Updated: May 15
So, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I’ve never spoken about this publicly.
I was 6 years old. At first.
It all started out as a game. “Let’s play house.”
Some kissing. Laying on top of one another. Seemed innocent.
Then it became more persistent as the years went on.
6 years old became 7... 8... 9...
As he learned more, I became the test dummy for his teenage urges and desires.
“You better not tell anyone.”
6... 7... 8... 9...
So many years later and the taste of his mouth still lingers in my memory, no matter how hard I have tried to block it out.
“I’ll hurt you if you tell anyone.”
The songs of the 90’s that played on the radio as he forced me to touch him, taste him, still give me an uneasy feeling when I hear them today.
I was an easy target. Easy to hide when you share a room with your abuser, your step brother.
Years. Years of “it’ll be fun. Come on, please!” Or the more forceful “C’mon, now!” Until, finally, someone heard. Someone caught on to “the game.” And even though I begged out of fear, my plead was comforted, but ultimately met with the truth being exposed.
Scared and terrified. Fearful for my safety, my families safety, and concerned that I did something wrong. That I, too, would be punished.
I was called a liar.
I remember the glares, as if trying to turn me into stone.
A liar. Was I a liar? Was everything that had happened “not that big of a deal?”
Two therapy sessions.
“Show us on the teddy bear where...”
Two therapy sessions. Two.
A family member told my mom “every little kid plays 'tiddley winks.' ”
No one knows everything that happened behind those closed bedroom doors. They have no idea. Not even that therapy teddy bear knows...
Two therapy sessions.
I just recently found out that when my mom made that dreadful call to another family member to inform him of what had been happening all those years, and that she wanted to press charges, the response was concern for my abuser, “he needs psychological help, but no need to ruin his whole life, he just needs help.”
Let that sink in. “No need to ruin his whole life...”
What about the effects it would have on MY whole life? Was that ever thought of? Just the concern of the abuser’s life being ruined?
Two therapy sessions. Two.
As years went by I always told myself “yeah, that happened to me, but it has had no affect on me.” I thought because I hadn’t become a sex addict, or didn’t end up dealing with substance abuse, or any of the like, that I was FINE. It didn’t affect me.
Hi, my name is Jonathan Sangster and I have intimacy issues coupled with crippling self image problems and very poor self esteem. I can now think back to where that all stems from...
But sure, “No need to ruin HIS whole life.”
My entire adolescence and adult life I’ve had to battle the desire to have male friends, desperate for any resemblance of a brother-like bond, and the blurred lines of also feeling attraction to that desire, that bond.
“No need to ruin...” You get it.
In a more recent conversation my mom had with a family member, my abuse was brought up in a heated exchange. The deflective response was “that was a long time ago.”
When pressed with the follow up question “and you don’t think it still affects him?” The response Mom received was “maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I don't know, that was a long time ago.”
However, and I find this detail to be important dear reader, those responses, both initial and this most recent, don’t surprise me considering the unwavering support for the man who boasted about grabbing women by their p*ssies. Though not surprising, it doesn't sting any less.
I feel it important to mention now that I am officially free of my abuser. Though I haven’t seen him in years, I am now free of any family member that he’s tied to, bringing along any memory harbored, and most importantly, the animosity held toward me, confused and scared 9 year old Jonathan, after experiencing years of sexual assault, for branding one of their own a “rapist.” No more forced smiles and fake happiness to be around “family” for the holidays. No more lies, gaslighting, and callous racism. No more internal agony of the affectation.
Today, I’m free from them.
That doesn’t mean the lasting pungency of his mouth burned into my sense of taste and smell goes away.
That doesn’t mean the synthesizing sounds and distinctive guitar dissonance of specific 90’s songs don’t instantly transport me back into the darkness of my 8 year old bedroom, the radio on KISSFM.
That doesn’t mean that anytime an opportunity presents itself for intimacy with a potential lover that I don’t panic with anxiety.
“That was a long time ago.”
It’s repeated over and over in my head for days now. As if the scars left are supposed to just disappear because “that was a long time ago.”
I starting writing “boy: a new musical” years ago because I knew it was a story that needs to be told. A story about a boy, and how he, and his family, handle trauma and grief. A story about the loss of innocence and the fears that coincide within the walls of your own mind.
It is in no way a biographical musical of my life. There are parallels I’ve leaned into to draw inspiration from, but it’s not my life story. However, it is a story that needs to be told. For all those other sexual assault victims who sometimes feel like they want to “Fly Away,” or need help finding those “Happy Thoughts,” worried they may miss out on “Second Stars, Second Chances" because they too feel like a "Lost boy."
This story is for all of them.
It’s been therapeutic to write and continue to work on. And I acknowledge that for myself. But it’s not for me. It’s for them. For all of us. For healing. Together.