Through therapy, I know that the teenage girl in this photo is me, even though I do not recognize myself and remember my graduation day. Sexual abuse is a kleptomaniac. It has stolen countless of childhood and adolescent memories and the ones that have remained, are mostly unpleasant.
If you were to dissect my highschool years you would find a girl who showed all the signs of sexual abuse, yet nobody caught it. And I mean, nobody. Not a teacher, counselor, dance teacher, field hockey coach, tae kwon do teacher, friend, boyfriend, employer, and definitely not my parents.
There was the rapid decline of grades. How does a kid go from being an Honor Roll student with a 4.0 grade point average in her first two years of high school and then end up in detention IN summer school in her grade 11 year? My notorious tardiness looked like I was a lazy teenager but I’m not exactly going to tell the school secretary that I was having recurring nightmares. No one ever sat me down and questioned my excessive aggression during field hockey games and tae kwon do classes, even when I would get ejected from a game or lost a belt ranking. My English teachers never dug deeper into my short story assignments that hinted at suicide and family violence, even my short story about a teenager getting into an accident and dying from a brain hemorrhage. “She’s very imaginative!” they probably thought. “Why were you absent from school yesterday?” Why? “Oh you know, I went to get an abortion because I didn’t want to have my rapist’s baby.”, said me NEVER.
I sent out countless distress signals but it either went unnoticed or misdiagnosed as, and I quote my highschool counselor when I say this, “…a rebellious teenager crying out for attention. Now get back to class!” Gee, thanks Ms. Arcand.
Sexual abuse and its’ prevention was not part of the curriculum in my high school, it was not taught in my elementary school and it was not talked about at home. Because it was never taught to me, I lacked the vocabulary to explain to someone what had been happening to me. The lack of education isolated me. If we had to teach our children how to tie their shoelaces and how to cross the street before they could do it themselves, then how do we expect them to know about sexual violence if they do not learn about it at home and in school?
I urge you to have the talk that my parents never gave me. Wouldn’t you rather your child learn about sexual abuse from you, their parents, or when it’s actually happening, because by then, it’s already too late.