When I was a little girl my parents had me and my older brother sleep in their bedroom on a separate sofa-bed. (We had a room of our own with beds in it, but we never slept in there). Each night my parents took turns “putting us to bed,” meaning one of them would sleep in the middle of the bed, between my brother and I. They’d usually fall asleep and get up later and go back to their bed. I have no recollection of witnessing my parents having sex, although I have no idea where else they would have done it.
I hated when my father slept in the bed with us. He would hold me all night even though I didn’t want him to. He would spoon me and fall asleep and I couldn’t move. I felt trapped. I always thought the act was sexual because my butt was pressed against his lap the whole time. I can’t recall any other inappropriate touching than this.
When I was 3 I told my mom that I didn’t want dad to sleep in the bed with me anymore. My dad overheard this and must have assumed I was accusing him of being sexually inappropriate in some way because he flew into a rage and without a word began beating me. I think it was the first time he hit me. He was violent throughout my childhood.
He kept sleeping in the bed with his arms around me and this went on until I was 9 and my brother insisted we begin sleeping in our own rooms. We had no trouble doing so, so I have no idea why they ever had us in their room to begin with, we weren’t scared.
I’ve been in therapy before and my therapist believed what my father did was child sex abuse. The doctor explained that it would be easy for me to consider it sexual because men have erections at night while they’re sleep and I probably felt that.
Of course, I didn’t want to believe this because I didn’t witness my father get any sexual gratification out what he did. I know what he did was inappropriate, disrespectful of my feelings and ultimately very damaging to me emotionally. But I just don’t know if this is considered sexual abuse. I’m afraid to label it that way.
Other things happened that were inappropriate: When I developed breasts he always had to point them out when I entered a room, like he couldn’t stop looking at them. If I didn’t wear a bra, he’d go on calling them “jiggle twins.” If I wore a bathing suit around him, he’d look me over like a piece of meat.
As a teen, he’d tickle me really hard and painfully. When I would moved away from him, he’d grab me and wrestle me to the ground, pretty much pinning me to the floor so he could continue to tickle me. It went on until I stopped struggling, sometimes for 10-15 minutes. My brother’s friend saw it once and thought my dad was raping me.
I was often afraid for my female friends who slept over because I thought he’d do something inappropriate to them too.
A. The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse as “unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats, or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.” By that definition, it would seem that you are a victim of sexual abuse.
Your childhood sleeping arrangement was unusual. There didn’t seem to be any legitimate reason for why your father slept between you and your brother and so closely with you. It’s possible that he had more contact with you sexually as a child than you can remember. It’s common for sexual trauma to remain unconscious.
As you aged, your father’s behavior continued to be inappropriate. That’s more evidence of possible sexual abuse.
It’s good that you are in counseling. It is the best place to deal with the aftermath of these experiences. It’s also important to remember that you are no longer a helpless child. Never again do you have to be the victim of inappropriate sexual behavior by your father (or anyone else). Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle