Did I Know it Was Wrong
The pictures below
are of the author at
ages 4 through 7
The abuse began
at age 6 years, but
despite that there
is still a look of
her as a young
child. The abuse
was ongoing until
she left home after
Did I know It Was Wrong?
By Laurie Forbes
My son once asked me if I knew the sexual abuse that happened to me
was wrong. My answer was that I did and I did not.
I was six the first time it happened. I was nearly asleep when my father
came into my room that night. He came in and quietly uncovered me. I
was groggy with sleep and it startled me at first, but he murmured
reassuringly to me and I relaxed because I recognized my dad’s voice
even though I didn’t understand his words. What happened next had me
wide awake feeling confused. “Why would he want to do this to that part
of my body? That’s yucky! That’s where I go potty from!” I watched him
out of curiosity as I tried unsuccessfully to figure this out. “He would
never do anything to hurt me so this must be okay,” I silently told myself.
He finished, covered me back up and left the room as he cheerfully
whispered, “Good night.”
I laid there turning and twisting this over and around in my child’s mind.
What he did left me with more than just confusion. Even though I trusted
him, I had a bad feeling about it. However, I reasoned that my feelings
had to be wrong, not only wouldn’t my dad hurt me, but also because
mom and dad were who told me what was okay to do and what was
not– they knew everything. So I decided that what he was doing must
I even accepted, without question, his warning to not tell my mother
what he was doing just because he said she would be mad. I knew if
mom was mad it was time to hide. I feared her when she was angry and
I knew I would be spanked. It never occurred to me to wonder why I
shouldn’t tell her if this was not something that was bad.
As a six-year-old, I did not have the knowledge or experience to know
that these bad feelings I was having were my instincts trying to warn me
that this was wrong. I assumed that I had to be wrong because I felt that
my father knew more than I did, I knew he would not hurt me, and
anything he did had to be okay. At six years of age, because of how
much I trusted my dad, I was taught that I could not trust my own
feelings or instincts. This was a lesson that stayed with me until I was in
my late thirties, when I was taught about trust by a therapist.
At six years old it never occurred to me that my mother would be furious
with my dad for what he was doing. I assumed she would be mad at me.
I did not learn any different until I was ten or eleven years old, when she
had a private talk with me about my body’s functions. She told me then
that if she ever caught any man touching me “that way” she would kill
At that point I knew what my dad was doing was wrong, but I could not
tell my mother it was happening because I believed she would kill my
dad and would go to jail. I would be left without any parents. Without
knowing it, my mother slammed and locked the door on my revealing
what was happening to me and on any chance I had to have help in
getting it stopped. I was on my own because at that point I went from
protecting my dad to protecting my mother. If I went to anyone else for
help and Mom found out what had happened, she would kill my dad; so
I had to keep silent and find a way to protect myself.
Very young children have no idea what sex is. They barely know the
differences between boys and girls. They understand that that part of
the body has functions associated with the toilet. They do not
understand that that part of the body is a pleasure center. When adults
take advantage of young children to fulfill their sexual desires, they are
exploiting the natural trust of innocent children and destroying the
natural development of self-trust every child is supposed to learn.
Did I know it was wrong? Only with the hindsight of an emotionally
mature adult could I see the signs in my childhood that warned me my
dad’s actions were not right.