I wrestled with this post. Do I talk about this? But what if I come across as attention seeking, or like someone who is just jumping on a bandwagon?
Of course, that's part of the reason why so many women keep quiet. Because they worry that they won't be believed, or that people will believe that they brought it on themselves, or for a million other reasons that boil down to shame and fear and self-loathing.
So, I'll just say it - from the time I was 13 until I was 15, my mother's boyfriend was sexually inappropriate with me.
I say it that way because I really don't know how else to put it. I mean, so many people out there have experienced much worse, and it wasn't like I was raped, right? But he was a grown man, and I was barely even a teenager, and what I remember most about those years is a fog of dread, anger, and disgust.
He would constantly make comments about my body - the size of my breasts, the way that my jeans fit, how I was growing into a "very sexy young woman." I would always go to the library or movies when he would come over, but it seemed like no matter how late I would come back, they would be in my mother's bedroom, door open, still in the middle of things. I remember once coming home after 11pm (I was probably about 14 at the time), and slamming the door on her bedroom because I just didn't want to literally see what was going on. I got a lecture afterwards about how it's all perfectly natural, with him throwing in an aside about how it might do me good to "see things and learn from them", at which point I stormed off and locked myself in my bedroom.
I think the worst that it got was during a camping trip that we took when I was about 15, at a small resort in the Rocky Mountains, near where I grew up. I was in the swimming pool when he came in and started a game of "tag" - he groped my breasts, and I got out of the pool and left immediately. We - he, my mom, and I - shared a tent, even though I pleaded with her to let me sleep somewhere else; that night, they started having sex while I was next to them. I rolled myself up in the blanket and huddled against the side of the tent. The next morning, my mom asked my I'd done that, complaining that she'd been cold. I snapped at her about having sex right next to me, and her response was, "What, did you think he was going to try and fuck you next?" All I could do was look at her, because yes, that was exactly why I'd done it.
What makes this so hard to talk about is the way that this has changed my relationship with my mother - I don't have one with her anymore. When I was young, I felt, absolutely, like I could count on her, like she would always be there for me. Her complicity in my... abuse, it was abuse, even though it feels strange to actually call it that, shattered that. When I was 15 I moved to California to live with my father and stepmother, and even if I wasn't always happy, at least I always felt safe.
Even as I write this, I'm doubting myself. I mean, does this really sound so bad? He'd make comments about my body - big deal. He and my mom exposed me to sex in a way that was gross and uncomfortable to me - is that really that different from a kid stumbling across some weird porn? And women in the street experience groping that's way worse than having your breasts grabbed all the time, so why make a big fuss about it?
But I'm angry, and I'm kind of nauseous, and I'm trying really hard not to cry, because even if "it wasn't so bad," it had an impact on my life, and I'm so sorry for all of the other people who went through what I went through, and I'm just fucking sick of everyone having to say "me too." I don't want this to be something that people feel like they just have to endure. It's not normal, and it's not right.
So, yeah. That's my story. And even though I don't feel totally comfortable talking about it, I feel like it's important to do it, because we need to acknowledge that we live in a society that normalizes this shit - the sexualization of women and girls; the power dynamic that kept me silent; the denial of other people who don't want to see, or admit, what's going on around them.
This is real. This happened to me. Now, what can we do to keep this from happening to anyone else?