*This is a personal story and I ask for your kindness. Sharing this is very hard.*
I interrupt my story of how I got to California for something that makes me very angry, ashamed and scared. I am scared to share my story out of judgement from others especially in our current climate. I have seen too many comments on social media judging women who have come forward with their stories of sexual assault because it occurred several years earlier and their memories are clouded. Until you have lived in someone else’s shoes, no one has the right to judge.
I am nervous down to my bones to share something that VERY few people know about. In fact, some of this my parents aren’t even aware of. Let me be clear, I was NOT raped but what I am going to share has affected my life, my confidence and my trust in people.
When I was about 12 or 13, my family became sponsors of teenagers from Ireland that were part of a swim team. The teenagers lived with their American sponsor family: they lived with us, ate with us and we shuttled them to all the swim meets and gatherings over several months. My family welcomed Cormack into our home. He was a skinny kid with big ears and a thick Irish accent.
One night I was jolted awake by someone coming into my room and shutting the door. It was Cormack. He walked in, put his finger up to his lips to suggest I be quiet. He knelt down next to my bed and proceeded to put his hand on my stomach telling me, “this is how we make friends in Ireland.”
I was frozen in fear. It felt like someone had stolen my voice because I couldn’t speak. Is this what they do in Ireland? What’s happening? Did I do something wrong? I was scared and so confused.
Then we heard someone get up to go to the bathroom. Cormack got spooked and sneaked out back to his room. I was still frozen.
I could hear my parents in the kitchen downstairs so I got up to find them. I told them what occurred and felt so uncomfortable because I wondered if I did something wrong. Maybe this is what they do in Ireland and I’m wrong for thinking it’s wrong. No one should feel that at such a young age.
The next day I had to meet with the head of Irish group and tell them what happened with Cormack in the room and several other people. I felt like I was on trial and I had done something wrong. Ultimately, I was given the choice to let him stay or send him back to Ireland.
Cormack BEGGED me to let him stay in America because after all, it was his first time here. I felt bad for him. I let him stay because I wanted to be liked and not cause trouble.
That same summer we were having a gathering at one of our family friend’s house for a pool party. The details are blurry and I don’t remember everyone who was there but I will never forget how I felt when all the kids were in the basement hanging out.
One of the boys pulled my bathing suit down in front of everyone. He was laughing at me as I stood there naked on top and completely and utterly humiliated. I laughed it off out of nervousness because that’s just boys being boys, right?
Again, nothing illegal had occurred to me but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected me. With that said, in what world is it acceptable to act this way? Boys being boys isn’t ok. I am a human being and all hands should be kept to yourself unless consented. If I felt this way after unwelcomed touching, I can only imagine how much more traumatic it is to be raped.
I don’t know what happened to Cormack but I hope and pray that because I let him stay that he didn’t think it’s ok to do that again. I know that the other boy who pulled my suit down has three daughters. I hope nothing like that happens to them because it will follow them the rest of their lives.
I don’t anticipate my story will change the world but the women who are truthful and come forward open themselves up to a lot of criticism. We don’t have anything to gain and in my experience, not saying anything helped me put it away for a long time. What I do hope is that my peers are teaching their sons to keep their hands to themselves and to respect one another.
I hope by sharing my experience, it will open others up to sharing theirs because we all need to support each other.