(Disclaimer: This post contains sexual content. While I have refrained from graphic details, the content may not be suitable for everyone.)
I turned five the summer before I entered kindergarten, making me the youngest in the class. I didn't care. I was excited to go to school. I'd loved pre-K.
The only blemish on the previous school year was the hailstorm that had made the sky go black, the windows break, and the teachers panic as they herded small children from the temporary buildings outside into the main building where we would be safer. I still remember that day and the cabbage patch doll I held when the teacher's face went white and she said we must do as she said and quickly. And while the hailstones that rained from the sky had been big enough to kill a small child had they hit her just right, I think I was in less danger that day than I was the day I entered my kindergarten classroom.
In school, I always wanted two things--for the teacher to like me and to have a friend. But I learned something really early in life. For the most part, other girls didn't want to be my friend.
I believe it was the first day of school when a boy first reached down my pants beneath my underwear and explored with his hands. We were sitting on the carpet facing the teacher. She may have been reading or teaching a concept. I don't remember. I only remember the boy's hand and how I felt.
I felt confused. No one ever touched me there like that. I didn't know if the touch was good or bad. I felt excited and dirty at the same time. When it was over and we moved back to our desks, I was relieved and disappointed. What had happened? Had I made a friend?
After that first day, I don't remember specific events. I only remember patterns.
The boys became my friends. They chased me on the playground--a big pack of them trailing behind me. I was fast and liked to run. Most days it was fun. Once, I slipped in the mud and slid several yards on my belly. I remember feeling embarrassed and sad to have ruined my Minnie Mouse shirt. Another day, a boy pulled me under a large tire and convinced me to kiss him. I think the school bell rang before I did, but I'm not sure. Maybe that's what I wanted to happen. I remember the simultaneous thrill and terror of that moment. A part of me liked that the boy wanted to kiss me. The other part wanted none of it.
I have another recess related memory...except that I'm not sure if it's an actual memory or a nightmare I had later. Either way, a group of boys had me cornered at the side of the building. Their hands were down my pants. This time, I don't remember the excitement. I don't remember a thrill. I only remember fear.
The boys would touch me during nap time. Sometimes during class. Always during movies.
Near the end of the year, the teacher put on my favorite movie The Land Before Time. For the duration of the movie, I had several hands down my pants. They hurt me. I remember wanting a teacher to see and say something, but she didn't. I wanted to move, but the boys held me in place.
That was the day I gathered my courage and told my parents what I had been afraid to tell them all year. Fortunately, my mom had been coaching me. "You know, Melissa, if anyone ever touches you in a way you don't want to be touched, tell me."
I had wanted to tell her, but I was ashamed. Only I didn't know that word back then, and I couldn't distinguish that feeling from fear.
I don't remember telling my parents. I only remember feeling their shock and anger and noticing how things changed afterward.
Suddenly, I was isolated from everyone. I sat beside the teacher during class. I napped beside her desk. I wasn't allowed to run at recess. And then my family moved across town. I started first grade at a new school. I felt as if I was being punished.
I didn't start to process any of these events until I was a teenager. Around that time, I started asking my parents questions. They told me that the boys who touched me had admitted to doing it and were all spanked by the principal. Keep in mind that these boys were also five or six and were only reenacting what they were exposed to at home.
No consequences had fallen upon the teacher or the aide who helped in the classroom.
I would become a teacher myself before I was able to comprehend what I had felt to be true as a young child--the teacher knew what was happening to me. She knew, and she did nothing about it. Neither she nor the aide.
At five years of age, I had to fight for myself. Thanks be to God, I had two solid parents who listened, believed me, and acted for me. I can't help but wonder about those boys. Who acted for them? Who taught them better? Who was angry that they were spanked while the adults in the room weren't held accountable for anything?
I don't have the experience some teachers do, but I can tell you this--I've caught problems far less obvious going down in my classroom, and you better believe I intervened.
The teachers' inaction in my case has baffled everyone who has heard this story. I might be baffled too if I hadn't heard, seen, and experienced some of the things I have in the last couple of years. I now understand the problem to be the work of Satan. An attack on the image of God in both those boys and myself.
Though my parents moved to another town, problems followed me. You see, the enemy doesn't work that hard to get his foot in the door just to leave you alone once you're messed up. No.
Once his foot gets inside, he wedges the door open a bit farther with his shoulder. And then he squeezes in, takes a look around, and makes a home in the dark, wounded places of our hearts. He does it when you're young or when you're hurting so bad, you don't even notice. He hides there, whispering lies, until you no longer know the difference between his thoughts and your own.
"You're dirty," he whispers. "Filthy. Unworthy. Disgusting. You deserve this."
And you believe him because you don't know he's there.
to be continued...