Ponder this:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

News flash: Bad things happen to children

I was sixteen. My sister was away at college. 
My mother had started going to meetings of Parents Without Partners. My sister and I were pleased with that development. Mom had never been a joiner, and it was a relief to know that she was getting out and about with people. It was a great improvement over her sitting at the diningroom table drinking and playing solitaire. I didn't know what the point of the organization was, but it was, apparently, a sort of dating service.
So Mom met this man and she went on a date with him. I think he came to the door to be introduced to me and they left. I watched television and went to bed. I woke up to hear some clumsy noises on the stairs . . . giggling and tripping. The man had brought my very drunk mother home, got her upstairs and poured her into bed. She passed out and he went downstairs. I stayed in bed for a few minutes, but I didn't like the idea that he was downstairs alone in our house. So I got up, in my little flowered jersey nightgown, and I went downstairs.
The lights were on. He was sitting on our couch. I perched on the edge of a chair. I wanted him to go. I didn't want him to be hanging around. We didn't have anything that he would steal, but I didn't like him there unsupervised in our home at midnight. 
He and I conversed. I think I got him a cup of coffee. He glossed over the drunk mother part: Your mom had a little too much to drink. I said that that was not an infrequent occurrence. He noticed my high school picture on a side table.
"Is that you?"
I nodded.
"Do you know what I see in that face? ...in that chin?"
"I see . . . determination."
I liked that observation. I felt flattered. I probably made one of those noncommittal indecisive head and shoulder motions that sixteen-year-olds are wont to make.
"May I kiss you?" he asked me.
I thought for a minute. I didn't know how to say no, or indeed, why I should. A kiss isn't a terrible thing in and of itself. "Okay," I said. 
So, anyway, he kissed me. On the lips. It was a pretty chaste kiss. He didn't lean me over or mash his mouth into mine, but it lasted longer than I felt comfortable with, and he was all trembly. It was creepy, and I withdrew and said I thought he'd better go.
He thanked me and, shortly after, got up and left.
I locked the door and went back to bed.
I didn't tell my mother. Mom couldn't handle troubling news.

A year or so before, I hadn't told her that the assistant manager at the cafeteria where I worked after school had taken me into the walk in cooler, his regular choice of trysting places. What with the surprise of it all, the short notice, the nerves, our meeting was just a lot of writhing and sweating, no actual sexual activity, but our few minutes' absence from the rest of the closing crew was noted. His old girlfriend, an older woman of seventeen, was jealous. I was fifteen and flattered. 
He was forty-two.

When I was fourteen I was sure I was pregnant. At breakfast one morning I broke down in tears and shared that fear with my mother. "That isn't possible," she said. "You haven't done anything that would make you pregnant. Do you know what happens to make you pregnant?"
It was 1965. What world did she think I was living in?
She stood up and hugged me. She was shaking. She pressed her hand against my body and said, "There's nothing in there. There's nothing in there." A few days later I knew that I was not pregnant. 
That was all we said about that. 

So I guess my point is that probably most kids have experiences that we would all be scandalized to know about. Adults have probably been hitting on kids for as long as there have been adults and kids. I don't think it's particularly healthy or recommended as a way for people to live, but it happens. Adults don't always have the best interests of children at heart, just the way no human always has the best interests of any other human at heart. Adults are not always trustworthy with children, just the way people, in general, are not always trustworthy, period.
I think it's too bad that adults are afraid to touch children who need a hug. Maybe if kids could get hugs when they want them, they wouldn't be so ready to take them from people who shouldn't give them.


the veg artist said...

I so agree with you. I had 'unsuitable' people, and no one to tell. If I told now, I'm not sure I would be believed, and I was taught never to speak ill of the dead. Who am I to alter the memories of others, some of whom idolised these people?

Friko said...

Guess what, I think most people know that, they just don't want to speak about it, like the veg artist.

Don't speak about any of it, not then, not now. Don't really ever say anything that might upset anyone's applecart. Squirm inwardly, if you must and can't brush things off, whatever things they might have been.

Just, for heavens sake, don't do what was done to you.

Gardn Of Weedn said...

I found out that people don't believe you when you do tell, especially if you are a sensitive and emotional girl.

Tamara said...

I agree with all the comments, especially the Gardn of Weedn's. That's what happened in my case and at the age of nine... How could a child of that age make it up with all the detail. 'just sayin'

It has, however, made me keenly aware of those who have had similar experiences, even without them uttering a word.

Hilary said...

We probably all have similar experiences which stick with us.. those that could have turned out much worse than they actually were. Back in the 60s, nobody told much of anything to their parents regardless of the situation. And I get the feeling flattered. What do kids understand about intent? That's what makes a victim.

DJan said...

Hilary hit the nail on the head. Intention is usually not evident when you're sixteen. Or fourteen. Or, sometimes, forty. I'm gullible and would probably believe anything someone told me.

Yes, bad things happen to children, thinking of the Penn State horror...

Mac n' Janet said...

I would say that most of us never tell for a variety of reasons, fear they won't believe us or fear, in my case, that the father will kill the molester.

Olga said...

Excellent post.
When I was a teen, our family dentist was a very inappropriate groper. I talked about this with my sister. I talked about it with some friends who had the same experiences. I never, ever told my parents. My reason--I was afraid that my father would kill him and that would make me somehow responsible for his going to jail and leaving our family distitute. At the time, everyone understood that line of thought.

Child sexual abuse is nothing new. The fact that we hear more about it may not be such a bad thing in the end.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

It's vital that a child feels able to speak out and confident that he'll be believed .... AND that those in charge will take appropriate action .
But I'm afraid that it will always happen . Some of the most unexpected people seem to have a creepy streak .

fiftyodd said...

Great post. I don't know why it has taken us all so long to share these experiences from the sixties. I was 15 in 1965. When I was 17, my driving instructor used to take me on night 'lessons'. He used to kiss me and grope a bit. I felt sorry for him but never thought more of it, just that I didn't like it much. Thank goodness today our children are so much more aware. (How could my parents let me got for lessons when it was dark?)

Linda Myers said...

I think I've forgotten whatever it was that happened to me when I was a little girl.

But I haven't forgotten what could have happened to my son when he was in middle school, if I hadn't reported his bus driver.

#1Nana said...

I think castration would take care of many of the problems.

Veg artist: I say if the dead was a child molester then don't just speak ill, YELL!!!

Saku said...

I was fortunate in that I never faced such a situation, however when I was about nineteen I received a letter from my younger sister. She told me our aunt's husband had been making advances and was suggesting it was better for her to be initiated into sex by a more experienced man. She wrote to me for advice. I lost it, called my mom, and she dealt with it (or rather him).

My sister and I no longer have a relationship and I wonder if this situation might not have caused some of our issues. No matter, I wouldn't change my response.

Von said...

I doubt there are many women who have not had experience of the
inappropriate, the outright scary and the out and out abusive.Or all of them.Some men are gropers, some impulsive touchers, some gamblers and others rapists,sociopaths and paedophiles.It is a minefiled for children and young people and we do them no service if we don't teach them how to deal with this adult behaviour and try to make sure they know how to keep themselves safe, to be assertive and not to allow themselves to be victimised.Yes parenting could be better but inappropriate touching by a male adult is not the fault of the child or the child's upbringing.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I think you're so right about it being a shame that fear of sexual predators has made everyone more cautious about hugging or being hugged. Having physical affection -- like hugging -- from my teachers when I was a child made such a positive difference in my life. It's sad to think that now these teachers would hesitate and decide not to reach out, not wanting to take the risk of being misunderstood. I was also molested -- groped -- as a child by a stranger who had asked for directions. I was a little scared and grossed out by the experience. I told my parents who called the police and the man was arrested, tried and jailed. I don't think I had any long term ill-effects. I was just a lot more cautious about talking to strangers after that.

Von said...

Here in SA, carers of children have to have Police checks, of course, and have to abide by a no-touch policy for children over five.Will these children have touch hunger as they grow up? of course, it is so sad.
Mrs Von

Jenny Woolf said...

I think most of us have had those kind of experiences, like you say, ugh. But, although they didn't do me any harm, and probably not you either, I'd rather live in a society where kids have someone to tell and understand that this is NOT okay.

Barb said...

Hello to you on Thanksgiving day. I just came by after a bit of time off-line to wish you a happy holiday weekend. (I know you're off work, so will really be HAPPY!) I was a "good" girl and still had some scary experiences as a kid. I worry now about my own grandchildren. I do give plenty of hugs though. Kids nowadays seem more comfortable discussing "bad people" and what they should do if they feel violated in any way. I had my grands for several days this week. On a ski lift, a man (who seemed respectable enough) talked to the 8 year olds and asked them lots of questions. They both thought he was "so nice." Too tell you the truth, it made me a little uncomfortable. If he were to approach them later, they would feel as if they "knew" him and being polite, obedient children might get themselves into trouble. There is such a fine line between being open to possibilities and being too vulnerable.

Carolynn Anctil said...

Ick. The world is a messed up place. The best we can do is be the best we can be, I think.