My cousin (we’ll call him Ben) sexually abused me throughout my childhood. I don’t think he knows what he did, or at least that it was wrong. He’s only two years older than me, and in retrospect I’m sure he was abused by someone else, but that doesn’t make it okay. I still don’t know if I can really blame him, but I know I can’t blame myself.It started so young. I was 6. He made me kiss him because we were playing house. But then I had to get naked, somehow he knew that’s what married couples did. He made me do this multiple times, but eventually it stopped for a few years.

Later, I can’t remember how old I was but I couldn’t have been older than 9, we were playing video games in his room and he said, “Remember when we used to kiss when playing house?” I timidly said yes because I now knew that was wrong, but he continued on about how fun that was. He then showed me his penis. He said whoever lost the next round of the video game had to get naked, and I lost. My grandmother came home (my cousins lived with my grandparents) and told me to fold towels and that I was spending the night. Ben asked if I could sleep in his room that night instead of the girls’ room and he made me ask too, but my grandmother of course said no. This was the end of it for so long, and I almost forgot.

When I was 13, in the 8th grade, I went to the same school as my cousins, so my grandmother would pick us all up from school and I would wait at her house until 6pm for my mom to come get me. Unfortunately, my grandfather was sick and had lots of doctor appointments around this time and my other cousins were old enough to be with their friends all the time, so it was just me and Ben. I would go in the girls’ room to watch tv instead of the living room because I liked the beds, and soon Ben started coming in and watching with me, laying on the other bed. We would joke and laugh and he made me think it was safe.

Let me be clear that in between these sexual abuses, he would verbally abuse me. He hated me. This time I knew his kindness was just an act, so I started locking the door when I went into the bedroom, but I couldn’t just tell him to stay out because I had no real reason to be worried, and so after jiggling the door handle multiple times every day and acting like I was being weird, I started letting him in again, and I curse myself for this. He started saying, “Oh wow remember when we were kids and used to kiss? That was so crazy and weird!” I thought he meant it was bad, but I guess not, because he started asking me how girls liked to be kissed, touched, etc. I had only kissed a boy (boyfriend I should say) once so I didn’t really know, so he asked if he could practice on me because there was a girl who he liked. I told him it was wrong, I told him it was gross, I told him he shouldn’t think of me that way, and I told him I didn’t want to. I don’t know how, but he talked me into it.

Does that make it my fault? I feel like it does, and I feel like other people think it does, but I don’t know. I do know that I was scared of him all the time. He kissed me, he touched me, he grabbed me, he asked me if things felt good. Nothing felt good. He did this multiple times and each time I said nothing because he was so much bigger than me, I was so scared he would just beat me if I said no.

One day we were in the room, and I had been trying to be firm against his advances, but as I got up to get water he jumped on top of me and started tickling me. I thought, “This is it, my cousin is going to rape me and nobody can help me.” I heard his belt buckle. I started screaming that I couldn’t breathe, that I was having an asthma attack and that I needed my inhaler. I don’t know why but he stopped. That was the end of it, he hasn’t touched me since, but it was the worst.

I have nightmares, and I feel guilty that I am so traumatized even though I escaped, I feel like my experience doesn’t really make me a survivor, it just makes me a whiny baby. I won’t let my male family members touch me anymore, and I’ve heard my dad crying because he can’t kiss my forehead to check my temperature or hug me when I cry, and it makes me feel worse. I told some people, close friends and some people at church, but they didn’t understand that I couldn’t rip my family apart by telling my parents. My boyfriend at the time told me I was too sensitive when I cried about it instead of holding me. My best friend called me a lying bitch and stopped talking to me. I stopped going to church, I started self-harming, and I tried to hide myself. Two years after this, I told my mom, and later accidentally told my father. I thought my dad was going to kill him, but I told him that he can never talk to Ben about it. I have support now, but I still cry when I think about it. My current boyfriend holds me and tells me it’s not my fault. I don’t know if this story has a resolution, but I needed to share.