I can’t be entirely sure how old I was, my Dad believes I was 5 or 6 and my Mum can’t remember.
Some details I remember clearly, others hazy or entirely gone. The man was a duck shooter. With permission, he accessed the river via our farm in Ngaruawahia during duck shooting season. My Dad wasn’t far away, on the tractor in the next paddock. I loved the river bank, to me it seemed a magical place.
I knew who he was, so I said “hi” and we talked, but I don’t remember what about. When he took out his penis I wasn’t shocked – we lived on a farm and we went swimming naked in the ponds, it wasn’t a big deal. I remember that he masturbated and ejaculated, the next thing I remember is my underwear around my ankles and he was touching me. I felt really uncomfortable; at this point I realised things weren’t right. I know that I didn’t fight him or tell him to stop, I just waited. I don’t remember how it ended, but that when it did I ran. I ran straight past my Father and up to the house to find my Mother. I had to tell her, but already I thought it was my fault. In my mind, because we had talked and he hadn’t “attacked” me, I felt that I was responsible. So I made up a story about a man who burst out of the bushes, grabbed me and did these things to me and that I didn’t know who it was. I had seen a Kayak on the river, I don’t think it had anything to do with him, but I used it to embellish my story; I said that he had left in a Kayak and crossed the river where a little old lady had talked to him, shaking her finger. I guess I felt like I needed a “witness” somebody else who thought what happened was wrong.
My parents called the police and a male officer visited our farm. I did not feel comfortable talking to this man; he had big hairy nostrils that I found very distracting. He came to the farm one other time, coincidently at the same time the duck shooter came to ask permission to access our property. The officer, the shooter and my mother talked a few minutes and then I was called. I was playing on the bars and deliberately took a really long time to get down. I was relieved when the duck shooter left before I got there. Mum asked me “was that him?” I said “no”. Not surprisingly the duck shooter never came back.
I did not see a counsellor about this until I was an adult. My Mum asked me every now and then if I thought about it, but I would say “no” and run away. I told my Mum many years later what really happened and who it was, she was upset because she suspected him, but couldn’t do anything. As a teen I felt a lot of guilt for letting this man get away with what he did and that he may have done the same or worse to other children.
That isn’t my only story.
I had several near misses as a teen while intoxicated; one incident I later realised was a planned attempt by the man to get me and my friend inebriated and have his way. I had no strength to stop him, though I tried. Fortunately we had male friends who intervened; they didn’t throw him out though, just told him to stop when they found us in the bedroom. I did have the opportunity to take back my power on that one. I saw him months later at a party in my own flat, I got to throw him out and tell him if he came near me or any of my friends that I’d rip his #@$&*^ head off!
In my early 20s I told my boyfriend to stop, because we didn’t have any contraception, but he held me down and forced his way into me anyway. I was upset, but it wasn’t until much later that I realised that this was rape. It wasn’t until the psycho threatened to kill me that I left him.
There have been countless incidents where I wanted to say “no” but didn’t. Countless times that I put a male’s ego above my own feelings – not wanting them to feel bad. Boyfriends have pressured me into things I wasn’t comfortable with. I have jumped at the chance to have sex on the first or second date, not because I really wanted to, but to get that first time over with, so we could be normal people getting to know each other. Of course men would jump at this opportunity, but judge me harshly later – the classic double standards.
I’ve read other women’s stories and find, like me, they have more than one. And so many have thought what happened to them was their fault. You would think all of us would have big trust issues and want to avoid men completely. But for many there is that overpowering desire to be loved, accompanied by a low self-esteem and the subconscious voice that blames us when men do the wrong thing.
My big question is, why did I blame myself in the first place, that first time when I was so young? What is it about the society in which we are raised that tells young girls that men can’t help themselves and it us who are the problem?