Little Girl Five's Story: Abuse at the Babysitters

Dear Dr.Patti;

I just finished reading your book, Invisible Girls, and what I've read has helped me learn about abuse and its different kinds. I'd like to tell you how I received the book along with my own story. I'm 20 years old in community college and I've just finished my second semester with straight A's! I received a scholarship to my college through high school, and through the scholarship we were given mentors to help us through college and its transitions, actually, the mentors chose whom they would mentor.

Let's back a little bit. I went away to a camp recently with my youth group, and the theme for camp that weekend was "Over the Wall", something I knew I needed to do. To my dismay, I couldn't get over my wall as I wanted. I was very upset. That Monday, I went in to school for a visit with my mentor. She saw that I was really upset and almost on the verge of tears. I told her about my weekend, and how I was upset that I couldn't get over my wall, but didn't specify what "wall" I was talking about. She asked if I wanted to talk about it, but I said no, because I wasn't quite ready and because I was so emotional and wanted time to think things through. About two weeks later, it was time for one of our meetings and I asked if I could talk about what was bothering me before. So I did.

Let's back up even further to age five. I was in Kindergarten when it happened. I know this because I was so excited about finally going to school like my older brother. My dad would take my brother to school and I to my babysitter until it was time for afternoon kindergarten. I remember having lunch at her house, and watching the morning cartoons until it was time to leave. She had a son and a husband but I don't remember them much. He knew English, unlike his mom and dad who only spoke Spanish. I remember using the bathroom and him coming in to give me my favorite treat, a watermelon flavored lolly pop. I don't remember if this was the only time or one of many.

Here is my story, the story I wanted to tell. I remember it so vividly, and it's almost as if it happened yesterday. We were watching TV, I was on the sofa and so was her son. My babysitter was on the floor hugging her knees to sit up. It was kind of chilly so her son and I had a sheet. The sheet was pale yellow, and small darker yellow daises were printed in a repeated pattern. Her son was playing with me under the sheet, I remember how the light shown through the sheet. He was tickling me. I remember he and I coming out from under the sheet to look at his mom and hide back under the sheets just as she would turn to look at us, hide and seek. He tickled me some more and then the play time faded into something I wish I could forget.

It started turning into something no kid should ever experience so early. He took his penis out and made me touch it. He made me touch everything. Is it sad that I can tell you he wasn't circumcised? While this was happening, we were still popping out of hiding from his mother. Now I realize he did this so she wouldn't think anything was going on that shouldn't have been. I remember pulling down my shorts so he could touch me too. And that he did. He didn't put his fingers into my vagina or anything, just touched me. At least this is what I want to believe, because I know that sometimes memories can be blocked.

Fast forward a few weeks from the incident. I don't remember if this happened more than once. I pray to God it didn't, or that I just plainly blocked it from memory as some girls have done in your book. I didn't think it was a bad thing that he was doing, because he made it seem like a game. After this happened, one day I drew a clown as my dad. I left a space for his penis to be in the drawing, because I figured that guys needed room in their pants for it, and I showed it to my dad. He said to me, "That is not a nice thing for little girls to draw, don't you ever draw something like that again!!" I didn't understand why he was so angry, I thought I was right about what to draw and where. I don't think he thought into what I drew. Maybe he didn't want to know how I knew.

We moved to San Francisco and two years later we moved again, losing contact with my babysitter. We eventually did run into them in town once we moved back home years later. Her hair was still the same, colored black with dye, as it was years before. Her son was with her, too. When the incident happened I knew he was a man, because of how his parts looked. After it had happened, she took me with them to take him to school. I later would go to the same middle school, and when time came I hated going up the staircase I saw him climb.

As years went by, I still remembered what happened when I was five years old. As I was growing up I learned of a way to cope. I didn't exactly "learn" it, I think I just sort of "discovered" it. At night I would think about what I did, and what he did to me, and I began touching myself. I discovered masturbation. I don't remember when it started exactly, so I thought it was normal to do. I know I had done it from a young age. I don't exactly remember being pleased when I was being molested, but I read in your book that some felt guilty after being molested and enjoying it. After reading your book and doing some research of my own, I learned that it was a coping mechanism. I hate that I learned it and continue to do it because afterwards I feel so dirty. This is my first time sharing that about myself, and the connection of them. Knowing what I know now, I can say that he made me masturbate him. How can you make a five year old do that? What a freak of him, what a freak of me.

Once those feelings come, I begin to think more on why I masturbate and more on what happened when I was five years old. I begin to get so angry! I hate that he did that to me, I hate that his mother didn't notice anything though she was just a few feet away. I then blame myself and ask why didn't I make him stop, why didn't I sit next to his mother? Why didn't I know Spanish to tell his mom? Why didn't I know it was wrong? The list goes on and on of self blame. Along with self blame came self harm. I began cutting myself when I was 17. I just wanted to try it. I still do it sometimes when I'm really overwhelmed, but it is not a problem for me. I have people that know so, it will never be a problem. The most I've ever done it in a year was about ten times. I believe I still try cutting to find a way out from all this hurt because it is still with me. I often feel it defines me.

When I was about 15 one day, I finally told my dad. It never occurred to me to tell him and I don't know why I never thought about it. (Can you help me figure out why, please?) He was upset and angry, but there was nothing we could do about it because we had lost contact with them. I'm glad, because I don't know how I'd react if I had to face him, and since reading your book I'd decided that was a good thing to not face him.

My mentor gave me your book as a Christmas present, along with a necklace that supports the stop to human trafficking. When I first saw the title I was shocked. I think I was shocked that she cared enough to help me with this the one way she knew how. I love to read, it's an escape for me. I was also shocked because I didn't think I had a problem. I learned to cope with it, even though the memories are still quite vivid sometimes, it's a disgusting habit, but it gets me through. I thought I was over the hurt of being molested. I wasn't, I realized, because if my mentor thought I wasn't then maybe I really wasn't. I'm going to thank her face to face at our next meeting together. I'm also going to share on what I learned from your girls.

When I finished telling her parts of my story that day when we had met, she told me, "It wasn't your fault." I told her how I blame myself. I've had that said to me before, that it's not my fault. Your book has helped me learn from what your girls have shared that it really wasn't my fault. In nearly every chapter close to the end, you would repeat, "It wasn't your fault" in some shape or form, and I thank you for that Dr. Patti!! Thank you so much. Having read those words through out your book has helped me begin to believe it. I hope one day I can crush those thoughts and feelings and set them underground. Invisible Girls has helped me begin to heal.

I know forgiveness is key, forgiving, him, my dad, his mom, and mainly myself. I don't know if I can ever forgive. I know I need to do something, because I can't cope anymore. I know there are girls who have gone through worse, but I just can't get over my little hell that repeats itself and tortures me daily. I have the right to be angry, but this anger, I know this unforgiveness needs to go. It's ruining me.

I'm sorry my story is so long. I wasn't exactly sure how to tell it because I usually tell people parts. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind replying to me. I was wondering what I can do to help myself without really seeing a psychologist or therapist. I want to heal my own way, but I'm not sure how to start. I was hoping that your book had stories like mine, but I kind of figured it wouldn't. I'm not sure what to call my story, thought I think acquaintance molestation is best fit. I have told my mentor and youth leaders, but I feel like even though they know, I'm still dealing with it alone. I don't talk to my dad about it because I think he feels ashamed that it happened, that he let it happen. I don't blame him for this, he was only trying to raise me the only way he knew how... who was to know that one day his daughter would be molested? Telling him hasn't changed our relationship I want you to know, and I'm grateful for that!

...........signed, Little girl five.

Dr. Patti responds:

Dear ;

         Thanks for taking the time to express yourself – that was difficult and very brave of you. And congrats on your scholarship and your straight A's!! You are doing fine and will continue to.

         Everything you talked about is in the book. The guilty feelings, the blaming yourself, etc., but I do talk about forgiving only yourself. I don't believe that girls have to forgive their abusers to heal (see pp. 239-285). That is up to you. But I think a letter to your mentor would be a great idea. You do need to stop cutting. Take a rubber-band and snap it 30 times when/if you have the urge to cut – that should help. The masturbation can be a physical side effect from the reaction of your body at a very early age. I would not worry about that either. That will stop, you will find other ways to calm and comfort your body.

         You do not necessarily need to go to therapy. But perhaps you could talk with someone at the Rape Crisis Center at your college. The abuse that you experienced I would call "acquaintance" or "mentor abuse." The point is, you were helpless, a little girl helpless. You do not mention a mom – but you do mention a father and older brother. Clearly you did not believe they would/could protect you. Please try to make peace with the little girl and realize there were adults around who were responsible to help you – not your fault they did not. It sounds like you are young and resilient and going on youth group trips, seeking out help from a mentor and focusing on your studies.

         You are doing really well! I am so glad that "Invisible Girls" has helped you, continue to read and get comfort and clarity from our wonderful book., Dr. Patti.

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