In the summer of 2012, I was 13 years old, and I had just finished my middle school exams. I was on holiday, with my family and a long-term friend of mine. My mum had told me that my friend didn’t want to go to a “Summer camp” that year but he accepted to come where I was. The plan was to stay there a week going daily to the summer camp and sleeping at a house that my family had rented a while back. When he decided to come, I was happy about it, even though I only said “Yes, I’d like him to come”. I didn’t take part to the organisation but, I guess, that was the way our relationship worked. We didn’t use to talk much and we would never openly plan to spend time together, it would just happen. This time was no exception. He agreed to come (I wasn’t the one who asked him) and I was happy about it because I enjoyed spending time together. I also felt a little proud that he had chosen to spend time with me, instead of doing something else but I would never have admitted it.
Those days’ daily routine was quite simple: we spent the day at the summer camp and then my mum would pick me, him and my brother up and bring us home. I don’t remember much about what happened during those days, but I do remember what happened one of those nights. I don’t know if I had just fallen asleep or if it was late in the night, it doesn’t really matter. I remember that I woke up because there was something, someone, that was touching me. But he was not randomly touching me, he was touching my vagina (labia minora). I remember there was a weak torch light in the room. My brother, in the same room, was asleep. He touched me more than once. I didn’t know what to do: I was awake, but I didn’t move, I didn’t talk, I pretended to be asleep. He kept going on for a while. It was summer, I had a short pyjama. I still remember: it was purple with a kangaroo jumping on the t-shirt. The pyjama’s shorts were short and wide, so that he could easily put his hand in it and touch me. I don’t know how long it lasted but I don’t think for very long. I was paralysed and didn’t know what to do. After a while, I tried to do something, but I didn’t want him to know that I was awake. I started moving with slow, slight movements, turning myself to the other side. It was Summer, it was very hot so the sheets were not covering me. As I said, I started moving and slowly looking for the sheets and, even slower, I ended up covering myself with them. In the meanwhile, I think, he kept on touching me. It’s been a few years since it happened and I don’t remember every detail. I remember the touch, more than once, and that I couldn’t really understand what was going on; I knew what was going on but I couldn’t come to terms with it. He touched with his finger the labia minora, the wet area, only the surface not hurting me and not heavily.
Covered in the sheets, after a while, I fell asleep again. When I woke up the day after, everything came back to my mind. That day went on weirdly, but I don’t remember it too well. I remember asking my mother if I could sleep in another room the following nights. I don’t know what excuse I used, maybe that it was too hot in my room. There was another room in the house where my grandmother used to sleep when she came visiting us. She was there that week too but still there was another empty bed and so I stayed there. I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed or room as the night before. That night I was quite upset and my mother or grandmother made me a chamomile tea to calm me down and sleep better.
I remember I was upset but I didn’t know why: was I afraid it could happen again? Was I afraid that I should have talked about it? Was I afraid of what he would have thought? Or what others would have said to him if they had found out? Maybe I was afraid of all of this, but my thoughts about it weren’t too clear. And I couldn’t come to terms with it, I couldn’t understand how he came up with the idea to do it and why he had done it. So, the following nights I slept in the other room. I woke up again when I saw a torch in the doorway shedding light towards the room I was sleeping in. I thought it was him and it probably was. I’m not certain because the bathroom door was close to my room. But I do remember a light shining toward the room. I do have another memory from that week: I was taking a shower when I looked at the door and, through it (it was a frosted door), I saw a person standing there. When I realised it, again, I didn’t know what to do. I was disoriented for a bit but then I turned off the water and I stared the person’s shape. He must have noticed it because soon he went away. I do not have any other memory from that week. I never told anyone the full story before. For many years I just didn’t talk about it at all. Only three times until now I have mentioned it to other people. The first time I tried to talk to a friend of mine. Maybe we were talking about him or something like that. As soon as I started telling her I stopped. I just couldn’t say it. I changed the subject and we didn’t talk about it again. For a long time, I had troubles talking about my personal life. I would start telling a story but I couldn’t find the words. In this case, I would describe in detail the characteristics of the room we were sleeping in and never come to the main part of the story. I would however tell another story-one that happened a year after the original one. After what had happened during the summer, we started spending a lot of time together. Of course, we never talked about that night. We used to study together and hang out. Outside school we were friends, but at school I had the feeling that he was ignoring me. I liked him. He made me laugh and I enjoyed spending time with him. I didn’t think too much about what happened. When I did, it seemed surreal, so much that I started wondering if it ever happened. So, I was happy when he invited me over to his during the summer. This time we were also sleeping in the same room, next to each other. While I was sleeping I felt his hand caressing my cheek. This time too I pretended to be asleep. I was afraid that the others sleeping in the room would notice. At that time, I didn’t think about what had happened the year before and how much it had troubled me. I had erased it from my mind. Nothing happened after that. School ended, summer finished and the year after we stopped talking.
I have recently started talking about this last part of the story. I talk about it now even though it took some time. It wasn’t easy. But the other part- the one that had happened a year before that- I only told trice. The first time I have already mentioned. The second time I told a friend, it was five years after it happened. It was during the last year of high school. This time I manged to express myself better than the previous time. I didn’t tell him because I was thinking about it very often, in fact I wasn’t, I just felt that it was something I had kept for myself for a very long time and that it was maybe time to tell someone. He had just told me something about himself that he had not told anyone yet and I thought that it was the right time. I didn’t go into detail. I don’t think I ever said the sentence “he touched my vagina”. I just vaguely told him what had happened. Together with him we told another one of my friends a few days after. I don’t remember talking much that time. It was mostly them trying to understand the situation. When they asked me something I would answer, but I didn’t contribute to the conversation directly. This was the last time I talked about it.
During the years I didn’t think about it much. As I said before, I had erased this whole thing from my memory. I almost thought it didn’t happen. I didn’t think it was important. I didn’t think it had had an impact on my life in any way. I just couldn’t talk about it. But I thought it was normal, that it had been my decision not to talk about it. I had decided that it was all in the past, that it was unimportant. But maybe I didn’t want to admit that it had had an impact on my life. I was scared to admit that maybe it was at the root of my problems with intimacy. I thought that it was too easy to attribute those problems to what had happened such a long time ago. I didn’t want them to be related and partly I still don’t think that they are. I think that I was like that even before that summer. I was shy, distant, insecure and I didn’t want people to think that that was the reason. I didn’t want to believe it myself. I thought it would be like giving up. So I just ignored it. There was another reason why I never talked about it and I just realised it now: I was ashamed. I was ashamed about what had happened. I didn’t want to talk about it because it didn’t seem to fit into my life. I was also ashamed because he was the first person I liked and for whom I wasn’t too ashamed to admit my feelings. I couldn’t believe it had happened, because I knew it was wrong and that if others had found out they would not have seen him in the same light as before.
Since I either didn’t want to talk about it, or I couldn’t do it, or I didn’t want to make it real, I never really did. But the most absurd thing to me now is that I didn’t want other people to know it or to think of him like that. But this is something that I can rationalize, I don’t blame myself for it now. I am ashamed that he was the person I kind of liked despite and after this. But “despite this” didn’t always exist: as I said before I often doubted it happened and moreover I struggled to link it to him. Nowadays I think that me liking him was due to several matters that remain unsolved and unexplained. What I care about now is to understand how much this thing has affected my life. Until now I thought it wasn’t that important, I considered it irrelevant and something that happened a very long time ago. I thought it was over and done with. At the beginning of May, when I started writing this text, I woke up one day thinking about it, so strongly as never before. And I thought about it again but more carefully, better and longer. I saw it for the first time maybe as something wrong and above all as something that has happened to me and not to another girl- the person I was 8 years ago. I kept thinking about it for several days and I mention it to the friend who already knew about it, but she didn’t remember it at first. I hadn’t been explicit when I had told her the first time. She told me something though, that one of our friends talked to her about similar issues a few days before. They had talked about sexual abuses, non-consensual actions that had happened to her and some of her friends. The coincidence totally struck me and few days later I talked to her as well. Later on I started writing and this is what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to write things down as they come up in my mind in a text that I don’t even know if other people will ever read. Anyway, she told me she started tackling these issues with her friends and collecting their stories. Almost every one of them has a story to tell. A story of abuse, more or less serious (that is related to that person’s feelings). It’s like everything has become suddenly real and all around me: women I know, their friends and me as well somehow are part of this group. And the only reason why we are in it is because we are women. It seems stupid to say, but I had never seen it so clearly.
As I write now I fight with the same thought that I have for years: what happened is irrelevant, you already went through it and forgot it years ago (eight years are not so few for such a small thing, you already had the time you needed to analyse it and metabolise it), it’s nothing, it has no meaning, you only want to draw the attention to yourself, let them know you went through such things, you’re doing what you said you wouldn’t do: justifying your intimacy issues with this event and getting rid of them, you imagined everything. These last sentences have been my thoughts for a long time. But then, sometimes, I think that maybe it isn’t really normal that when you are 13 years old a friend of yours, one night, while you are sleeping decides that is the right moment to touch your genitalia. And thinking what? That I wouldn’t have noticed it? This is another big question in my head, for several years my thoughts about it were more or less: does he remember it? If I’d meet him and tell him about it would he remember or deny it? And also, did he know that I was awake? I’d say yes, it feels impossible that he didn’t. Or maybe he hadn’t realised the consequences of his actions. And therefore? The consequences? And what if I had been a bit braver and I really had woken up? Or if I told someone during the years? He couldn’t have thought it was normal, how would he have justified it?
I didn’t think about what happened often and I never gave it much importance. However, for the first time I realised that it might have something to do with my intimacy problems. Once I thought about it, it seemed like an obvious answer. But I had given it so little importance that it never occurred to me that that could be the cause. Now I am starting to think that the two are related, at the same time as I start to understand that the way I relate myself to intimacy is not normal. It’s never how I want it to be, I never feel at ease, I feel stuck as if something is blocking me. I want to understand why. Is it me? Or does it really have to do something with what happened? I’d like to say yes. I didn’t change my mind about it or anything. Emotionally I still don’t believe that it has had any impact on me, but rationally I’m starting to think that it did. I think about it more often now. My brain wants to understand, but my emotions are still confused. Or maybe they just don’t care.