Sexual Abuse or Not?

by Anonymous
(Rancho Cucamonga, California, USA)

I don't know how long ago my abuse started with my cousin, and it stopped about a year before she moved to . . . somewhere. I love my cousin dearly, and I write for her as well as myself, because I believe that both of us may have been abused, not just me.

I blocked this out of my memory for a long time. The furthest back I remember of my abuse was when we were standing in the back of her house. There was a blanket over our heads, and we were tongue-kissing each other. It scares the crap out of me to know this. I know I'm not lesbian, but I am really confused.

Every time I went over to her house, or she came over mine, we'd automatically go to her or my room, shut the door, and play sexual games with her stuffed animals. We'd watch each other, or we'd pretend that our Barbie's were having sex with each other, or got kidnapped by a bad guy and were getting raped. We were 6 and 8 years old at the time.

One time, she showed me her breasts and had me rub them. She and I would play 'dare or double dare', where you'd have to do whatever the person said to do, or go in the closet and pretend to have sex with yourself naked(and loud enough that the person could hear).

I'm still not sure if this counts as sexual abuse, because I didn't think that it was wrong, and I think I might have actually enjoyed playing these games. The thing is, now I have painful, disturbing sexual fantasies.

I am so sorry if this utterly disturbs anyone, especially others who put a story on this site. I am so ashamed of this story that I can't even put my name on it, because I'm too humiliated by it.

Comments from Darlene Barriere:
The question asked in this commentary is a question that is obviously on the minds of many of my visitors. I receive many queries about whether or not what is being described between two children either constitutes sexual abuse or indicates sexual abuse occurred somewhere in one of the child's lives. I regret that I cannot reply to all who ask me this question. In an effort to deal with the rising number of queries on this issue, I have addressed the topic through my comments on this page.

Before you decide to comment on the above story, especially if you are offering an opinion, please read my comments below first.

Sexual abuse or not? A very complicated question.

There is a big difference between sexual exploration and sexual exploitation. It is perfectly normal for children to "experiment" with each other, even when they are of the same gender. This does not mean either of the children is gay or lesbian. Kissing a cousin, even touching each other, may well fall into the realm of curious exploration, especially when the children are 6 and 8 years old respectively. It is quite natural for the curious exploration to "feel good," which can perpetuate the exploration even further.

However, what is unusual is the degree in which you were both engaged in this activity. One or both of you were exhibiting sexualized behaviour that was beyond your years—a huge red flag. The sex games played with stuffed animals and Barbie dolls, the truth or dare game played with each other, clearly points toward sexual abuse from somewhere. At 6 and 8 years old, having the sexual knowledge you described is very unlikely UNLESS one or both of you was sexually abused somewhere along the line.

Children can be sexual offenders. But statistics show that in all child sex offender cases, these children have been sexually abused themselves.

In Canadian law, children who are 2 years or less apart in age are generally considered to be in the same stage of development. This is a key element in whether or not the child would be considered a sexual offender. Children in the same stage of development are NOT considered sex offenders. There must be more than 2 year's difference in age for this to be the case. And even when a child is deemed to be a sex offender, each case tends to be handled on its own merits.

So to answer your original question, there was likely some form of sexual abuse, but based on what you described and the age you and your cousin were at the time, the sexual abuse did not occur between the two of you.

Anonymous, you are not alone with your feelings. You need to tell yourself that what went on wasn't your fault. And it wasn't your cousin's fault. You were children; and as children, you cannot be held responsible for the sexualized behaviour that went on. I urge you seek out some form of counselling to help you sort through the emotions these memories now stir in you.

I thank you for having the courage to write and ask this troubling question.

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