I have not told my story much, mainly because much of my advocacy takes place on the internet, where anyone can say anything. However… I have had three experiences as a child that need addressing, and more experiences that will be addressed in several months.
I grew up in a fairly normal household (whatever that even means). Dad worked a lot, mom stayed at home to raise me. I was diagnosed with ADHD, then OCD, then Pervasive Developmental Disorder (now known as autism). My mom smoked, and my dad made her smoke outside.
As a child, I loved the sorts of things boys were interested in: Space, animals, science, weather, space, and science fiction. I caught frogs, I played board games (I still like board games), and I was very active. Before all that started and I started attending school, I went to daycare.
I went to daycare from 2–4 years old. At daycare, I remember two rooms in particular. I remember the play room where every kid was most of the time- they had slides, an indoor play gym with a ladder to another level everyone called the loft. I remember chairs and tables where we would have snacktime and lunchtime. I also remember one of the individual rooms for younger kids.
I remember that individual room, because one day, I wet myself. I was taken by a man into that room, where he told me to take my pants off. He wiped me down, and then molested me. That was my first time experiencing child sexual abuse.
When I was older, around 8, I was interested in many things. At that point, I was taking medication for the ADHD I supposedly had, and my mother was quite fond of pointing out that I could probably control myself without medication if I tried hard enough. There was a te
enager who lived nearby who had a disability, and could control himself without medication.
So my m
other encouraged him to spend time with me, which we did for a brief period of time. One day, in full view of the neighborhood, he exposed his genitals to me. That was my second experience with child sexual abuse. I did what any kid would do: I told my mom. It was weird. Her reaction was to downplay it and say it was normal stuff that kids do. She then recounted a story from her childhood about “playing doctor” with a neighbor boy. Today, I look back on that reaction with sadness. It was just one of many examples where I was uncomfortable with something, but not taken seriously.
When I was 11, my parents moved to Minnesota. We continued attending a Lutheran church, and through the church I went to a camp they were connected to. When I came home from camp, I had a rash on my genitals, so I asked my mom for lotion. She insisted on rubbing it on herself, and that was my third experience with child sexual abuse.
None of the people who abused me were on a sex offender registry, and they were all people that I and my fam
ily trusted to keep me safe. While my abuse has affected me differently than many victims, no doubt in part because of my autism, these experiences were avoidable and preventable.
I advocate for the primary prevention of child sexual abuse because I believe we create a better world by preventing victims from knowing the pain of abuse at all. I think we have the knowledge, the research, and the tools to make it happen. But prevention is political, and right now, we all too often react to it after the fact. Will you help discuss this difficult issue?