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How can we make it stop?

I was 14 or 15. He was my best friend’s father, and a retired church minister. He spoiled his kids, and one day he also started spoiling me. He would buy us clothes, take us to get our hair done, and give us money to go to the movies. One time I even got to go with my friend and her family to New York for a week, and he paid for everything. I spent almost all of my free time at my friend’s home. I don’t quite remember when it started, and I’m still not sure how long it lasted. My friend’s family seemed very loving and they were always very touchy with each other, which my family never was. He used to kiss me. Sometimes in greeting, sometimes goodbye. I think the kisses started out as just being on my cheek. But then they gradually became more close to my mouth. And then they would be on my mouth. And eventually he would put his tongue in my mouth. Those kisses would only ever happen when nobody was looking, but someone like his wife or my friend might be right next door. I didn’t like when he kissed me. I always felt really dirty and uncomfortable when he did it. One day it was so gross that I went home and told my mother. She told me I wasn’t allowed to go over to my best friend’s house anymore, which was good, because it didn’t happen again. But I wish she had told me that it was wrong, and that it wasn’t my fault. I wish she had done something more. My best friend and her family went to the same church as my family, so I still had to see him every week in church. He behaved differently and instead of being warm towards me he seemed to ignore me at church. I think my mom might have spoken to him. Looking back now, I realize he should’ve been reported. I know he also assaulted another friend of mine, and would make her sit on his lap. I reached out to her about a year ago, when I was processing everything and realized that I probably wasn’t the only person he’d ever done this to. She confirmed my suspicions.

I was raped twice as a young woman in my twenties, both times by men I considered friends who I knew from university. One of them just got married and lives in Seattle. The other one has an MBA and lives in Toronto. I know these experiences were enabled by what happened to me when I was 14.

How do we make these things stop happening? How do we stop men from preying on little boys and girls? How do we stop people from taking advantage of how women are socialized to be polite and submissive? Why does this happen?

I’m so fortunate to have had access to therapy. I’ve been able to heal from my trauma. I’m in love with a wonderful, smart, sexy feminist of a man who I love being with and having sex with. I never thought I’d ever be able to love having sex after spending so many years hating it and being triggered by it. I’m so passionate about finding ways to help survivors of sexual violence move towards recovery. I just can’t help but be discouraged some days. I’m no longer a prisoner to my trauma, and I can hear about things like Cosby or Ghomeshi or Weinstein and no longer be thrown into a fit of panic and anxiety. But how can we make these people stop taking advantage of us? I know trauma begets trauma. I know that people who are assaulted or neglected often become abusive. How do we stop this cycle? I’ve chosen to focus my efforts on working reactively to help people who it’s already happened to, but damnit I wish we could be more proactive and stop this from happening.

— Danielle, age 30

1 comment

  • Alexis

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