This post deals with child sexual abuse and could be triggering for some readers.
My partner looked over at me as I cried while reading the front page of the local newspaper, asking me what was wrong.
What was wrong?
Following the breaking news about Grace Tame finally being able to self-identify as the survivor of sexual abuse, the front page contained a list of the main tactics that a paedophile uses in order to groom a child: isolate them from their friends and family... tick; tell them that no one will understand them like they do... tick; tell them to keep it a secret... tick; introduce sexual conversations before making physical advances... tick. There were more that I can't remember now, but it smacked me right in the face.
I had grown up thinking that I had had a relationship as a teenager with a man much older than me. Staring at me in huge bold print, bullet-pointed on the front page of the paper was a list telling me I had been groomed by a paedophile and sexually abused.
In the 1980s, as a 15-year-old I got a part-time job, and the owner was charismatic, funny and attentive. We talked and laughed a lot together during my shifts and slowly we stayed back after the shop had closed to keep talking. I felt so grown up as this vibrant man was so interested in having deep conversations with me and valued my point of view.
When the conversations became sexual, I can't recall, but I do remember him encouraging me to lose my virginity to my boyfriend who was in my year at school. It was a traumatic event that involved the boy using filthy language like he was in a porn movie and, even worse, it turned out there had been a bet between him and a friend as to who could take my virginity!
My boss was sympathetic after asking about how my first time had been and spoke gently and caringly about what it should have been like. He eventually used this experience to tell me that now that I had had sex with a boy, it was time to see what it was like with a man!
How quickly things changed from confiding in him at work to him picking me up from school, yes school, to take me to his house and other places for sex.
Months of secrecy, exploitation and degradation followed, but to me I was in a 'grown up' relationship and, as he warned me, nobody would understand if I told them, so I kept it a secret. He also told me I should never let anyone tell me that what we were doing was wrong. I believe the police and a judge might say otherwise.
I spent more time at work than at school. I failed all but one subject in my next year of schooling; I distanced myself from my family and I lied to my friends. He made himself essential to my existence and being with him was all that I wanted, and he encouraged it.