As a child I was sort of a tomboy. The family members I spent the most time with were my two older brothers and three boy cousins. I wanted to do everything they did, and followed them everywhere. When I was seven or eight, my brothers and I spent many weekends with my cousins at my aunt’s house. We didn’t like to stay at home because our parents argued a lot. One of the nights we stayed there, my oldest cousin, who was about fourteen, started to touch my genitals after he thought I was asleep.
Even at that age, I knew something was wrong with the way he was touching me, and where he was touching me, but I was afraid. I just rolled over and pretended to be asleep. It happened again on a few other occasions, and each time I pretended to sleep. My parents often yelled at each other, and I was afraid that if I told them what my cousin had done, there would be more yelling — or worse, that no one would believe me.
I started having trouble sleeping, stopped eating, and refused to stay at my aunt’s house. But there were still situations that put me in the same place as my cousin. I tried to stay away from him, but he would always touch me after he thought I was asleep.
One day at school we were taken to the gymnasium for a special program. A woman was there to perform a show with puppets named Archie and Abby. I sat in that gymnasium riveted to the puppet show. The puppets described exactly what I was going through. They discussed what were good touches and bad touches, and repeated over and over how important it was to tell your parents if anything like that happened to you.
In that show, the puppets addressed all my fears and put them to rest. They also helped get rid of my sense of shame, and thoughts that I had somehow deserved it. I left that gymnasium that day feeling better than I had in months, and knowing I would talk to my mother that very day about what was happening. I was still scared, but I gathered my courage and talked to my mother. I now knew that she could stop the pain I had been feeling.
It was not like I feared. There was no yelling, no hitting, and never once did she accuse me of lying. She never again left me alone with my cousin, and it never happened again after that.
Every year, hundreds of children see the same puppet show I saw, performed by the same woman. I am thankful every day knowing that she does this, and hope she knows that she has helped at least one child.
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