It’s Never Your Fault

It’s Never Your Fault

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

It’s Never Your Fault

Yesterday I dared to struggle, today I dare to win.

~Bernadette Devlin

I sat there with my body trembling from head to toe, wondering what was happening to me and what would happen next. I knew that what was occurring was not right, but I didn’t know how to stop it. I wanted with all my might to push his dark soul away from me, but being about three feet tall and only weighing around forty-five pounds, I didn’t have the physical capability.

I was four, and my parents were busy with work and social lives, so they began looking for babysitters near our house who could watch my sister and me at night. They found two guys who lived down the street who were more than willing to be our babysitters. Although they looked a little scary when I first saw them, my parents assured me that everything would be okay and that I should be on my best behavior. I still had a feeling of insecurity running through my veins. I didn’t know why, but I thought the men weren’t good people.

After they were there for a couple of hours, I needed to go to the bathroom, so I went upstairs and shut the door. Shortly after, the door opened and in came the older of the two. I thought at first that maybe he just thought I needed some help since I was so young, but then he just stayed there and watched me. As I was getting up to leave, he started feeling me in places that aren’t meant to be seen by other people. I didn’t do anything to stop it. I was so small, and he was so big. Eventually he stopped, probably so my sister wouldn’t become suspicious. He told me not to tell anyone what had happened and that it was to be kept a secret.

Having an older sister, I knew what secrets were and I knew that they were meant to be kept, so I never said a word to anyone. Each time he came over to babysit, the same pattern would occur, and I began to feel really uncomfortable and violated; but he was starting to get more threatening and I was beginning to fear losing my life if I told, so I remained quiet.

In elementary school, visitors from child abuse organizations would come and talk to us. That’s when I learned that what was happening to me was called sexual molestation and that it’s never the victim’s fault. Up to that point, I had been blaming it on myself. They also said that it is very important to tell someone as soon as it happens to you and that telling is the most important thing to do. I really wanted to say something after hearing this, but I still didn’t have the courage. I feared that he might come after me if the cops came after him.

The summer before sixth grade, I was walking back to my house after swim team practice. Normally, I walked back with my best friend, but she was staying at the pool all day, so I walked back on my own. As I headed up the long hill, a car started passing by very slowly, and the guys in the car were watching me. I could only make out one person — my former babysitter — and I started to run. I ran in between houses and went through back yards. I did everything possible to avoid getting into that car. After a half hour of that car chasing me, I made it into my house. I told my sister what had happened, and she called my mom at work, but she said that we should just lock the doors and watch for the car. I never saw that car again.

My junior year, I was on my high school’s dance team. We had just finished performing our half-time routine and were in the process of heading back to the bleachers, where we had our bags, when someone who looked kind of familiar spit at me from over the fence and cursed at me. I wasn’t sure at the time where I knew the face from, but I got extremely scared. A senior member on the team overheard what had happened and took me to the coaches. She explained to them what had happened, and my coach was about ready to jump over the fence and punch the guy’s lights out, but I knew that wouldn’t solve anything. That would only make me seem weak and would show that I let his hostility get to me. I wanted to be stronger than that and not give in, so I asked my coach if we could just forget about what happened and just enjoy the rest of the game.

Although I wanted to forget what had happened, I couldn’t. I started having panic attacks and nightmares with flashbacks from that football game. I lost my appetite and became really depressed. After a couple of months of not being able to eat much at all, my family and friends became very worried and wanted to help in any way that they could. However, I wasn’t ready to admit the fact that I had a problem.

One night, after a dance practice, I got these intense pains in my side, and my mom rushed me to the hospital. I was given many tests, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I wasn’t too sure myself. Finally, they took me back for a question-and-answer session, and a psychologist started asking me a ton of questions and had me respond to them. He asked me if I had ever had sexual contact. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that because I never had any willingly, but it did happen, so I told him the whole story. He was shocked to hear me say it so quickly and was glad that I did — and so was I. He asked why it had taken me so many years to tell, and I answered that I had been worried that I would be hunted down if I ever told. He found that quite understandable and contacted some social workers and legal offices to see if anything could be done about the sexual molester. Since I had waited so long and didn’t have a witness, there really wasn’t anything that could be done except that I should start seeing a psychologist regularly and that would help all the physical pain my body had been enduring.

I’m telling this story not to get sympathy, but because it was an important lesson that I learned. If something happens to you that you suspect isn’t right, tell someone right away. It will only help. Your life will become more tranquil. I used to have nightmares any time my eyes would shut, but after telling someone, I can now sleep peacefully. My only regret is not having told earlier.

~Hattie Frost, age 18

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