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  • JL Whitehead

When it's time to tell

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

When I was thirteen years old, I was molested by three different men who used three different methods to groom me into silence. The first man gained my trust by inserting himself into the role of a father figure; the second used his authority as a teacher to groom me into silence, and the last used friendship which then led to rape.

In two of those instances the thought never occurred to me that I should tell someone what was happening. In those two instances, my molesters had bought my silence with a quirky sense of humor, familiar emotional protection and social authority. I was silent by choice and in that silence, I felt like a willing participant. As a result, I felt like I couldn't tell anyone because I didn't want to. I didn't want to because being gay in the seventies was different than being gay now. After all, what was happening to me was man on man...or rather, man on boy. It was still homosexual activity and I didn't know how to navigate being labeled as a homosexual in the seventies.

My homeroom teacher manipulated me into being alone in a classroom with him during lunchtime. The excuse was to tutor me in reading and writing; something that I was already good at. I tried to tell my mother what was happening to me since I didn't want the advances that this homeroom teacher was making. Unlike the first abuser, I didn't want his attention. But in my mind, I thought that if he were younger or more attractive his advances would be okay with me.

My last abuser raped me. He waited until I was most vulnerable and then took my innocence. It didn’t matter how I felt about it. It didn’t matter that it was painful.

But in all three of these instances of abuse, it was and is okay to talk to someone. A thirteen-year-old cannot give consent for sex. He or she cannot tell an adult that it is okay to let him or her violate their mind and bodies.

The problem was and still is that a thirteen-year-old doesn’t know when it’s time to talk; and a parent doesn’t know when it’s time to take the appropriate action.

For anyone between the ages of thirteen and seventeen; this is what I want to tell you:

If anyone…a teacher, a neighbor, an uncle, a friend, a cousin even a parent does something that you question or feel is wrong in any way…you can tell someone. You can tell a close friend, a family member, a counselor a church representative.

You do not have to give your body in exchange for anything. Your body is yours and it is not for sale.

Someone that abuses another person doesn’t always make you feel bad. It doesn’t matter if you have an orgasm. It doesn’t matter if you wanted what happened to happen.

It is okay to tell someone.

You may feel like telling is the wrong thing to do because you care about the individual that you are having sex with. Keep in mind that your abuser relies on your silence.

When I was thirteen, I wanted what happened with the first abuser to continue because I thought that what was going on was something that wasn’t and could never be.

Once I was removed from the school where the abuser looked for his victims, he simply found another boy.

If the abuse is painful…tell someone.

If the abuse feels good…tell someone.

If you are made to feel guilty about doing something that you don’t want to do…tell someone.

If you are given money in exchange for sex…tell someone.

If you feel uncomfortable with someone touching you…tell someone.

I’m telling you this because had I told someone about the abuse that was going on with my first abuser…it would have stopped.

If someone had taken the time to listen when I finally talked to someone about the teacher that attempted to “tutor” me in reading, it would have stopped.

If I had told someone after the rape had occurred with my third abuser, he would have been caught.

Talking to someone about what is happening with you is the most important thing that you can do to help yourself. If you can keep what is occurring in silence, you can share just a little bit of it with someone else.

It all begins with a phone call.

~ J.L. Whitehead

800-656-HOPE (4673)

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