CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.
Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
By Deja White
Do not read this piece if you thought Lolita was a love story. Instead seek mental help.
Do not read this piece if you do not understand the dynamics of age differences. Instead imagine a nine year old who you know and love and put them into my position. Sickening right?
Do not read this piece if you think a nine year old can consent to anything. Instead find the nearest police officer and report yourself.
Do not read this piece if a girl’s body is the punchline of any joke you’ve told. You may find yourself being the subject of a joke yourself.
Do not read this piece if you’ve ever said “No means yes and yes mean anal.” Instead imagine what your life would be like in prison.
Do not read this piece if you can not respect my story because it might force me to use my black girl magic on you and put you to shame.
Please read this piece if there is a shred of kindness in any part of your body and share it so this doesn’t happen to any other nine year old girl.
The Lips of My Childhood
Pale white, veiny streaks of blue, fuzzy blond hairs. That infectious grieving man-child whipped his penis out in front of me when I was nine.
“Have you seen a penis before?”
The tiles on the floor of the bathroom were tan with creamy striations. I know because they were all I could look at as I fought the nauseating feeling similar to the feeling you have after trying ranch on cake because people told you that you could put ranch on everything. Because nine year olds believe whatever someone tells them. That’s probably why the Department of Justice reported that 34% of sexual assault victims in 2012 were nine and under.
I choked out “I’ve seen my brother’s when I’d change his diapers”
My mind was blank. The I’ve been hurt so I’ll hurt you man-child wanted me to touch it but I couldn’t. I couldn’t lift my arms. I paced the floor in circles; my eyes shocked wide open. This situation wasn’t what I thought life was supposed to be, it was reality. I don’t know when he put his penis away but I know he did. I don’t know when I went back to my class but I know I did. I know now why it didn’t stop there, because he made it impossible for me to tell someone.
The broken excuse of a man-child spent that entire year filling my head with a toxic mix of truths and lies, the purpose of these words I couldn’t find beyond he wanted to be my friend.
“My father left too, I hate him.”
“People here don’t get us or the things we’ve gone through.”
“We have so much in common! If you ever want to talk I’m here.”
One day, long before he tried to get me to touch his penis, I told the teacher I was going to the restroom. Instead I walked to the opposite end of the hall, to the room he was in. We sat there together, me not using the restroom and him not taking his test. The school we attended went from preschool to 8th grade. I suppose the lonesome man-child had been held back two years or started late or some combination of the two. That blond hair, blue eyed man-child was 15. Twenty Three percent of predators are younger than 18 (DOJ). So much power held in comparison to my nine years at that time. On that day, in that conversation he asked me things.
“Do you like me?”
“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”
“Do you know what a boyfriend and girlfriend do together?”
Yes I did like him. No I’d never had a boyfriend. And they love each other don’t they? I felt naked answering him. So I decided to escape to the restroom. They all looked the same. Cream coloured walls, tan and beige tiles, and silver and white toilets, sinks, and door knobs. Rooms like that make me feel like I could drown. Sucked into these neutral tones that had no neutral feelings. Here comes ranch cake nausea. I quickly left the restroom, told him bye, and ran back to class.
Sometime after our conversation he and I had detention. We’d been caught alone with each other by the Dean/Head Teacher of our Christian school. We sat behind the front desk of the office. The glass French doors were wide open, the cream coloured halls, the same as their cream coloured restrooms, their tiles so bright and tan that I felt like charcoal. Not only for my skin but also for the fire that burned me on the inside. I was ashing away and drowning at the same time. We both had to write something, I don’t remember what, over and over again because we’d lied about what he and I were doing when he first kissed me. Our lies didn’t match up and we were alone behind closed doors. I’m not good at lying. The administration knew there was an inappropriate relationship taking place but all they did was give us detention, together. We were passing notes back and forth during our detention.
I couldn’t believe an upperclassman liked me and that we had so much in common. The demanding, deceitful man-child told me to follow him to the restroom but to wait a few seconds and lag behind him so people wouldn’t know we were walking together. But people knew, I knew, in our Christian school even Mary knew. I walked down that same cream hallway with tan tiles. When we got outside the restroom doors he kissed me. It was the second time he’d done that or we’d done that or I’d let him do that. Or that I was so blind or so broken that I thought I’d been complicit when I was too young to be anything more than a child looking for guidance.
After the kiss ended he and I stood there talking and the teacher who gave us detention walked by and asked what we were doing. I think she knew. He responded. He lied. He was better at it. I thought of him as heroic, lying to the teacher about what he was doing to me. I fancied myself as his girlfriend. Somewhere along the way I, at nine years old, thought I would marry this guy and we’d live the rest of our lives together. That if I gave him everything he wanted, he’d make me his wife and God would forgive and wash away every sin as if it didn’t happen. I believed what the christian sex education taught me, that sex commonly consists of two basic principles. One, you should abstain until you are married and two, if you do have sex outside of marriage you’ll probably get an STI, pregnant, and/or die. Oh and God is watching everything. So actually three. And thus I went on my brainwashed misguided journey to be married by the age of ten.
Skin scorching SoCal sun beams and kisses that tasted like orange soda. My journey led me to a random Wednesday in June at summer school. I felt sweaty and gross. I felt like I was going to shatter into a million pieces. I wanted relief from the heat, from the rage my father filled me with, from the disappointments of home; the pressures that threatened to crush me. I felt as though the choice I was making would break me and ultimately save me. I had told the dean who was teaching summer classes that I had to go to the restroom. I didn’t have to go to the restroom. I was meeting him. The trickster man-child who convinced me this was love. I learned how to lie better for the man I thought would be my future husband.
He opened the glass french doors of the white and brown popcorn textured school building. He held the doors open for me to follow him. We walked down the narrow hallway and passed the numbered rooms. On the walls laid posters promoting positivity. There were scribbled colourful drawings done by the children in summer classes. My ranch-cake feeling replaced by the sickening taste of the orange soda he drank. I thought I had prove my loyalty and obedience. I thought I had no one else to turn to. I thought he was my only chance.
I followed the blue eyed man-child into one of the nearest restrooms. The room was cream coloured, like the rest of the interior of the building, with tan tiles like the rest of the interior of the building, a place where I could die a little like the rest of this building. I was too nervous to notice if the restroom smelled like pee, or if there were crumpled damp paper towels on the floor, or if it was immaculately clean. I was too nervous to notice anything I had not known before. I wanted to leave but I couldn’t. I stood there as he took his pants off and put a condom on because I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to leave but I still couldn’t. He sat on one of the hilariously short toilet seats. I almost laughed for a moment until he told me to come to him. My hands shook as if my soul had caused the fault lines in my palms to rupture into flames and lost land. I was lost as an earthquake of nervousness, regret, and pain came over me but still I willed myself at his command to take my pants off. I couldn’t say no. I thought I owed him. No one told me that you never owe anyone that.
I was wearing pink undies with a pink bra. I hate the color pink. He told me to straddle him and I couldn’t because my pants were around my ankles and it wasn’t physically possible. He told me it might be easier if I took my pants off. I felt impaired, I couldn’t think straight. I took my pants off. I spread my legs and straddled him. My legs brushed up against the cold toilet seat. He positioned himself and asked me if he was in. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t you know if you were in or not?” He wasn’t. If anything the tip of him was between the lips of my childhood. I can’t say womanhood because well I wasn’t a woman. I told him he was.
We sat on that tiny toilet like that for 30 minutes exactly. I know this because I was wearing a watch given to me as a gift by a friend and was counting the seconds until it was over. He was humping upward but getting no where. He had taken off my bra and had dragged his slimy mouth across my chocolate kisses excuse for breasts. I hate it when guys slurp over my breasts. His hands had felt me up and his hot breath had beaten down on my neck. My mind drifted again. “How do you know when a guy’s done?”, “Is he done yet?”, “I have to get back to the other building I’ve been gone too long.” I told him I had to leave. He said okay so I got up, put my clothes on, and quickly left. My legs were trembling as I ran back to my summer class.
I didn’t see that venus fly trap of a man-child again until the following school year began and he was promoted to the next grade and left the school. His younger brother was still there. I had gotten it into my mind that this was it. The first time didn’t count. The first time had failed. If I truly gave myself to him then he’d talk to me again, if I can make him happy he’ll love me and he’ll want to marry me in the future and he’ll be the only guy I’ll ever be with and everything will be so great. So I wrote a note and gave it to his brother, who was my age, to give to him. The note was scribbled on a piece of line notebook paper and it read, “I want to try to have sex again. I want to make this work. If you’re willing to give us a second chance meet me like last time.” I want to say I was a complete idiot but I wasn’t an idiot. I was ten. I was such a ten year old that it never crossed my mind that his brother, my classmate, would read the note, show it to all of our peers, who would then label me as a slut and ruin my childhood. If my complexion were lighter that day then you could see my charcoal insides burn bright red as the tears streamed down my face. He never replied to that note. We didn’t get married.
I spent my childhood trying to adapt to being bullied. Girls telling other girls I was trash but whispering to me, asking how it was. Guys saying how gross I was but whispering to me how they wanted me. They never got anything out of me. I tried owning and disowning it. I fell on my knees, hiding in my room, crying to God or Mary or anyone for Mercy that never came. The molten rock that seeped out of me imploded inward.
The DOJ documented that children who’ve experienced sexual assault usually don’t tell people when it happens. I lived in constant fear of what people would think of me or worse that they’d tell me that it was all my fault. My peers told me that so I never told my mother or anyone in my family about it until I was eighteen. I took me eight years to accept what happened to me. I’m not healed yet but I have learned.
Years later, my first good, not orange soda kiss was with a man who was twenty seven. I was sixteen. It was cold outside and the sky was so dark not even one star could be seen. I was going by his place to drop off some tickets for a musical I was in for high school. He had just gotten back from the gym; evident by his post sweaty body and gym wear. I gave him the tickets and he asked me about school and if I liked the play. I awkwardly told him it was fun. I gave him a goodbye hug because it was cold and dark and I wanted to get home and my family didn’t know what I was doing. The way too old for me Jamaican nestled his head in my neck and pressed his hands to my back. He found my lips and his hands traveled over my body. He made my mind go blank under a barrage of hot, messy, wet open mouth kisses that threatened to swallow me up.
I told him before that I was not open to sex and that I wouldn’t do certain things. We had long text conversations of me explaining that I wasn’t ready, I had fears of repeating the past and getting hurt. I had explained multiple times why I was saying no when the fact that I said no should have been enough. In 2010 the CDC said once victims were twice more likely to get attacked again than never victims. The process of revictimization I was desperate to fight. I began to pull away before things went too far but his lips followed mine like a predator tracking it’s prey. Eventually I forgot how cold it was, I forgot that I wanted to go home, I forgot that my family didn’t know what I was doing. Then I heard my pants unzip and he slipped a finger in. I snapped out of it. I told him I wasn’t ready. I told him not to cross that line. I told him not to pressure me. His lips left me and said “you want it”. I pushed him away, said my family was waiting for me, then I left.
It was a good kiss. The type of kiss you brag about to friends but it was a good kiss at the wrong time with the wrong person. He knew too much and I knew too little. He didn’t come to my musical. And we definitely did not get married…
and that was my choice.
Deja White is an Undergrad at the University of California Riverside. She predominantly writes poetry and non fiction. Deja lives in Rialto, California. This is her first published work.