I was 12 years old the first time a man touched me against my will. The next time a man touched me, with consent, was eight years later. I was just as bewildered the second time.
At 12, I was physically more woman than girl but without the slightest idea of what an individual, who was related to me, would gain from rubbing his penis (I didn’t even know the word) against me. I ran off into the crowd of family members, pretending nothing had happened, because the only thing I felt was a sense of being dirty. And how does a plump, happy-go-lucky, quiet child explain “dirty” to her family that has never discussed any version of sexuality at the dining table? She doesn’t.
At 20, I was bemused because I couldn’t fathom why the man I loved would want to touch me. Old stains take a long time to clean up, especially if they’ve been closeted away for years. I muddled through the highs and lows of discovering the creature that was my sexuality amidst people who were divided between letting it all loose and stifling the slightest expression of it.
At nearly 24, I’m still figuring things out, though thankfully, without the pressure of going too fast or slow. I am still angry because I know now that children, even plump, non-protesting, quiet children, are not meant to be touched against their will. I am angry because the law doesn’t operate in retrospect, and the others didn’t know how to listen to something I couldn’t voice. I am angry because I am not a case in isolation. Many of my generation, across genders, sealed their hearts in the face of unrelenting adults when they were younger than 12, and are still battling those nightmares on difficult days.
And I’m angriest because when I tell people “I don’t like people touching me”, it is only now that I realize that it wasn’t my fault.