The Scary moment

Answering the world’s questions

As an 8-year-old girl, there should be a sense of fun and liberation to life — there is only curiosity in life at this time. But circumstances led me to understand that not every person I encounter is safe, nor does every person have the same boundaries.

As I reflect on this young time in my life, I do not think I would’ve questioned this man, who I believed to be an ordinary family friend, if I did not speak up and ask the questions I wanted to know the answers to. I was always an outspoken kid. I was never the shy and quiet type who let people violate my self-assurance and personal boundaries.

As a child, being tickled is supposed to make us smile and laugh uncontrollably and, even, sometimes pee our pants. The simple act of tickling should be one that every child enjoys, but for me, tickling caused fear.

I am fearful when hands come near my ticklish spots and am fearful of the uncontrollable laughter that comes with it.

I know people notice these fears. Friends notice the fear I have when kids ask me to tickle them; I never have those cute moments with my boyfriend of hyena laughter inspired through tickling.

With this family friend, however, I knew his tickling me wasn’t the problem, it was more the location of where his hands went. Most people have an extreme ticklish spot under the armpits, but there is a distinction between the armpits and the chest area.

Sometimes hands slip up and move to the wrong location. But, with this family friend, I asked him to stop the first time his hand slipped up — he never stopped. His hands conveniently slipped up every time. And how is a little girl even able to know the difference?

The answer is, I did not know the difference. I would ask my grandfather, similar in age to this man, to tickle me, and what astonished me was that his hands never slipped up in the same way. And, he stopped tickling when I asked him to.

I became confused.

I approached the topic with my parents. I want you to imagine a little 8-year-old girl asking her parents if this was OK.

As an aspiring mother, I don’t know what I would have done in this situation. I believe my parents handled the situation in a way that benefitted all sides of the family.

The main issue was this man was my grandparents’ best friend. I do not think my parents wanted to show them this side of him. I do not believe my parents responded to the situation in the perfect way, but I think they did what they could.

Now, I never told my parents the whole story. I told them that I was uncomfortable around this man, but that was it. I imagine, if my parents know this is me writing, this will be the first time they hear the full story.

To this day, I have never told my grandparents and I never go over to their house when their friend is there. It is the fear of him, the fear of tickling that I do not think I will overcome.

I believe this is true for all sexual assault victims. For indeed, that is what this was.

There are circumstances surrounding our assaults that make it hard for us to tell a single person the details, let alone the whole world.

There is no formula for how the victims should tell the world, nor do all reactions apply to every person. I know that I will never openly tell my grandparents, and I want you to keep that in mind because even I am not ready to tell the world.

When you hear the stories of sexual assault victims, keep in mind this idea of there being no singular formula. Do not pry and question why they did not come out earlier, or worse, find ulterior motives to their reasoning, just accept that there was a circumstance that you might not know, and maybe emotions run too high for the story to be effectively and powerfully told.

We decide when and how our story will be told. And nobody can make those decisions for us.