When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember comments being made about my appearance in a sexual way. Anything from the way that I walked, to how I sat and the clothes I wore apparently warranted comments about my future sexual prowess, and how ‘if I was only a bit older’. These came from male and female family members, their friends and even strangers in the street. My parents thought it was hilarious and didn’t discourage it at all, because hey, it was just a harmless throwaway comment, right?
When I was 8 years old I started getting asked questions by my mother’s boyfriend’s adult son; about my virginity, ‘how far’ I’d gone with a boy, and touching my thighs to see if I would flinch (a test of my promiscuity apparently).
When I was 10 years old I was sexually abused by a family friend, someone who my parents trusted and someone who used to babysit my younger sister and I regularly. He was drunk, and I doubt he even remembers. (I remember)
The prevalence of sexual abuse in children is difficult to determine because it is very often not reported, however studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Centre, show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. This includes non-contact abuse such as voyeurism, indecent exposure and child pornography.
Four weeks ago I found out that the child growing in my belly is a girl, and honestly I am terrified.
I have already been confronted with male friends making sexual jokes, teasing my partner with the notion that he is going to have to be protective of boys making sexual advances. My partner is still being inundated with Bill Cosby jokes, and paedophilia jokes.
(I have never been so horrified and enraged in my entire life)
I don’t think they fully comprehend how right they are, and yet statistically it will likely be one of them who is her abuser.
I could go on about how these jokes alone contribute to rape culture, the normalization of child abuse and the sexualisation of pre-pubescent girls in the media, but I don’t think I have to. I was 6 years old when I first realized that my body was being sexualized, I’m sure it was happening a lot earlier, but that was when I had the capacity to comprehend it. I know I’m not the only one.