Content warning: The following post contains themes of sexual assault and abuse which may be triggering for some readers.
1. I am four. My cousin and my sister are seven. We are playing Atari in his bedroom. When it is my sister’s turn to play, my cousin says he has something to show me under his blanket. He gets in an awkward position and puts something soft in my mouth. My sister asked what we were doing under the blanket and he says it is a secret.
Despite the fact that he continues initiating these confusing games, or perhaps even because we have a special secret, he continues to be my favourite person to play with.
2. I am five or six. My cousin and my sister are about eight. We are having a bath together. Our mums are in the kitchen chatting. I can hear their voices. My sister gets out of the tub. My cousin asks me to bend over so he can lick my ‘brown eye’. I don’t even know what that means but I assume it is naughty so I say I don’t want to. We might get in trouble.
He calls me a chicken and says it will be fun, so I comply. My mum enters the bathroom and shouts at us. I claim to have been just looking for the bath plug. She may or may not have believed me. I tell my cousin that I don’t want anything more to do with his secret games. He calls me a sook but he agrees to stop. I am relieved.
3. I am eight. My mum asks my sister and I if we like our uncle’s teenage step-son, and if we would feel safe with him babysitting us. We say yes. She proceeds to educate us about personal safety and making sure we understand we have to stay together the whole time he is babysitting us and not to let him touch us, undress us or make any secrets with us.
After hearing her clear explanation of inappropriate touching, it dawns on me for the first time that my cousin did inappropriate sexual things with me. I wondered if I was going to be damaged because of it. I feared it would affect my future. I am confused. Sick in the stomach. I can’t sleep for the rest of the week in the lead up to that day. I’m convinced my teenage male babysitter will try to molest me. I am extra kind to my sister that week so she might feel inclined to protect me from him. He turns out to be great. He teaches me how to plait my sister’s hair.
4. I am ten. My mum is in tears because my uncle’s ex wife has accused him of molesting his step-daughter. Mum asks my sister and I if he ever touched us inappropriately. I said no. I loved my uncle and I am sad I won’t see him while he is in prison. She goes to court with him to hear the evidence against him. She hears his defence: he was just tickling the girl, with her brother, while they both had their shirts off. She decides he is innocent and she takes us to his low-security prison farm to visit him in a show of solidarity.
5. I am fourteen. My now drug-addicted cousin is seventeen and in a group home for delinquents. He is charged with gang rape of a girl in their group home. He insists it was consensual group sex, and the girl cried rape when the social worker walked in and caught them in the act. My mother and my sister believe him. I do not. I didn’t know people could have group sex. I had heard of rape but not of gang rape. I am suddenly very frightened of him now.