Child Abuse Awareness Month: My Story
|April 16, 2012||Filed under Uncategorized|
This month is Child Abuse Awareness Month and I wanted to share bits and pieces about my past because those experiences may help prevent abuse from happening to someone else in the future.
As I may have mentioned before, I grew up overseas. Many of us who came from multicultural families gained a lot of attention because we looked like foreigners. There’s something about being a “White” (I know, I hate saying that, too) person in Asia that makes them treat you like a celebrity. If you’ve ever been asked to take pictures with Korean people while you’re out and about, you’d understand what I meant by that. When my family and I moved into an apartment next to a welding shop, the neighbor’s son and I became the best of friends. Strangely enough, we were born exactly one year apart. We were inseparable.
Eventually, my dear, shy friend started hanging around the welders instead of me. After all, they were a group of friendly Korean men who kindly offered snacks and played games with the local children. Nobody thought anything of it because they were well-known in the neighborhood. One day, as I happened to walk past the shop, I saw my male friend sitting on a stool having his anatomy fondled by one of the men. He called out to me, “Please don’t tell!”
I just ran and ran and ran.
I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I think I eventually told my parents, though I’m uncertain as to whether it was a pseudomemory or not. All I can remember was fear, hopelessness and shame.
As I grew older, my mother’s married male friend would come over and she would leave me alone with him while she ran errands. I always wondered why she didn’t just take me with her because while she was gone, he would touch me, saying he wanted to know how much I had matured since the last time he saw me. There were neither threats nor pleas not to tell. I simply endured and chose instead to make myself unavailable to him by shutting myself in my room whenever he came over.
During summers, my mom would send me off to Seoul where my aunts and uncle lived. I had done it for years, but one particular summer, my uncle got belligerently drunk and started making advances at me. He said, “If you were older, I would make love to you” and then proceeded to kiss me. Had my mouth not been clamped shut, his tongue would have been in it. I shoved him off me and took refuge in his wife’s arms. She was there for the entire thing, yet that incident never left the room. She dismissed the whole situation by saying he was being a drunken fool.
Throughout my life, I have carried these things in my heart. On the one hand, I was thankful that it wasn’t much more. On the other, it is hard to free yourself of the disgust that envelopes your body. There is a sense of betrayal because your elders are supposed to take care of you rather than exploit you, but the truth is… people are more often victimized from those they know rather than those they don’t.
Molestation is abuse and it has lifelong consequences. I was completely floored to discover in a therapy session some years ago that my anxiety was rooted in these past experiences.
Abusers are aware of their power and control. They’re often perceived to be normal or average and it works in their favor because they have built up credibility. Know this: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. Think about this the next time you’re in a room full of people.
And never, ever, assume your child, boy or girl, is 100% safe. Drop in on your children and pay attention to their behaviors. Abuse can be silent and pervasive. It is up to us to speak out and inform.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve remained silent too long. Set it free and let’s use it to create change.