If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please seek help with a qualified counsellor or by calling 1800 RESPECT.
I know it’s called the cycle of violence, but in my family female suffering is linear: rape and abuse are passed down like the world’s worst birthright, largely skipping the men and marking the women with scars, night terrors, and fantastic senses of humour.
My mother told me about getting molested by a family friend as part of our “bad touch” talk. She called him her uncle. We were sitting on my twin bed in a room covered with glow-in-the-dark star stickers. She was eight when he came to the house with ice cream, and while her mother cooked dinner in the kitchen he told her to come sit on his lap if she wanted some.
She doesn’t remember what he touched or how, just that it happened, and that she said nothing afterward. Some time later the neighbourhood barber told my grandmother that if my mum would fold some towels for him, her haircut would be free. So my grandmother left while she worked, and he took my mother into the back room, where he rubbed his penis on her eight-year-old body.
When my grandmother was 10, her father died of alcoholism and she went to live with an aunt and uncle. When she was 11, her uncle raped her. She told her aunt and was sent to St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Brooklyn, New York the next day.
It’s losing steam with each generation, so that’s something. My grandmother’s rape is my mother’s molestation is me getting off relatively easy with abusive boyfriends and strangers fondling me on subways — one time without my realising until I went to put my hands in my jeans’ back pockets and there was semen all over them.