He was a clever one, my uncle. That man knew how to cop a feel but make it seem like my fault ever time. #Oopsmybad. Every time he touched my breasts, he pretended nothing had happened. So I was the one to feel ashamed. I must’ve put my bosom in the wrong place at the wrong time. #Oopsmybad And that’s why I, you and so many victims of sexual abuse are struggling to proclaim #MeToo.
Well, that bullsh*t stops NOW.
When Donna Karan defended Harvey Weinstein by saying about his victims, “Are we asking for it…?” she re-victimized all of Harvey Weinstein’s victims and every man, woman and child who has been blamed for their own sexual abuse. That’s what my aunt and uncle did. Blamed me.
It all started so innocently…
Every Summer, Mam sent my two sisters, brother and me to stay with our many aunts and uncles for the Summer hols. I was always sent to her sister’s home in the verdant farming community of Rhos y Garth near the little village of Llanilar, Ceredigion, Wales. That holiday from a mother who flirted with mental illness, sometimes delusional, sometimes sane, would’ve been idyllic if it weren’t for the fact that Modryb (aunt) had her own struggles with mental illness, a tentative grip on reality that couldn’t face the fact that both she and her husband were guilty of molesting me from the time I was a tiny tot.
How can you know if you were molested as a child, but were either too young to remember or so traumatized that you blocked the memory? We can’t know, not for certain, but there are clues. According to Parents Protect!, children who have been molested behave in predictable ways listed on their website, www.parentsprotect.co.uk/warning_signs.htm
Go through the list. Does it sound familiar? It isn’t even a complete list! There are even more signs. When you drew people or stick figures as a kid, did you include sexual organs in your doodling? I did. Did you start masturbating at an unusually young age? I was six. Do you hate getting your face wet or have a very sensitive gag reflex? Me too. No oral sex! Even the thought makes me freak out, start crying. If you’re a woman, did you either discover that your hymen was already broken or extremely tough the “first” time you had sex? It could be natural or it could be a sign of being sexually abused as a baby. Mine was almost unbreakable (scar tissue?) and my body kept rejecting penetration, as if to protect itself.
I have memories in my pram as a baby and memories of being in primary school, but very few memories from the years inbetween. Perhaps the sexual abuse occurred very early, before I had memories or maybe the memories are just blocked (for now.) All I know is that each summer while my cousins jumped happily into Modryb and Ewythr’s bed to watch Sam Tân on BBC One, I trailed behind, filled with an indescribable feeling. While they bounced and had pillow fights, I curled into a ball. The most horrible emotion flooding not just my heart, but my physical body as well. It was the same emotion I felt when, every week, Modryb made me lay spread-eagled on the bed while she washed my genitals, saying she couldn’t trust me to make a good job of it. The same horrible emotion I felt when I scratched an itch on my lady parts. The same feeling I got when Ewythr (uncle) pulled me extremely close for a cuddle or reclined his chair so I went from sitting on his lap to laying on top of him.
Sometimes I still get that same horrible feeling today.
It wasn’t until puberty that anything approaching obvious molestation happened, but even then, it was subtle. Unlike most girls who can’t wait to grow breasts, I hated mine. Having them horrified me. Being flat-chested herself, Modryb disguised her jealousy in nasty asides and snide comments. But that didn’t stop her from copping a feel. When she took me to the shops, no bra was ugly enough, no neckline high enough nor skirt long enough for me while she flaunted her non-existent decolletage, complete with a vivid hicky, from a vivid collection of lacy push-up bras and tight, low-cut blouses. I really don’t think she owned anything else.
I was most comfortable in an oversized wooly jumper paired with loose denim jeans. Paying my room and board by working on the farm and in the barn with Ewythr during my teens, this “uniform” was perfect. Ewythr and I worked well together. Maybe too well. While I handed him tools and spanners, he fixed his ancient lorry and talked about his favorite subject: sex. And that’s when it happened. He made a lunge for a tool, bumping my pubescent breasts with his forearm. It reminded me of when he’d tuck me up when I was a just a wee one, dragging his arms across my chest as he tucked the quilt under my chin.
It happened the first time in the barn. Then it happened again. And again and again. Helping Ewythr always resulted in a #boobgraze. I knew better than to mention it to Modryb. She’d just scream at me. And after all it was #oopsmybad for having my boobs in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wasn’t it?
After I grew up and moved to Cardiff, it kept happening. At every office, studio, photo shoot, gallery, theatre, date, pub or ceilidhs (dance) I found myself, only once did a man actually use his hands, “apologizing” afterwards. Most men preferred the accidental #boobgraze with the forearm, acting as if nothing had happened. The “fumbled” spin or sudden knee in the crotch during a ceilidh. The client who stared at my chest, addressed all his comments sternum and then by-passed my handshake, insisting on a crushing embrace while digging his fingers into my back when we parted.
And every time, #oopsmybad. I didn’t resist or call the men out because, just like Ewythr, they were merely clumsy. They acted like nothing happened, so I did too. They didn’t mean to. It was just an accident. Or perhaps I was particularly clumsy. #oopsididitagain Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. That must be it. None of the other girls mentioned it happening. #oopsmybad
#Bollockstothat! That bullshit stops right now. It should have stopped long ago, you bunch of sick sexual abusers with your innocent expressions and “clumsy” forearms. Copping a feel is copping a feel, even if you don’t “use your hands.” That means you, Ewythr. You know who you are and you know exactly what you did, you sick paedophile. That means you too, Modryb, you sick paedophile. You know exactly what you did and exactly what he did, and yet you blamed me for everything! Luckily, you’re too old, too sick, too alone to hurt anyone ever again. You deserve it.
Why stop with Harvey Weinstein? Or photographer Terry Richardson? Celebrity chef John Besh? The oh-so-conveniently dead Jimmy Savile? Women speak out! Men speak out! Children speak out! #MeToo isn’t just a hashtag. It’s a movement against the subtle, the overt, the clandestine, the in-your-face sexual abuse rampant in every industry, every country, every religion, race and creed. Don’t be ashamed. The shame belongs to your abuser(s), not you!
We have this one chance to all speak out. To stop sexual abuse cold in its tracks. Even if they threatened to kill you if you ever told. (Seriously, that is so cliché!) Like in V for Vendetta, we must all take off the mask. We must all stand together. This is our chance. They can’t kill all of us if we all speak out. Now!