I know. I make a lot of posts that stem from watching Oprah. The thing is, I’ve been watching Oprah every day since I was about 5 years old and it’s what’s on at 4 o’clock, which is usually when I do most of my painting. Anyway, this post is no different and has been brewing in my brain since last month when Oprah interviewed 4 different child molesters. The interview is here if you care to watch it yourself. I thought it was pretty eye-opening stuff.
What caught me off guard about the interview was the one guy who was only a few years older than his victim and how he groomed her to finally consent to having sex with him. That’s right, consent. Because that’s what happens, child molesters groom their victims slowly, over time, taking things a step further each time until ideally, the victim consents to what they ultimately want and what struck me about this particular story is that it mimicked that of my own.
I’ve written about this before in my Live Journal but I can’t remember if it was friends only or not. When I was about 5 years old, my cousin, who was about 6 years older than me, slept over with me at my great grandma’s house and we slept in the same bed. I was in love with this cousin and I see now that a large part of that was because he groomed me to love him and it wasn’t love in a platonic way. I thought I was going to grow up and marry him. Well this one night, after many days and nights of things getting slowly to this point, we were in the same bed and he pulled down his pants and asked me to stroke his penis and I did and I was surprised when it got hard because I was 5 and didn’t really know penises could do that. As I stroked his penis, and he instructed me on how to do it properly, he stroked my vagina through my underwear (I was wearing a nightie). Then he stopped but told me to continue and he kind of held me in an embrace with my arm between myself and his chest. That’s when my grandma peeked in on us and thought it was so cute that we were hugging that she actually said “awwwww” out loud. Little did she know what was going on under the covers. She closed the door and went back to the living room where she was sleeping on the couch.
I felt uncomfortable touching my cousin’s penis. No one had ever told me that things like this were wrong, I barely knew were babies came from at that point, but somehow I instinctively knew it was wrong so I said to him, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and he said okay, let go of me and pulled his pants back up. Then I rolled over and pretended to sleep and he rolled over too and jerked himself off, although I didn’t realize what he was doing until a long time after.
Other things with this cousin happened too, but I’ve repressed those memories. In fact what I just said above was repressed until I was about 22 and it came out in therapy. I’m glad I don’t remember everything that happened except for that night because if I did, I’d probably track him down and kill him because what he did to me set the stage for a lot of other things that have happened in my life.
Shortly after that night, my step-dad started suspecting that something wasn’t right with our relationship and suddenly there was a new rule in place that I was never to be alone with that cousin anymore. He told me years later that he walked in on something at a family gathering, but he would never tell me what it was.
And that’s why the interview Oprah did with these pedophiles kind of shocked me because the one who was only a few years older than his victim was telling my story, only from the other side and if my step-dad hadn’t instituted the rule that I was never to be alone with this cousin, it’s hard to say how far things may have gone.
Later in my life, when I was older, after my parents split up, I was left alone with this cousin again and while he never touched me again, nor me him, he would tell me about explicit sex he either fantasized about or had had himself. I remember one of these conversations quite clearly when I was 11 and again when I was 15. Both times I was extremely uncomfortable with the things he was saying because both times the way he said them were open and suggestive, where if I showed any interest whatsoever in these stories, I’m almost positive he would have molested me again.
People wonder why I abandoned that side of my family and that’s the reason why. If my Aunt, who I love dearly and who I think is the sweetest woman in the world, ever knew what really happened, I don’t know what she’d do. Going to family events after that one repressed memory came to light became impossible because he was there and looking at him, being in the same room as him, made me feel sick to my stomach. So I stopped going to family functions and I took a lot of shit for that from all sides of the family. Finally one day, after being berated for not going to an Xmas event my grandma was hosting, I told her the gist of what he had done to me and she told me I was a liar. Later on she decided to believe me, but it was her opinion that I confront him and she thought I should do so AT THE FUCKING XMAS TABLE IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. The shrink I was seeing at the time (okay, he was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist) thought that was a horrible idea and that my original thoughts of avoidance were probably best. I told my grandma this and she finally shut up, but about 6 months later she had a yard sale where my Aunt (my cousin’s mother, obviously) and my other cousin had things in it and were working it and when I came out to say hi, my Aunt didn’t really talk to me and my cousin was flat out mean to me. This tells me that my grandma probably told my cousin (the cousin who molested me’s older brother) some or all of what I remembered and he didn’t believe me either and that there was a very good chance that he told his mother and that’s why she could barely look at me.
We moved away that summer and I haven’t spoken to anyone on that side of the family since. That was almost 5 years ago and I don’t plan on ever going back, I will not be attending funerals for that side of the family as they happen.
My mom knows about the bits I remember and she has said on the few occasions where we’ve talked about it, “are you sure it wasn’t just ‘kissing cousins’, are you positive?” and for a while I wasn’t sure. I mean, he was definitely old enough to know better but it was hard to say because at the time, he was a kid himself. But he wasn’t a kid when he was being suggestive with me years and years later, the last sexual interaction I had with him, which was just a lot of very suggestive talk, was when I was 15 and fresh out of the psych ward after my second suicide attempt. He would have been 21. You can’t tell me that isn’t old enough to know better and we were alone in a park. If I had said one word that might have suggested to him that I was game for any kind of sexual play, there is no doubt in my mind he would have gone for it. He was testing the waters, just as he was testing the waters a few years prior with the same kind of talk.
And after watching the Oprah interview and really, finally understanding how the grooming process works and hearing this man’s story of his relationship with his victim, there is no doubt in my mind that what my cousin was doing to me, practically my whole life, was trying to groom me the way the man behind bars groomed his victim. The things he said about how it happened bit by bit were almost identical to my cousin and I.
But then, my cousin wasn’t my only molester and for the longest time I thought that maybe I was just a slutty kid or something to have it happen twice (plus a rape when I was 14) but the Oprah interview made me realize that that wasn’t the case. What was the case, is that I was the kind of kid who molesters targeted. They don’t target kids who won’t scream or say “no”. They don’t target kids who have good relationships with their parents. They target kids who are left alone a lot, which I was, and kids who comes from broken homes, which I did. They target kids with low self-esteem, which I had, and they target kids whose parents wouldn’t believe them if they told and mine wouldn’t. In fact with my second molester, my mother has flat out told me that I was a liar.
My second molester was our next door neighbour, Vince, when we lived in the house in Greenbank and he didn’t just molest me, he molested my friend Heather too and the other neighbourhood girls talked about him and told each other to stay away from him.
But he was nice to me, at a time when my parents weren’t, when they were even around. After school I came home to an empty house and I was lonely and bored, so sometimes I’d go over to the workshop in Vince’s backyard to see what he was working on. He made those wooden whirligigs that people put on their lawns, you know the type, they’re of Snoopy or a flamingo and they have legs that spin when it’s windy.
He would give me pop bottles to take back to the store, which was only one house away from mine and that’s how it all started out. Eventually he would only give me the pop bottles if I sat on his lap. And then it escalated to no pop bottles, but spare change to take to the store, but only if he could put it in my pocket himself, either my pants pocket where he’d grope, or my breast pocket where he’d also grope. And finally I would only get the change or pop bottles if I looked at pornographic magazines with him for a few minutes and that’s when I stopped going over there because in my 10 year old head, for some reason that triggered warning bells.
And with Vince, usually I would go over there and be thinking “okay maybe this time he won’t do it,” because sometimes he didn’t. Usually when he did it, I think he’d been drinking.
After he started showing me the magazines, I would only go over to see him only if my mom or my mom’s boyfriend were going over there. When I told my mom years later that he was a kiddie diddler (and he did much worse things to my friend Heather and possibly to other girls too), my mom told me I was full of shit. I don’t know what she believes now, but I would tell this story with my hand on a stack of bibles if I thought it would make a difference.
My cousin set me up. He set me up to be molested by Vince and he set me up for what’s been a lifetime of sexual dysfunction. And again, watching the Oprah interview with these child molesters, the story of Vince and I was in there too and for the first time in my life, I realized that in both cases I was the victim and that I wasn’t to blame. I’ve always said my whole life that I didn’t feel like I was getting the blame, but that was a lie. My family shunned me when it came out about my cousin and my mom called me a liar when it came out about Vince. That’s victim blaming and when other people are blaming you, it’s hard not to start blaming yourself as well, so I did. Until the Oprah interview. Until I understood the mechanics of both of these relationships, if that’s what they are to be called.
Anyway, my point in writing this is not to have a pity party for my loss of innocence, but to say to all the parents out there, watch the interview, see how it all works and then make sure that you have the kind of relationship with your kids that makes them undesirable victims in the first place because that seems to be the key in keeping them safe.
And I guess that’s all I have to say.