down with me and explained that some people were sick and they needed help. He also told me never to fear telling him or my mother if anything of the sort ever happened again.

I never thought about it again, because I knew I had nothing to fear. Especially in Ireland, as you know only too well, such honesty and respect were rare between parents and children, fathers and daughters.

I applaud your courage in facing these demons, especially when your elders let you down so badly.


Fri Apr 03, 11:50:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Tessa my dear:
You are extraordinarily unusual. Shakesville picked up my thread and the pain there will make your hair stand on end.

More and more victims surfacing than I even thought possible.
thanks for your words. I think 99% of girl children are affected and I will talk to my grandgirl about it and hope and pray she's not been affected. I get a lump of fear in my throat just thinking about it.


Fri Apr 03, 11:55:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Anonymous R J Adams said...

I mulled over my response to this article for a long time. Finally, I decided I couldn't do it justice within the confines of a comment, so wrote a piece on Sparrow Chat to express my views. I'm not sure, even now, that I've done it justice, but it certainly proved to be one of the most difficult articles I've written.

Fri Apr 03, 01:20:00 PM GMT-2:30  
OpenID gaudiumdegaea said...

It is real, it is true, it is still happening in many places in the world, as close as a neighbor, as far as on the other side of the world.
I have a story as well, but it's something I have been telling myself I have imagined it all along, that it didn't actually happen.
Because if what I thought happened really happened, I don't have the strength to confront.

PS: sorry i have been slack lately and not blogging much.

Thu Apr 09, 03:12:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

On this, we agree to part ways, I had difficulty, as you know in reading your piece. If what you say is true, no little girl is safe from any man, even though his thoughts are not transmitted into actions. And I am particularly perturbed that what a little girl could wear could trigger a man's sexual predation. I'm so sick and tired of males blaming the victim:
(1)It's what she wore
(2)she was looking for it
(3) she's a little c*** tease
et al, infinitum.
I choose to believe that men of my acquaintance don't buy into that crap.

Thu Apr 09, 04:51:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

It happens all around us, I agree. And I can totally empathize with what you're saying, I've a memory of when I was 3 and it is just barely below the surface and I only voiced it once to a therapist.
this stuff leaves lasting scars.

Thu Apr 09, 04:53:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger globeonmytable said...

A friend of mine at primary school told me something involving her father when I stayed over at her house once. I must have told my mother because soon after her parents split up and she moved away with her mother. My mother must have immediately told her mother I guess.

I haven't had any crap apart from one flasher in the Tube when I was in my 20's. I gasped at him and HE got off at the next stop!! No wonder the seat opposite him had been free for me to take....! He may have been flashing for a while! Everyone else around me literally shut their eyes in shock.

Thu Apr 23, 01:38:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Good for you for speaking up, you may have saved your friend untold grief and pain.
You are blessed that you have escaped this pervasive assault on girl-children.
I talked to my granddaughter and she said the same.
I am grateful for this.

Thu Apr 23, 01:47:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Aimee said...

When I was about 13, I think a doctor groped me. I'm still not sure what it really was, I had a cold and he was checking my lungs for signs of infection, and somehow his hands ended up on my barely-there-breasts. Just for a few seconds, his hands were up under my shirt.

my mother was in the room, and seemed to see nothing, which is why I have always hesitated in considering it sexual assault. At the time I was uncomfortable, but I wasn't sure if the doctor did anything wrong.

It's only looking back, 6 years on, that I'm beginning to question it. Why did his hands need to be up under my shirt? Why would he be checking my lungs with the use of his hands rather than his stethoscope? Was it an accident in the course of a legitimate check-up, or a violation? I'm still not entirely sure.

I'm 18, and that is the only incident that I can remember. Another of my friends was also once felt up by a doctor. But amongst my 10 or so friends, that is the extent of sexual assualt that has been recounted. It is entirely possible that they might not be comfortable talking about something that happened to them, but... am I too hopeful to speculate that maybe some progress has been made?

Maybe the patriarchy has slipped enough that a man in the twenty-first century, in a devoloped country, hesitates more before interfering with a young girl than he might have 40 years ago? I know that it still happens, constantly, but is it happening less than it used to?

My grandmother was raped as a child. My mother was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a child. By comparison, my childhood seems idyllically innocent. But maybe that was just luck.

Tue Jul 07, 12:21:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Hi Aimee:
Thanks for commenting. I believe if we are uncomfortable in any way with what someone is doing to our bodies that is not remedial that that is a signal they shouldn't be doing it.
I look at the stats on the latest web porn paedophile, with 20 million images of abused children (and he's just one that's been caught!) and I sadly don't share your optimism.
Paedophiles come in all disguises. Doctors, farmers, lawyers and they say more than one president of the U.S.

Tue Jul 07, 01:26:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are indeed a wise woman. First off, I believe all women are wise until we males and worse the mothers and females set up the distrust in our own flesh and blood....undermine us and set us up to become victims as you have no protectors.
I was relieved that your father did not do damage to Patrick....and very sad he did the damage to you...forgive him...he was raised the same way...most of us were.

Even if you transcend childhood and youth without incident or having a few bricks taken from you foundation; we are not happy until we have got complete control of you.

Look at our medical model of industrial birth.
The wise-women...sages...crones...midwives have been eliminated by witch hunts and dunk tanks. When women take their innate power and let no man remove it...they are an unstoppable force for good....they are miracle makers and the essence of life, health and happiness.

We are addicted to any cost...and our cost is huge.

Women can be their own worst enemy or a beacon for the your daughters to be truthful...raise them to be truthful....the world will pull ahead...there will be fewer guns, uniforms and bombs...knocking a hole in the number one profit centre of the globe: War and Armaments.
Empowered women and pregnant women are not sick. Only when we undermine them and and force them through societal pressures to second guess their innate powers of birth, health and happiness...through a medical model of birth....which fuels the second greatest profit centre of the globe: Patented Medicine....

Undermining women is good for the economy.

In author Naomi Klein's words, it is 'Shock Doctrine...the rise in disaster capitalism'.

It is great that you bring this forward so that we can all be more aware and take greater care of our most precious assets...our children...our daughters and our women....

VIVE LA difference.

Mon Feb 01, 01:28:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Thank you for YOUR wise and thoughtful comment on this more than prevalent issue. It is so heartening to have such insight from the males of our poor species!
Yes, we are all born wise but this wisdom is exploited and negated by the greed exhibited by the Masters of the Universe who further their own sick agendas at the cost of so many lives.
It has to stop NOW. As you say, the cost is too enormous to sustain.

Mon Feb 01, 04:47:00 PM GMT-3:30  
Blogger Liser Always Noland said...

You are definitely not alone. I'm a woman and I've been sexually assaulted at least 8 times in my life by 8 different people. One of them was a female but the rest were males.

This is not okay.

Fri May 03, 04:18:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Liser Always Noland said...

by the way, the first assault happened when I was 3.

Fri May 03, 04:19:00 PM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...


I am so sorry this happened to you, the narratives out there of abused wee girls makes my heart break for you and for us all.


Mon Jun 09, 10:03:00 AM GMT-2:30  
Blogger Betty Bishop said...

awful stories, awful sadness. Heart breaking really. i have been there too. A dirty old grandfather with silver dollars in his pockets - a mother who served me up to him. I would bet my life he abused her too. Does what doesn't kill you make you stronger. Sorry Wise. Keep on kicking.

Wed Jun 10, 12:15:00 AM GMT-2:30  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]