One day I began to have repetitive dreams, an unknown man was chasing me to rape me, I knew it and fled with desperation in my throat. Night after night the scene was repeated like a hellish loop, I began to feel afraid to sleep, I cried and clung to the pillow, I imagined it was my salvation, my float.
As time went by, I no longer dreamed the same thing every day, only a couple of times a week, I blocked the idea of dreaming so much that that nightmare came once or twice a month and I could live with it. The rest of the days, the night remained in black.
After a while, I told the mother of a very good friend about it. And she urged me to look into my childhood, she mentioned that it was not “normal” to have that kind of dreams and much less every night. So she sowed in me the doubt and I, who don't know how to keep any question floating around, went straight to my mother, who immediately unlocked a memory.
During my childhood, one of my little school friends confessed to me that a relative was touching her inappropriately, at that time, I was too young to understand that I was facing a situation of great dimensions; my eight-year-old girl only cared that her friend was sad and was no longer the same, so I told my mom and she, in the most discreet way possible, contacted the school authorities and a process of accompaniment began.
As happens every day in dozens of similar situations, my friend's mother chose to take her out of school, chose to keep silent and cover up for her daughter's aggressor. And me, I was filled with guilt, from head to toe, with the weight of feeling that I had betrayed a friend. Remorse followed me until these days in which I could understand that it was never our fault for not knowing how to defend ourselves.
It hurts me to look back and see that pair of girls whispering secrets to each other that should not be available to their age, it makes my skin crawl to remember those tears I saw running and did not understand, I cry to think that she was not the only one, that today, one in five children is still being abused.
I have not dreamed since my mother reminded me of that story and the images came alive in my memory. My mother said what she remembered. And my brain brought to the forefront all the mornings when my friend came to school and told me in my ear that once again she had had to play at being an adult, I saw again how the brightness of innocence slipped away in tears. It was just in her that for the first time I looked at that loneliness that only comes when you discover that nobody is going to save you.
The nightmares disappeared, however, I often wonder if we are doing enough to end that “one in five children”. No matter exactly who suffers from it, that is happening should be enough for us to shield our children like never before.
Today, after almost 20 years, I know that situation stole a bit of my shine too, because no child should be exposed in any way to violence of any kind.
Girlfriend, wherever you are, forgiving me because we were eight years old, and we could not burn it all down.
© 2022 Elizabeth Charris