I am the youngest of five children—four older brothers and me as the only girl. My family is very religious, and even now my parents are still very busy with church activities that take them away from the house often and for a long time.

I was closest to the two brothers just older than me (one is four years older and the other 21 months older than me) because we often had to play upstairs together when our oldest brother babysat. No one wanted to test the eldest's anger problems, so it wasn’t odd that my other brothers played Barbies with me, or I would watch them play video games, or we played outside together or that they spent a lot of time with me. 

Eventually the oldest brother was no longer the babysitter and the brother four years older than me was in charge. That's when it went downhill.

I don’t remember anymore how old I was. Somewhere between seven and nine when we started playing a new game. He said it was called "boyfriend and girlfriend." I didn’t understand the game very well, but he said this was how boyfriends and girlfriends acted and I was happy for the attention. He would kiss me, grope me, have me take my clothes off to look at my eight year old form and make me do similar things to him. I never understood why it was a bad thing. my next oldest brother never said anything about it so I assumed it was okay. 

I don’t know how long this continued, but I remember time spent in the pool with his hands under my swimsuit, I remember being in my parents' bedroom while he molested me, I remember playing Barbies with him, pretending the Barbies did sexual things and then him doing those things to me. And I remember the last time it was me leading him to a bedroom to play our game when my parents came home earlier than expected.

We were separated. He was sent to his room where my dad talked to him. To this day i have no idea what was said or done to him. For a long time I assumed there was no punishment. I was sent into my parents' room where I colored to avoid my dad as he angrily tried to get me to talk to him. I was told how wrong it was, I was told i couldn’t leave the room till I talked. They told me this was something only a husband and wife did. I felt like it was my fault, like I was in trouble and my brother wasn’t. No one said it shouldn’t have happened, no one gave me a word to describe it, no one comforted me or said they were sorry it happened.

A little while later the same brother followed me into the garage when my parents weren’t home and told me he wanted to touch me again. I finally told him no. He left me alone but the younger oldest brother told me he wanted to touch me. I told him no and he asked why I let the older one touch me but he couldn’t. I wondered that too. 

This past year I found out from my sister in law that the second oldest brother had thoughts about molesting me as well when I was a child. I look at this brother differently now.

I associated so much guilt with those experiences. I spent some nights crying into my pillow when the memories became too much, begging God to make me forget, begging for forgiveness because I wasn’t clean. I wanted so badly to forget that I became an expert at dissociating. I put all the memories away in a box, and put it on a shelf in my brain where I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. 

I buried it so deep and it was never talked about in my community, so I didn’t have a word for what happened to me until I hit college. I didn’t connect that I had been molested. I didn’t connect why I thought all boys were just friends with me or interested in me because of my body, why I developed a pornography addiction at age 13, why I can seemingly connect with people but I don’t actually let anyone in, why I associate any relationship I have with a guy with my molestation as a child to the point where I get anxiety thinking about the ex-boyfriends, why I hate it when anyone touches me without me initiating it, and even then only on my terms.

I was a psychology major, in classes discussing cases like myself, not realizing I was discussing my own problems. One professor brought it up in the two classes I took from him and I finally felt like he was talking specifically to me. It confirmed the feeling I had before the semester started that I needed help if I was going to sort through what happened. 

I saw yet another therapist but this time it wasn’t for the anxiety or bipolar disorder (all brought on in a roundabout way from the molestation) but about what had happened to me. She was the first person to tell me something very important that I still struggle with saying aloud: 

It is not my fault. Consent of a minor is not consent. Even if i enjoyed it as a child, it is NOT my fault. 

A few months ago I got up the courage and I talked to my mom about it. She never knew it was more than once. She was sorry she didn’t protect me from the same thing that happened to her. She was able to set her experience aside and not let it affect me. I never learned how, I dissociated and shoved it aside without dealing with it. I know now that she did the best she could in the situation and I forgive her. I don’t feel anger towards my brothers but part of me feels like I should. 

Growing up I went to a sleepover and out of the five girls there, three of us had been molested. Of my two best friends in middle school, two of us had been molested as kids and one had been raped. I want to share my story to help others so this no longer happens. I don’t want other people to become a statistic.

I’m still on the journey of figuring out what I need in order to be okay with myself. I don’t know if one day I need to confront the brother that has changed so much since he was a teenager. I will learn how to be okay, even if the memories and the pain don’t go away. I no longer feel guilty, I no longer feel unclean. I’m figuring out what I will say to my future children, to my nieces and nephews, to my friends and their kids, to make sure they know what molestation and rape is, to know it's okay to say no, to know if it happens they can get help and that they have people who love them.