*Warning: Adult & potentially distressing content.
I can remember walking from a rural emergency room, as a chubby eight-year-old girl with a blue sling on my right arm, thick white straps holding my elbow in the slump of its fabric.
Earlier that fall day, I had run into my grandmother’s kitchen screaming, “I can’t move my arm! Help! Ma, Ma, Ma!”
My mom came running from the bathroom and touched the soft part of my brown elbow. I couldn’t move it without intense pain causing me to fall to the floor—the kind of pain that tickled and made my body go cold and weak.
Hours earlier, in the dusk of day I had raced around my Grandmother’s house playing a game of hide & seek with my brothers and some other girls and boys. Eight-year-old me was a fast runner. I scurried to the back of the old house and listened to the countdown, waited to not be found.
My back was against the white-planked wood siding—barely peeking at the blooming moon. It was then that I heard faint footsteps. I drew inside my body, holding my breath, hoping the seeker would not come around the corner so that I would win the game. A tall man stood right by my side. I jumped and released my breath. Face to face with him, I shivered.
I recognized him. He stood in front of me and as I turned my girl-child body to to run away, he quietly said, “You are out.” I thought, “But you aren’t the leader of the game.”
Then he waved his penis toward me, maneuvering around my small body, getting closer to my summer shorts. I lifted my right leg and closed my eyes and I tried to kick him—right between the legs.
At the time I had no idea what he was doing, but I knew that I needed to try and stop him. I slipped on the dew of the night’s grass and slammed my body to the ground. I let out a faint, “Ouch.” He looked at my eight-year-old body stuck to the gluey ground with my arm folded underneath my back and my navy blue shorts riding up to my hips. Somehow my higher power levitated me from that grass as the tall man with a dirty smirk blew a kiss at me.
I ran through the cracked-open part of the screen door and he ran back in the other direction.
Later that night I in the emergency room I said that I was running in the eve of the night and slipped so I wouldn’t lose in hide & seek. I never told anyone about that night—even though I saw the tall man daily. I grew frightened as I slept by myself in my grandmother’s once-safe house, believing that he would come to my window at night and try to finish what he started. I thought he would kill me for kicking at him.
My little girl body held onto this secret for more than 30 years and my grown woman body never told of what I lost that night. I lost the security of the sweet safe-zone of my Grandmother’s house. I lost the comfort of playing innocently with neighbors. And instead of enjoying the sound of the country crickets, I lost nights of sleep listening for the quiet step of the tall man’s feet.
Today, I am a writer, poet, and social health activist. I am no longer holding this secret or this fear. I am writing out my assault because that man had no right to scare me or prey upon me. He was my first but unfortunately not my last.
Poem to my First Perpetrator
You deserve to hear me
To sit down and listen to this,
Because I will no longer will live in this shame.
I lost years of comfort and days of sleep,
But now I fear less and care less about your feet
You probably won’t even remember what you did
So I’ll remind you of how you tried to come for me
That early Fall—
Peering at me with eyes
Of insanity, you smiled with your berry lips shining down
On my little girl thighs.
You brandished your manhood,
Pushing your body close to mine as if you were dancing.
This was no birthday groove and you were a dark
Visitor playing an ill game of hide & go get it, with a mere girl.
So I kicked at you with all the life force of
And I slid on the watery grass, and your ass
Left me there with my arm all twisted—
Contorted by your selfish taunts.
I hid and kept your secret but now I’ll tell the world
For that sweet eight-year-old girl who only wanted to play.
I wore a sling for eight weeks because you tried to rape me
and showed me to things I didn’t ask to know.
That night I learned how to fight for my girl life against
Mister Cowards who go lurk in the night.
Women and girls around the world go unheard. Will you join me on this journey to voice our stories? Words have healing power. Voice your story.
Author: Salaam Green
Image: blgrssby/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren