I was a super shy kid…

I was a super shy kid. I lived in a volatile and violent home, and I became a survivor of sexual violence at the age of 4. My parents were addicts – dad took lots of pills, and mom drank a 12-pack every night. They justified it because their addictions were legal, but that didn’t make me or my brothers feel any better. My parents’ addictions were enough that we wore clothes with holes in them and they complained about money all the time, but they could always afford their vices. Childhood was a difficult time for me.

When I was 12, I was skating toward depression and suicidal ideation. I toyed with self-harm in my head, but I wouldn’t actually rake a blade against my skin until a little while later. When I was 12, I could still pretend our lives weren’t completely out of control. When I was 12, I had yet to attempt suicide.

I didn’t take great care of my hygiene at this age, either. My dad assigned shower days for me, every Sunday and Wednesday. I rarely wanted to clean myself, though. You see, I hated myself and my body. I was disgusted by looking at it, and I didn’t want to take care of it at all. I guess this was the result of my dad telling me I was fat my whole life, putting me on diets and exploding with rage when he felt I should clean my plate, or when he thought I ate too much.

My lack of hygiene was also the result of my relationship to my genitalia. My mother always told me, “never let anyone touch your thingy,” and my grandmother told me touching myself was shameful. But, someone had touched me, and they knew it, so I felt disgusting, like a pariah. I was deeply, deeply ashamed because I felt worthless, fat, ugly, and at fault for my own sexual abuse. I didn’t love myself enough to take care of my body.

I didn’t articulate this to my dad, of course. I just didn’t take showers unless he hounded me to do so. One Sunday afternoon, everyone was gone from home except for him and me. He told me to go take a shower. I said I’d do it later. He said it again, and I didn’t get up to go to the bathroom. He grabbed my arm and said he was going to make me shower.

I said “no,” “I’m sorry,” and “I’ll go do it now.” He said it was too bad, he was going to do it for me. I started screaming and crying, trying to pull my arm away. I pleaded with him to let me do it myself. He dragged me by my arm up the stairs and into the bathroom.

My dad shoved me inside the bathroom and started the shower. He told me to get undressed. I refused and crossed my arms, crying, saying I would get in the shower if he left the room. He grabbed the bottom of my t-shirt and started yanking it off me. I pleaded with him to stop, but he did not. He pulled the shirt off of my body and I covered my budding breasts, pleading, crying. He did not budge or leave. He screamed at me to get undressed the rest of the way and to “get in the fucking shower!” He threatened to hurt me if I refused.

I got undressed and into the shower. I crouched down in the bottom of the tub, covering my breasts, sobbing, begging him to leave. My survivor’s trauma brain was overwhelmed with fear. I was incredibly scared and horrified.

My dad stood over me and started laughing. I looked up at his face, so filled with mirth, laughing at me. I felt something beyond humiliation. Was he laughing at my ugly, fat body? Did he think traumatizing me was funny? I have no idea.

I don’t remember what happened after that. I think something broke inside of me. My last memory of this incident was looking up into my dad’s laughing eyes. Sometimes they show up in my dreams, careening them into nightmares. I still startle and almost panic when someone grabs my upper arms.

It’s funny how this incident stays with me. Until I wrote it out, right now, I always thought I couldn’t neatly categorize it as sexual violence or anything else, because it doesn’t fit nicely into a box. All I knew was that I felt violated in a way that fractured my tenuous hold on my own sanity, and I would go on to cut ribbons into my skin and try to take my own life. This incident was a breaking point that sent me down a path of self-harm, more self-hatred, and a feeling of violation that I felt I didn’t have the right to. Even now, I don’t know if it was an assault. Is the feeling of violation enough to warrant that categorization? Is it the intent? Is it the behavior itself?

Can I live with the answer?

– Anonymous (she/her)