I can’t have been older than seven or eight when I started getting undue attention from some men. My body started curving long before my mind could catch up with what that would mean for me. Walking to the corner shop to get something for my mum was at times accompanied by stares I couldn’t understand; I stopped walking past building sites and started to scurry like a nervous deer just to try to seem as inconspicuous as possible.
The taller I grew, the smaller I tried to make myself appear not to garner extra attention. There were free ice creams I accepted because I didn’t know how to assert myself, and whenever my friends needed someone to speak to a man to ask for something, they would always push me forward, knowing from their own limited experiences that for some reason I would be more likely to get the job done.
It’s deeply saddening when you think about it: childhoods marred with confusion and lost innocence based on how quickly nature has decided to assert her presence on your body.
Trying to interpret those stares doesn’t help. You simply don’t know enough to be able to make good decisions. You are bewildered and ashamed, but at the same time you are starting to find your place in the world and thinking that you know it all. Nothing marks being a young adult more than the belief that you are in control of your life.
Tottering around on high heels and shiny lip gloss: with these scant trappings of womanhood, young girls try to discover who they are, not realising how closely they are being watched by those who should know better. Older people waiting for the first stumble so that they can swoop in and catch you while taking full advantage.
That’s why when I see the comments under an article reporting that a 31-year-old man abused an 11-year-old girl, from other women no less, I feel sick to my stomach and disgusted beyond belief. Because quite frankly, their own experiences should have taught them better.
There are no ifs and buts when it comes to child abuse, no two sides of the coin- Anna Marie Galea
No, she did not coerce him. No, she did not seduce him. No, she did not ask for it. No, she absolutely did not know better.
She is 11. However way you dress this, the bald facts remain: a 31-year-old man, a friend of the family, took advantage of an 11-year-old child. That is the only thing that should matter to anyone. Whether she giggled suggestively or wore a bikini or a burka, it makes zero difference.
A grown man with 20 years more life experience should know that. As for all those people asking where the parents were, I will say just one simple thing: Are you truly so sure that you know the inner workings of your children’s minds? Can you, hand on heart, say that you know every single thing that happens in your child’s day? I assure you that you do not.
Beyond the safety and security of your home, there is a world your children inhabit which you will never be able to fully understand, in the same way that you inhabited a world to which your parents didn’t have all the keys either.
This victim blaming and shaming needs to end. There are no ifs and buts when it comes to child abuse, no two sides of the coin. There is no coin, just muddled children trying to find their footing in a scary jungle which comes with no roadmap.
Stop defending the indefensible.
Don’t teach your girls how to dress; teach your boys not to rape.
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