12 years old and scared
Dear Dr. Patti,
I just wanted to share my story with someone who could actually help me heal. It took me a while to trust myself enough to write you but I finally decided it was okay. I love to write stories, but I wish this one was one that had never actually happened to me.
I am 12 years old and was sexually molested more than three times when I was between the ages of 4 and 7 (can't remember exactly how old I was). It seems very small compared to other stories I have read, but the fear, shame, and guilt are just as bad. But what makes it hurt the worst is that it was done by two or three of my cousins. The first time I was molested was by the oldest cousin. He took me into his room and made me do something. I remember exactly what he made me do, but I don't know what it is called. All I can remember thinking is that I wanted out of that room so bad. I couldn't visualize anything to take me out of my misery as some of the girls in your book did because he was talking to me and had to force me to keep doing it because I would stop. My prayer was then finally answered when my uncle called for him upstairs. I was so happy. I have no idea what made me not tell because I don't remember him threatening me. Then maybe a year later, my youngest cousin (a year older than me) made me play doctor with him. And then we went to London and my parents took him with us and while we were in bed he made me grab him and I hated it so bad.
I had forgotten about it until a year ago, but my brain always told me not to go alone with a male into a room. I never under stood why but I never let my oldest cousin hug me very much after that because I was so scared but did not know why.
When I was at school last year I believe I finally had the breakdown. I just started crying and all my friends were worried about me. I had moved up to that state during the summer. My school counselor was a male and he could tell that I was very upset and crying even though my head was down. He asked me if I wanted to go to his office and talk and as soon as he said that my brain started to scream no, no, no. I told him I didn't want to talk. One of my female teachers got me to go with her and she didn't force me to talk, she just asked how my day was going and things like that. She also let me know that I could talk to her any time I wanted to. She talked me into going to see the school counselor but the only way she got me to go was if she came with me. But she had to go back to teach class after our lunch/recess time was over, and when she left I started to cry. He asked me what was wrong but I just shrugged my shoulder and he let me leave. They thought it was just adolescence, but they were far wrong. I don't understand why this sexual abuse is bothering me so much now. I can't sleep at night, I'm terrified to even be touched on the shoulder by a guy, I have flash backs and I am just so scared all the time.
I recently told my mother about what had happened and I do not know if she believes me or not. When I try to talk to her about it, it's like she tries to ignore me. When she does that, I feel like a failure as a daughter and I feel that she hates me.
...........Very troubled girl. Darlene.
Dr. Patti responds:
Dear Dear Darlene,
You are so smart. Thank you so much for writing to me and for reading my book. I do think "Invisible Girls" will help you. You are very young to begin to deal with your history of sexual abuse. Bravo! I really believe that when girls are ready they deal with their abuse. Sometimes being ready just means feeling safe enough to talk to someone about what happened. The fact that your mom is having a hard time talking about it and the fact that you did not feel you could tell her when you were little, and the fact that you are not sure she believes you, all tells me she may have suffered some sexual abuse herself. As you will read over and over in "Invisible Girls", the hardest thing for girls is to tell their mothers because they are afraid their mothers will not support them and that their mothers could reject them. That is what your situation sounds like. Give your mom time. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE AS A DAUGHTER!!!!! You did not do anything wrong. You could not protect yourself in the room with your cousin. There could have been a lot of circumstances... You could have trusted him, he could have been a favored cousin, you did not feel safe telling your parents because you could have been afraid they would blame you. Even though you do not remember him threatening you, he may have, or you just knew you could get in trouble.
You have found someone in your school that you trust. Perhaps you can tell that teacher about my book and ask her to read it. That will help her as a professional to understand what girls go through with sexual abuse and it will also help her understand what you are dealing with, without directly telling her.
I am sorry that you are scared to be touched on the shoulder by a guy, but I am sure that will change. Think about boys that you are friends with. Perhaps if one of them touches your shoulder you will trust him. But I have to agree with you that if you are not comfortable going into a room alone with a boy, or man, trust your instincts and don't. You will have many years ahead of you to be intimate with a boy. Just reading "Invisible Girls" and writing to me is helping you to begin to heal these wounds. You are so brave and so bright. You are on your way to feeling better, I promise.
................................Love xxx, Dr. Patti.