As a child I was raised fairly protected. I am the youngest of four children of which one is a very caring and protective brother. Although we grew up with a brother, us girls were never allowed to see him naked and he wasn’t allowed to see us. I know that this might not be the case for all children, but I am thankful to my parents for setting those rules. It taught me respect for my brother and more importantly, respect for myself. I knew that certain parts of the body were sacred and wasn’t to be exposed to any boy’s eyes. It kept a kind of innocence in me that I wish upon every child. That ended when I was 6 years old.
A family friend of my parents came to visit us over the Christmas holiday and she brought her two sons along with her. They were raised in a different culture to ours. They got to shower along with their mother. Sexual boundaries weren’t put in place and there were sure consequences. One evening I went to my mother’s en suite bathroom that was hidden behind closet doors without a lock. It was late, I was tired and I didn’t think I needed to be on my guard. By the time I was already seated on the toilet, the youngest of the two boys came into the bathroom, forcefully pushed me to the back of the toilet, and started groping me. I didn’t know what hit me. I was too young to understand. All I knew was what he did was wrong. Instead of feeling used and victimized, I felt guilty so I kept it a secret in my heart for years. I knew that if I spoke up about it, I would be blamed since I was one year older than him and it happened in my parents’ home.
As an adult I still carry scars from that seemingly innocent experience. I have once endeavored to open up my heart to a boyfriend and tell him of my experience. He laughed and said: “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine. That’s cute. All kids do that and it’s totally normal. All children want it explore. It’s healthy.” I thought to myself: Really?! One of the most painful experiences of my life is deemed normal? Do you mean to tell me that everybody truly goes through this as a child? I knew this wasn’t true, but his comment made me feel like opening up to anyone else about this would only leave me more hurt and confused. So I shut myself up and threw away the keys.
My question to you is this: when is abuse abuse? Where does one draw the line between ‘healthy exploration’ and sexual violation. I didn’t want to be explored. I didn’t want to be touched. Why is then that I feel to blame. Why do I feel like the fool who failed to recognize that this behaviour towards me is normal and that everyone goes through it?
If there’s one thing that I want to shout from mountain tops it’s this: one can NEVER be too guarded when it comes to ones children. If you allow your kids to sleep over at their friends’ houses, you have to keep into consideration that their culture might be very different from yours. Your children could very possibly be exposed to things that you don’t want them to be exposed to, and they might never have the courage to tell you. Do you allow your daughters to sit on men’s laps. Has it ever occurred to you that there are pedophiles out there who can take advantage of your innocent children and you might never know about it? Do you allow your children’s cousins of the opposite sex to see your children naked. Do you allow your girls and boys to bath together, get dressed together and play naked together? You might be doing your children a bigger disservice than you can ever imagine. We are living in an age where 2nd graders are being raped. Little boys are exposed to pornography and nothing is left sacred anymore. The rape statistic in our country is high as it is, but consider that the majority of people who get raped never tell a soul, because they feel that they are to blame. That little boy, who forever changed the way I see myself, was taught by his mother that what he did was okay. So tell me: what happens when this little innocent boy gets older and starts developing? That is most likely the teenager who will rape a girl in the school dressing room, because he was taught that sexual violence against minors is acceptable. If you want to change the way our society sees sex, then you need to start in your own family. What are you exposing your children to? What are you allowing? You have more power in this than you think. It’s never too late to change the sexual culture in your family. We can change the way society sees sex, one family at a time. “
Disclaimer: this is a truthful narrative of my own experience and individual opinions. It is not a reflection of Ukankhanya’s views or opinions in any way.