It was just a touch. Just a simple touch. All he did was allow his hand to rest on my chest. It should not have hurt, but it did. The heat from his hand burned my skin. I think that even now, all of these years later, a mark remains. I have been branded. Scarred in such a way that will forever make me different. Because it can never be just a touch and nothing about it was simple.
I was afraid and I never knew what, exactly, I was afraid of. I didn’t know if I was scared of my own feelings- or scared of him. When he touched me I felt funny. Everything inside seized up and made me feel like I was melting and freezing all at once. My stomach churned and a weight took up residence in my chest. A giant lump formed in my throat. It made speech or noise of any kind impossible. My muscles tensed and became so tight that I always felt I had a charley horse. My brain screamed all sorts of words that only I could hear. Stop! Help! Leave! No! Run!
His hands began to move and I was helpless to stop it. I closed my eyes and tried not to see. I bit my lip and tried not to cry. I clenched my fists and tried to hold on to myself. I felt my insides shatter and break. I held my breath and hoped to just float away somewhere.
Sparks of pain went off all over me. Pinches and twists. Scratches and bruises. Fire erupted deep inside of me. Knives cut me and sliced me. Fingers stretched me and tore me. I burned and ached. It never got easier. It never got better.
Each day I wondered if it was real. I must have imagined it. How could I be the only one who knew? How could nobody else notice? It had to be me. There was something terribly wrong with me. Was I crazy? Was I sick? Was I dying? Was I making it all up?
My body told me it had to be real. There was evidence everywhere. I could see it, I could smell it. No amount of showering could free me of it. I was different. Nobody else walked like me. None of the other children had trouble climbing or running or sitting still. I was confused all of the time. Was I the only one? Did it only happen to me? Why? Why did I hurt like this? What was I doing wrong? So many questions. No place to find the answers.
Night would come and my door would open and I would know I was not imagining it. He would touch my back. He would put his hands under me and my body would remember everything that had happened before. My mind worked hard to shut it all out. I disappeared. I went away. But not really. There was no place to go. In my world there were no safe places. No spot I could go to where I could collect myself and calm my fears. I would try, but he would find me. I learned to close my mind but my body still remained.
He touched my back. He touched my shoulder. He touched my chest. He touched places on my body that he had no right to touch. But he touched them anyway. Over and over. Night after night he touched. It was never “just” a touch. It was never simple. It was never ok. It was wrong. It was always wrong and somewhere, deep inside, I knew that. I had no voice. I couldn’t ask my questions. I couldn’t tell him no. I was afraid. I was alone. I was a child.
One touch is enough to change a child forever. Just one touch. So what about thousands of touches? No two were the same. They all count. I need to talk about all of them. I need to say he did this. I need to say he hurt me. I need to say I was scared. I need to ask my questions. I need someone to answer them, not ask me if I already know the answer. Because a part of me is still not sure. I part of me still doubts. A part of me still wonders if it were somehow my fault.
Did I ask for it? Did I deserve it? Did I want it? I should know those answers, but I don’t. Was I bad? Am I dirty? Am I broken? I don’t know. Why does it still hurt? Why can I still feel is hands on me? Will that ever go away? Why can I smell him? Why can I see him? Why do I still wish it wasn’t real? Will it always be this way?
Answer me over and over until I understand. When I can’t speak be my voice. Help me say the words that get stuck. Help me form the questions that hang in the air. Don’t assume I understand because sometimes I don’t. Help me open my eyes when I want to keep them closed. Help me see what I try so hard to avoid. I think I’m ready to accept all the truths. I just need a little help.