Tuesday, 23rd of August, 2016
(Content warning: sexual assault.)
Maya came into the room to ask if she could lift me up off the ground. I was in mid step, with some laundry in my hand, and before I knew it she was slightly bent, wrapping her arms around my legs. It was my immediate reaction to protest, to which she said, “Dadda let me try.”
“Oh all right then.” I said, letting the household task give way to motherhood. Relaxing my body in cooperation she held me tight, and with all her might she lifted me up. Then just as quickly she plonked me back down. “I did it!” she said excitedly, and then she ran off. I stood there for a moment letting it sink in. Then I hurried off myself, down the stairs into the kitchen to find Cam.
Cam was standing at the bench making a cup of tea, he was calm and methodical in his actions which was a contrast to my quick beating heart.
“Maya just lifted me off the ground.” I said incredulously.
“Did she make a sound like a goat when she did it?” Cam asked in his nonchalant manner. “Yes, actually, she did.” I replied, recalling her bleating. “But, I don’t want her to be able to lift me. She is my baby, I am supposed to lift her. When did she get so big?” I said with sentimental maternal reflection. Cam pursed his lips and looked down his nose at me in his humorous way. He was going to use this as an opportunity to have fun. “Really the question we all want to know the answer to Poppet, is why are you so small?”
It is the truth that I am small and soon my eldest daughter will be equal in size and likely larger than me, and today was proof of that. More significant, was that this action was an oracle. “She is likely going to test her strength out in more ways than one.” I said, “And that is absolutely as she should.” Cam looked at me like he wished me luck with that. He exited the kitchen with the cup of tea and his company was soon replaced by Maya.
Perched on the red cosco kitchen stool Maya began to tell me an account, in animated fashion about a dream she had last night. I could not remember my dream when she asked, but she was very glad to share her subconscious recollections.
“Did you have a dream last night Mum? I had a dream last night.” She said gleefully.
“Are you sure?” I asked in a skeptical tone.
“Mum! I did.” She said defensively.
Quietly I listened as she told of her dream of being in a large room with a girl like Mary Ingalls. The room had roses all around and there was another room too, it was blue. As she spoke I wondered could it be true? Has Maya begun to remember her dreams with this much detail? This sleeping dream story did sound true and suddenly I felt a factual correlation of body and soul. If Maya is large and strong enough to lift me off the ground, then she might also be able to have consistent dream recall. Her endocrine system seems to be maturing, dripping out the elixir of dreams. Hormones, wonderful hormones! Then suddenly, there before my eyes she was larger, stronger, more mature. My child was really growing up.
Another reason the dream felt true is because as she relayed her vision, my body began to tingle, and I felt her dream and recall were an opportunity for insight. I don’t know why this tingling sensation happens, but it does, and as parents, it is so very present in our connection with our children. This is the magic of life. I did not however share any mystic declarations with Maya. It is best she learn slowly just how powerful the subconscious, the force can be.
Then quite by surprise, we met another learning curve head on.
Elle joined us in the kitchen because I was making them lunch. As I sliced the eggplant into circles, the girls were trying to understand why a family we knew were being protective of their child having a sleep over at our house. This friend played at our house often enough we were intimate. Our friend wanted to stay the night and while her mother said yes, her father would not allow it. This went on for almost a year, of our friend asking and even begging, and not being allowed to stay over. Through our friendship the mother had shared some other details of their life with me, that the father would not allow his children to see him without clothes on, he would not bath with them when they were young, and when he showered, he always locked the bathroom door.
When the children found the situation, of their friend wanting to sleep over, with permission from the mother but not the father confusing, and they wanted to talk about it. “But why won’t he let her stay?” Maya queried. The best I could do was follow my own intuition, to provide them with an answer. My friend’s husbands reality is not my business, but I had to consider all that my life experience had taught me, and so I followed my gut to explain ONE reasons why a parent might seem very protective of their child.
“Well girls, this is going to be a growing up conversation. You see, some things happen in the world to children, which people wish did not happen. One of those things is called sexual assault.”
The girls both sat fixed and wide-eyed, blinking at me like a pair of owlet wanting to be wise. “I have explained what sex is, and you know, that for a simple example, the vagina and penis are two elements of your sexual organs. They are part of what determines the sex of your body when you are born. They are also organs you use for having sex.”
The girls were not squiggly today, as they sometimes have been during conversation that expand perceptions. It felt that we had grown accustomed to this level of discourse. We had crossed a bridge and they were able to sit observant, interested and aligned.
“Our sexual organs, are something to respect and protect, and use wisely, and this means that others do not touch them, unless they are invited to or we are comfortable with it because we are attracted to them. It is ok to touch yourself as you know, and exploring your body for health and wellness and pleasure with yourself and others will be part of life, but people do not touch you without permission, or consent or understanding.”
I took a moment then to ask them what they thought about that. “Would it feel interesting or strange if someone tried to touch your vagina without permission?” Both the girls agreed they would not like it.
“It is against the law for others to touch a child’s sexual organs without permission, and it is called sexual assault if they do. Sadly, it happens to some children, it even happened to me.”
When I said this, the girls froze. I could see their breath was suspended. I had shocked them. I did not mean to shock them, but it was just the time to share this truth. There was a distinct shift in the atmosphere, it was like the water we were swimming in suddenly went from being clear shallow, to a deep dark blue. So there I was treading water in the deeper depths of the sea of my life. The children did not know what to say, I could feel silence in them like a vortex opening, it was confusion seeking knowledge. It even crossed my mind that they saw me as broken, as damaged. They felt sorry for me.
So I had to fix that.
“You must not worry for me though, I was and am ok. For some people though, when it happens to them, they are not ok. Which is why we need to talk about it. I was very lucky that my experience was not too bad. It still should not have happened, and I was very lucky that I was helped. Should I tell you about it? Should I explain what happened?” I asked.
The girls both nodded, but were otherwise still and silent. I would not have shared fully if the account had been too harsh, but I knew my particular experience of sexual assault was milder than many cases and made for a significant but gentle story, given the theme. I also knew my girls were ready. I understand many parents might struggle to share such a story but I consider it a preventative measure for something that is far too common occurrence in society. I do not consider sharing this with children as a loss of internalized innocence because it unfolded as naturally as can. I used my intuition, and the right moment presented itself and I ceased the moment.
And so the story goes… the words lovingly flowed from my heart as the girls sat listening.
“Mum began to rent a house down the road from Grandma and Grandpa when I was eight. It was a beautiful old farm house, a bit run down but the locations was wonderful. It was owned by farmer who owned a lot of land. He had two properties side by side, both with houses and sheds. He lived on one side of the road and we lived in the house on the other side of the road. The houses were set apart, with deep paddocks and a country road in between, but you could see and walk to and from each. My brother and I liked to play outside after school, running through the long grass bare foot, hitting thistle globes with sticks, jumping over or in cow pats. The farmer would drive his car from one property where his house was, across the road to the property our house was on to check his cows. The farmer had a lot of cows, hundreds of cows. He was a dairy farmer and every day he would come over start his cows walking from the paddocks we played in, over to the dairy where he milked. Sometimes when my brother and I were outside playing we would see him and say hello. We quickly became friends because he invited us to explore his farm. One day he took us to see the gold fish in the cow troughs. The gold fish ate the algae, helping keep the water clean for the cows. Tate and I had never seen goldfish living like this before. You could see the flashes, paint strokes of orange swimming all around the bottom of the tank, and he would let us stick our hands in and try to catch them.
As I mentioned, the property had sheds and in these sheds was all manner of farm equipment and supplies. The largest shed was stacked with hay bales to the roof. His teenage sons had made hay bale tunnels and a cave. It was very exciting thing to us, that we could crawl through tunnels on our knees into a hidden hay bale cave to play.
He also took us to see the “potty calves” which is the name given to a calf that is raised on a bottle instead of being able to drink its mother’s milk. As a girl I felt for those calves, it is unethical Dairy farming to keep a calf from feeding from a cow. I would hold out hands through the fence with fingers spread wide and let the calves suckle like it was a teet on an udder. Then when my fingers were red and sticky I would wipe the saliva all over my shorts.
These days unfolded effortlessly and beautifully, filled with fun and freedom. I had not ever had to think much about my safety related to an adult before, but one day when we were over on his property, visiting one of the water troughs with goldfish in it, something changed. After a moment of playing by the fish, he wanted to show me a shed that I had not been in before. So I went inside the shed with him. By the light of the door I could see the shed was empty, and as we entered he told my brother to wait outside. Then he shut the door behind us. The shed had no windows, and now with the door shut I was sanding in the dark. I started to feel scared and I knew it was wrong.
I was just a girl, like Elle, but I knew it was wrong.
With his hands on either side of my shoulders, he stood behind me, ever so close. The shed was built from corrugated iron, it was old and corroded, pin pricked by rain. A thousand tiny rust holes were staccato across the roof and the way the light shone through the holes into the dark, meant there was a constellation of pieces of light to gaze at. “Look, it is like the night sky with stars.” He said, with head bent low near my ear and his arm stretching past my shoulder and pointing. It felt like he was all around me.
By all means, it was visual poetry, I was staring at something that was so beautiful, I could see the stars, but my little body felt something inside. My gut told me, I needed courage. Then I told him, “I wanted to go back to Tate.” and I walked over to the door and out into the day light.
Nothing bad happened at that moment, I had no reason not to trust and I had been captivated by the illuminated pin pricks in iron made from the rain. But something had been activated within, a feeling of courage lingered, just enough to remember I had to use it. Courage. But why would I have needed to be brave?
Then another day something else happened.
At this point Cam came into the kitchen and all three of us looked at him. His timing could not have been worse. “Sorry Dadda, you have to go.” I said. “We are in the middle of a very important growing up story.” Cam looked at our faces, and he could tell something significant was taking place, but he was not privy to the exact tone. He likes to be a part of everything, but he had miss half of the story and his energy was not tuned in. “I am a grown up!” He protested. I smiled at him because it was true, he is a grown up, so I modified my reasoning. “We are having a woman’s conversation.” I said. To which he replied. “I am a women on the inside!” I smiled further with delight in how hard he tries, and then girls both shrieked, ‘Daaaaadddd!” and Cam took the message and left.
So I continued the story.
“Then another day something else happened. On this day, the farmer was over on the land near the house we lived in, and he was driving his car around the paddocks. It was one of those Holden Kingswood station wagons with a bench seat that stretches in one piece across the front of the car. It was cream paddock beater and when it stopped along side of us the farmer asked us if we wanted to drive around the property. We said yes and slid onto the front seat next to him. next he offered if I wanted to steer the car and because our family let us do this sometimes up Grandma and Grandpa’s long driveway, excitedly I said yes. He invited me up on his lap and as my eyes and mind and hands were maneuvering the big heavy steering wheel he slipped his hand between my legs and pressed himself to me. It was a very strange feeling, like he was pulling me closer to him, apply very specific pressure from his groin. I did not need to be closer, and I certainly did not need to be pulled closer by my vagina. I let go of the wheel and did not want to drive anymore. Sliding off his lap I used my body to scoot my brother over closer to the door. Then once again I had to use my courage to ask to get out of the car. As Tate and I waked back through the paddock towards the house, I knew I had to tell my Mum what had happened.
Knowing I had to tell my Mum, was a very good thing, but it also felt like a very hard thing. It did not feel real.
Maya interjected at this point, with something fierce in her eyes, behind her question. “Did he go to jail?”
I shook my head no. “No, he did not go to jail, but we tried.” I said.
“Did you move out of the house?” Maya asked a split second later.
“Yes. We moved out of the house as soon as we could.”
Then I continued with my story.
After I told Wildlife Grandma, she told a friend who had a job in child protection services and he gave us advice. Then one day Wildlife Grandma was talking about it in the local bakery. She was just like me, always very open and honest within community and it was a small family owned bakery and everyone went there because the owners were parents of children at our school. As it turned out, when Mum said the name of the farmer, and what he had done, one of the employees of the bakery felt her words very deeply. This women had rented the same farm house as us many years before. She had a daughter, and he had molested her daughter also, but far worse. Her daughter was now and adult, and they had not ever told anyone.
“Then what happened? Maya said.
“Well, then we knew that there was a pattern, and a repeat history, and the farmer was sent a piece of paper, a summons, saying had to go to court. Then people, a jury, would decide if he should go to jail. This meant that I had to go to court too, to testify against this man to stop him doing this to other children. Wildlife Grandma felt we had to set an example, that doing this to children is harmful and that having courage to speak out is important. This was a very hard thing for me to do, I was only eight. I had to sit at a raised seated podium in front of a room with many adults, and a judge and lawyers, and tell them that “Mr War put his hand on my vagina.” I had to do this twice, a year apart at ages eight and nine. At the time, I felt very angry at Wildlife Grandma for making me do it, but now I look back, I think it is amazing that she stood up for women’s rights and she enabled ME to stand up for women’s rights, and the rights of children in the court of law. The other girl, who was now a young women also testified, but unfortunately he had assaulted her a long time ago, and there is a thing called statute of limitations, which means if you do not report a crime before a certain number of years pass, it no longer counts. Everyone was very disappointed about this, because what he had done to her was worse than what he did to me. Her evidence was not counted in my court case, and they let him off without serving jail time. It gave him a record, but he did not go to jail because what happened to me was not serious enough.
With the story over, I told the girls we should hug, so we felt safe. We held each other close, all three of us snuggled into one another in a long tight embrace. I explained to them that even though this had happened to me, I was ok, because I was able to talk about it, and make art about it. I explained that talking about these deeply blue things is important because through sharing, we find the solutions and healing. We hear it, we listen, we rise up, we change.
Most children who are sexually assaulted are unaware it exists as a crime prior. Through preventative communication we can respect, honor and protect children. Awareness leads to action, it enables positive response and support. A story like this can be a shield to violence, and while it still may also feel like a small germ for the soul of a child to ingest, it does not compare to the auric holes that need to be mended for victims of severe sexual assault. We all need stories like this in our life, because it keeps direct the culture, the human atmosphere.
My expression is for liberation, and I feel grateful in being able to share. You don’t have to feel sorry for me, but do feel empowered. Equally important to protecting our children from abuse, is emancipating and guiding those at risk of being molesters before the energy manifests as action. People have to feel safe to share impulses. Desire in an adult to be sexual with children needs to be spoken of and healed and held rather than being hidden and putting children at risk. We must prevent from both sides with love, compassion, respect and courage.
Thank you for reading Magnesium Blue.
Newspaper clipping from when the assault on the other girl was dismissed.