One day I got a list for radio shows that are coming up. I scoffed at the list as I read through it mindlessly ticking off every category I could give input to as I had the first-hand experience in most of them.
Domestic Abuse: Check
Sexual Assault: Check
Let’s talk about premarital sex: Check
Grooming of women and children: Check
One of these topics stood out to me, Sexual Grooming Of Children & Teenagers. Why?
Because although I know the list of signs that a child is being groomed and that I again mindlessly checked off that list, I never thought of my experience as being a negative thing.
Somewhere in my mind, it has always been a consensual sexual relationship even though I was 13/14 and he was 28. I talked it through with two of my closest friends and the more we talked about it, the quicker it dawned on me just how much damage that “consensual relationship” had done to me.
The beginning of 2008, I got my cellphone back. Mxit was THE APP to have on your phone in 2008. All before we all got WhatsApp. If you don’t know what MXit is, the closest thing I can probably relate it to today is WeChat.
Now on MXit you could join public chat groups and talk on this group to strangers. If you got on well you would start to private message each other. I started chatting on this app with a guy. John*. He was so interested in what I did – from my homework tasks to my school projects and so much more. He was a dream come true to 13/14-year-old me.
On one fateful night, he said he was in my area and would like to meet – but he wanted to tell me something beforehand and hoped that he wouldn’t scare me off. He wasn’t 16; he was a 28-year-old tow truck driver. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how we will be meeting as I was scared to sneak out of the yard. So he suggested he meets me at home. If I can sneak outside the house- he will jump over the wall.
I agreed and got excited. He told me over and over how happy he was that we could meet. That he can’t believe he has met someone as special as me and that I was still so young. I felt special. I felt special because he never mistreated me on our chats. He never even asked for a photo. We’ve been chatting for a few weeks, I knew his favourite colour and that he had a job. What more do I need to know about this man, that’s more than enough info to be safe with anyone.
As I reflect on this specific relationship (if it even now passes as one- I don’t know) I can see the telltale signs of the grooming I underwent. Exactly how he did it and how I reacted to every word he made me believe. Now you have to understand that the mentality of such a young girl: I was all too flattered that an older guy showed that much interest in me. Nothing else mattered. I was in love with him. That night we met and we had sex.
This ‘relationship’ didn’t stop the day I realised I would never see him again. He vanished without warning, leaving me with no sense of direction, no emotional support, no-one to turn to. I felt abandoned and unloved. I went a little crazy. I wish I could tell you now that it was a cool kind of crazy. Like set fire to his car or even a cute crazy; keying your boyfriend’s car crazy. But it wasn’t. Instead of running as fast as I could; instead, I did the Olympic Gold Medal worthy backflips of logic to convince myself that he loved me and that he will come back for me. But he didn’t. Once I realised this I took an oath to never talk about him or mention his name ever again (if that was even his real name).
That experience continued in every other relationship I ever had after that. Searching for love and acceptance. Unfortunately, I found this love and acceptance from yet another older boy (at least he was 19), but no job and no stability. He convinced me to run away from home and stay with him in his wendy house. So I did. Until I couldn’t and went back home. A place filled with domestic abuse, drugs and alcohol.
Soon after I found myself in another relationship with a boy about my age. We went to school together. His family showed me acceptance, love and care. But in this family, there was the pressure of what a woman should be. Her nails have to be done. Her eyebrows groomed. Only certain cigarettes were not frowned upon. I was being groomed into the perfect trophy wife for him, and if not for him, for my next relationship. The pressure of being something I didn’t want to be got too much. I was 16, searching for acceptance and love. When I realised that I will never be accepted into the family for what I am; for what my history said I am, I cracked. I went back onto MXit searching for this love and acceptance once more.
There I found another person. 3 years older than me. He had a job, a car, a family. He offered stability and love. He offered a welcoming family that support each other and loved one another. It wasn’t long until we were in a steady relationship and I had moved into his home with his parents, running from the house I used to be able to call home. Running from my past into the open arms of acceptance for who I am. Fast forward 5 years later. I find myself in a happy marriage and we had just started our own little family.
However instead of white picket fences, sunflowers in the garden and sunlight streaming in through the window as I cooked our Sunday lunch; I found myself falling deeper and deeper into an endless pit of depression. Many factors came into play as to why exactly I got diagnosed with Bipolar, Anxiety, PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. From growing up in a broken household where we were faced with domestic abuse regularly to me being promiscuous in my teenage years.
I felt neglected and unloved in my marriage. I felt controlled and unable to express my passion. We faced financial problems since I had lost my job. So much so that I decided to work in a brothel to earn an income. My past had shown me that the only way to feel worthy of someone was through sexualising myself. It got me the attention and acceptance I was looking for all my life. I went from one extreme to the next.
But, you guessed it. During my phase of what I refer to as my rock bottom, I met a man and his wife at an event my husband and I attended. We got on well immediately and soon we started doing business together and friendship started blooming. I had left the industry and started my graphic design and advertising business.
For the first time, I had the attention of a man that didn’t show me the acceptance and care because I could offer something sexual in return. I used to fight and hiss at him from all directions, trying to get rid of him because I didn’t get my way. The only way I knew. The only way to keep someone in my life.
Yet he stayed. He stood by my side and mentored me. Helped me through trauma and never once put pressure on me to be something I didn’t want to be or look away I didn’t want to look. Saying it was hard is an understatement of the century.
But we somehow got through it. With the support of a good man and a good woman, finding my place somewhere I never thought I would be, left my mind spinning out of control. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t like the way they treated me; they treated me with respect, with acceptance and never forced any change onto me. Instead, they guided me and educated me.
Until one day I couldn’t keep myself together anymore: the thought of suicide was the only way out for me. The only way to rid myself of the dirt I had thrown all over me. Now facing separation and divorce, I booked myself into a psychiatric hospital.
One guy. One relationship. One snowball effect that affected my entire life. To him, I was just a girl he could get lucky with. Deep down inside of me, I hope I was the only girl he did this to.
Many girls and boys that have experienced this are in denial about the abuse for years after the event has occurred. The predators know they cause damage, but at most believe it won’t be “that bad”.
They do not realise the effect their actions have on adolescent minds and how that small action will affect the rest of the victim’s life.
We are sitting with an overwhelming loop of infinite amounts of young children and teenage pregnancies, rapes and abuse. A cycle that can not be broken.
I am one of the lucky ones. I was in the right place at the right time in my life. For once, being vulnerable was not a bad thing – but it came with trauma most can’t even begin to comprehend. Some are not so lucky to have had the same opportunity as I had, and I am grateful to be able to put this to rest and start a new chapter in my life.