There's a lot of chatter on the internet today about Laurie Halse Anderson's book SPEAK and the suggestion it be considered a banned book for being 'soft porn.' There are numerous posts about this. Janet Reid’s got a few links on her post, and the author has some words about the suggestion in her post here: Laurie Halse Anderson
What I want to speak about is the post I read written by CJ Redwine.
Those who have followed my blog for a while might understand how important the topic is to me because I'm using honest to goodness links instead of just writing out an address in my usual lazy way. CJ's courage has given me a drop of my own.
Back in April, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I posted a couple works of fiction to help spread awareness.
And yet, there is truth in that fiction.
It's not an easy thing to talk about. It's certainly not the sort of small talk you have at a bar or a party. Most people who know me are aware of what I've been through. Why? Because I'm not ashamed. I don't blame myself for what happened. I was young, small, weak, and far too ignorant about the evils of this world when I had my experiences.
When I read CJ's blog post, it was like reading my own diary entry. I was molested by the son of a family minister for four years, beginning when I was five. When I say 'minister,' I don't mean your typical minister. This man had his own small 'flock' of which a family member was a part of, and I was taken to this man's home and left alone for hours with his son who -I assume- was trusted. The truth is, the whole lot of them were a weird bunch of people, and I was saved from a continuation of such 'attention' by my father's decision to move us as far away as possible from those lunatics as he could.
I tried to speak up once. I suspected what the son was doing to me was wrong. Unfortunately, another young girl in 'the flock' had accused her father of the same thing, and it was decided that I was 'just looking for attention.' I was punished for my sinful lies, and I never mentioned it again.
I 'wasn't right in the head' for years. I didn't know how to socialize with boys. I didn't know how to accept affection from my family or friends. When I was eleven I met my best friend. She was the sweetest person I have ever met, and I think about her every day, even though I have not seen her in twenty years.
We shared our secrets, and hers was far more sinister than mine. She actually made me feel lucky for what I'd been through. Her mother would give her as payment to men for drugs. Yes, that's no typo. From the time since before she could remember, her mother would let grown men sexually assault her own daughter in exchange for cocaine, crack, meth, or whatever they had.
We lived in a small town in Colorado with no more than 5,000 souls. A beautiful tourist trap town predominantly German and Italian in descent. This was not a high crime inner city or 'the scary part of town,' and yet the very same evil lurked in the shadows of majestic mountains and slithered along fresh streams. Her family was not poor. Her mother just didn't want her father to know she was doing drugs so offered my friend's tiny body in lieu of payment. It was proof, for me, that evil really was everywhere. I had not escaped it when my father had moved us so far away from the scary nutjobs.
I won't go into any details of what my four years in the private company of a young man was like, but I will say that I somehow escaped with my virginity in tact. A small mercy, especially compared to what my friend suffered. I managed to cling to my virginity until I was thirteen. One month and twelve days after my thirteenth birthday, to be exact. I remember it every year. It's a pretty hard thing to forget. I had been out with my friends, and a 'friend of a friend' offered to drive me home. Instead, he drove me out into the country where no one could hear me scream as he... well, you can guess the rest.
I was afraid to tell anyone, especially my parents. I thought I deserved it for being so stupid. I thought no one would believe me because he was so popular and widely loved in our community. As time passed, it festered in me. I let myself believe I was destined to know nothing but suffering. I had more abusive relationships than I care to go into.
I found my strength again about a decade ago. Sometimes it all seems so far away, and I know that dwelling on the past serves no purpose. But learning from it - yes. I'm open with my daughters about my experiences. I'm probably even a little annoying at my frequent reminders of how they can tell me anything. They need to know what dangers there are in the world, and they need to know they can talk about them.
They need books like SPEAK. Every girl and boy does. Please click on the links at the beginning of my post. We cannot sit idly by while some ignorant (and frankly a bit demented) man calls rape 'mild porn' and lose a chance to maybe save some poor child's life. They need to know they are not alone. Even if they don't have the strength or courage to speak about it, they need to know they are not to blame, and they can find their strength again.
I am a sexual assault survivor, and I am not ashamed.