The Playful ‘Cousin’ I by Guest Contributor ASQ

When I was a kid, I was physically more developed at a younger age than most of the kids in my classroom and my year group. By age 10, I was already 5’2″ and had started my menses.  By age 13, I was already a solid B – small C cup in bra size and had curves – hips and a booty. I was really athletic, so I had a toned, flat tummy and my thighs and butt were really muscular and defined.  I only ever grew 2 more inches by age 15 and I was a solid D – DD cup by the time I finished high school.  Growing up, though, I was quite the tomboy and a jock;  t-shirt & jeans or a track suit with trainers were my daily uniform, as I always had some sort of sports practice after school anyway. My Mommy could only get me in a dress or a skirt if it was school picture day, church, or some kind of special event. My hair was always in braids and natural with color barrettes and bands (I didn’t get my first perm till age 13).  Even my Daddy, who was my coach, asked me to be more girly kakra.  Mind you, while I’ll admit I was a cute kid (I have always been sassy and funny my whole life), I was plain as plain could be.  But I was girly inside and still had crushes on boys like most little girls do and watched from afar with jealousy as the cute girls were “asked out” on the playground by the cute boys (my usual playmates on the playground).  They would go on “dates” to the mall with their parents in tow and hold hands at school and sit together on the bus home. Oh how I wished that Billy would ask me out to eat Chick-fil-a or Sbarro’s Pizza at the Mall Food Court with his Mom!! *swoon*

However, from a young age, my very strict, very Christian, new-to-America Fante parents made it clear that education was to be our priority and that we should not waste time with boys (or girls) and all that nonsense. They would scoff during our dinner table discussions when they had heard from other parents that their kids had boyfriends and girlfriends. NONSENSE!  When we got older and school had done the job of giving us sex education (because what Ghanaian or African parent do you know wants or even discusses these things with their kids?), they made it clear that sex was only for married people who were in love and that we must wait till marriage to do it.  They also taught us to never let anyone touch us in our private parts and never touch anyone else’s – especially adults.  If any of us ever came home with teenage pregnancy, we would immediately be homeless, be left to our own devices, and be left to depend on state welfare program if we could not find employment. Neither us nor our children would be welcome to live off them under their roof. (In reality, I don’t think they would have the heart to actually do this – but it was enough to strike fear in our hearts at the time!).   In short, keep your vagina closed and your penis in your pants! Pretend you don’t have them kraaa till you are adults and finished university!

I also learned at a young age that we do not air our dirty “laundry” for the world to see.  Americans, especially white Americans,  love talking about personal matters with whomever will listen, no matter how intimate or embarrassing.  My parents always taught to keep our matters in our family and not have loose lips around strangers or people outside of our family circle. Keeping up appearances to the outside was paramount, especially within the Ghanaian community.  I would learn later in life that even inside the family, certain information must be kept close to the chest and not shared, no matter how pressing or how urgent that information could be – especially if it was not your news to share.

By the time I was in junior high school, the dating had become more serious and involved sexually, while the crushes on boys were more intense. I remember in Grade 7, I had every class with 2 boys, Joey and Chris*. We were the Three Musketeers. In addition to having every class period together, we even were in the special Jazz band and symphonic band. Joey played trumpet and was a chubby-cheeked blond white boy with pink pimples. He was shy but around Chris and i, he really came alive and was so so funny. Chris, on the other hand, was a dark chocolate Adonis, played saxophone, was already 6″ tall and was an all-around, all seasons athlete. He played soccer, ran track & field (athletics), and played basketball.  He was charming, courteous, and the BMOC (Big Man On Campus). I felt so lucky that I, Akosua, got to spend so much time with him and got to really know him personally.  He was a lovely boy: his sense of filal piety, loyalty to his friends and teammates, and his intelligence just made him all the more attractive.  He was all mine from 1st period to 7th period all day, everyday. The only time I had to share him with others was during lunch time in the cafeteria.  I soon became the conduit through which every other girl in our school who liked him would pass notes to him once they realized how close I was to him.  Chris was always so sweet to me when we were alone (with Joey) and he and I had a real connection – we would talk for hours in person and on the phone when we did our homework together or worked on a project together.  But we never came out to say we liked one another.  Why would he though? He was a 12 year old man-child. So when girls were throwing themselves at him and willing to make out with him, they let him touch ‘them’ and gave him blow jobs, he naturally chose to date them (obviously). I first felt what I thought was  love and desire for him when we had a long break for Thanksgiving.  My heart actually ached and my body actually reeled from not having physical contact with him for that full week. It was a strange feeling and was the first time I experienced longing between my legs.  My vagina was pulsating as I imagined what it would be like to kiss him, to be in his embrace, to have his hands on my body. My whole body was consumed and obsessed with the thought of him. Even though I was not able to go out with him on a date or even cross into that territory with him, the fantasy of it was enough to sustain me.

This is why when I was 13 and someone I loved & respected very much and with whom I was very close sexually molested me, I was torn apart by several levels of fear: the fear of reporting him & the consequences (black men in America already had enough problems with the law), the fear of losing him as a close friend, the fear of the inevitable anger from my parents and the embarrassment of his, the fear that I would ruin decades of friendship between our families by reporting him, and the fear of admitting to myself that I was actually enjoyed it while it was happening. While there was no sexual penetration in this instance of sexual molestation, there was fondling, kissing, caressing, moaning, and sexual arousal – enough to have serious effects on my mental, emotional and physical welfare for years to come.

It happened in the middle of the night during one of my family’s fairly regular visits to see his family out of state. Our parents had been friends since childhood back in Ghana, so when they moved to the East Coast from the Midwest, we visited with each other regularly.  Whenever we visited them, he and I would wake up in the middle of the night to sneak dessert from the kitchen or watch TV/movie (nothing explicit) or just talk. Even though he was several years older than me (10 years my senior), I felt safe with him, as I would my own Daddy, any of my uncles, or any of my older male cousins. He was like the big brother I never had.

On this particular visit, I hadn’t even expected to see him or that he would even be at his parents’ house. He had recently finished university, lived far away, was working full time, and was engaged to be married.  His fiancée wasn’t able to make this trip back with him.  It was a great surprise to see him, and I was instantly more excited about this visit because it would have been quite boring otherwise. But the nocturnal adventure during this visit was very different from our previous ones.  As he woke me from couch foldout bed where I was sleeping with my younger brother and sister, there was a look in his eyes I had never seen before. He looked hungry, but not for food – a bit possessed really. I thought that maybe I was seeing things.  As soon as I stood up from the mattress, he immediately pulled me close to him in strong embrace, smelled my hair, and nuzzled my neck with his lips and his nose.  He pulled away slowly, then looked down at me and told me I was so pretty and I have grown up nicely. He pulled me into a side room off the main family room and pulled me to him once more.  He whispered in my ear that one day, when I’m older, boys are going to want to do things to me and with me like he wanted to right now. Then he slowly lifted my pink jersey nightshirt and started caressing my body. I was caught completely off guard and just froze in my stance.  I was in a daze – intoxicated by his touches but also afraid that if I resisted, he would hurt me. He was so manic in his movements.  Our previous encounters only involved jocular arm punches and fake wrestling hugs, as siblings and cousins tend to do. He started with groping my butt, squeezing it through my panties then touching it under my panties, then made his way up to my hips, my waist, then finally to my breast. Once he reached my breasts, he toyed with them and played with them, first squeezing them full out (which both hurt and felt good), then gently rubbing the nipples with the palms of his hands. I felt my nipples get cold and hard and my vagina was pulsating as it had when I missed Chris at Thanksgiving in Grade 7 but way more intensely. But this time, I could feel wetness between my legs. My heart was beating so fast, and I was lost in a head swirl of emotions and physical pleasure and guilt.  As he was caressing my body and kissing my neck, I also found myself embracing him and when he got hard, I was not sure what to do – I had never seen a penis so big and so erect. I had only ever seen my Daddy’s once when I walked in on him making pee pee one day when I was younger and my brother’s tiny one from when we bathed together when we were kids.  He saw the shock on my face and told me everything was okay, rubbed my shoulders and told me it was okay if I wanted to touch it and hold it.  But it was when he reached down and touched my clit and told me he wanted to take off my nightshirt and kiss my breasts and have me straddle him on the couch when I finally said no. He said sorry in a whisper and hurried back to his room and I went back to the mattress to sleep with my siblings – not exactly sure what to feel about what I had just experienced and what it meant. I knew it was wrong but I did not know who I could tell.

The next morning when both families got up for breakfast, he avoided eye contact with me. Besides greeting me with an indifferent “Good Morning,” he went about his day without a word to me. He did not even pull me aside to discuss what had happened or to make an apology.  Later that evening, my family headed back to our home state, and he left for his home and fiancée.  I cried quietly to myself the entire car ride home as well as that night when I was back in my own bed (and the next several days after as well). What had happened? What did I do differently this trip to make him think I was okay with what he did?  Did he just use me? Did I do something wrong? What was all that about? Was that illegal? Do I need to tell someone? What do I say? Would they even believe me or would it be his word against mine? Would he tell his fiancée?  For days, I just felt like a shell of myself.  I felt used and empty inside. I did not feel like talking to anyone or being around anyone.  I could not even look at myself in the mirror.  I felt dirty and no amount of washing made me feel clean. I scrubbed my down there to make sure all feeling and wetness I felt would be gone. Is this all that sex and sexual relations is about? If so, count me out. There was one problem that was at odds with those feelings of rejections and worthlessness though – I liked the feeling of being desired by a boy (man) and craved to have that feeling again.  Was that wrong? Was this victim’s guilt? Where was hyper sexual feeling coming from?

Part II (the aftermath and how it has affected me over the last 20 years)

playful cousin

14 comments On The Playful ‘Cousin’ I by Guest Contributor ASQ

  • it is always a difficult task for parent of African origin training their children with African mentality in mind why living in the U S A. your parent did their best under such circumstance. i pity the poor. boy why did you not give him a blow job?

  • Kwunume, this a serious case of sexual abuse of a child. I will not even begin to blast you for trying to make a joke of this situation. It has taken me 20 years to write this story. Shame on you for making light of it. But then again, with how people are responding to the KKD rape story and blaming the young lady for what happened to her, I should not expect anything less….

  • ASQ i am sorry if you see it that way.

  • @ASQ This is a serious issue indeed and shouldn’t be joked about. I think @Kwunume was trying to make a joke and lighten the seriousness of it all (which is what we usually do, albeit unsuccessfully :). Most young girls have had similar first sexual experience encounters that haunt them mainly because of the parental doctrine of ‘sex is bad’ (which is not necessarily African). It’s important to take another look at our individual parenting styles

  • You making jokes about it may prevent others who relate to the story and want to discuss it further here. Know the time and place for such things.

  • Anguah thanks for coming to my aid. i do not support any sexual abuse in any form. especially once involving children.

  • ASQ thanks for sharing this story. It’s powerful for many reasons – well written, talks about a difficult and important subject in all its complexities. I hope you have managed to find some healing. Sending hugs

  • Nana D, thank you so much for your kind words. It’s a story I feel too many girls have experienced in many ways, shapes, and forms, and they may not know to whom or where to turn. For mothers, it’s probably the worst thing they can imagine happening to their young daughters and learning how to build that trust so that their daughters feel safe enough to tell them is a tough balance.

    Ultimately, I never told my parents and likely NEVER will. It would break them to know that this happened to me, that the person who did it to me is a son to them, that I have kept something this deep from them for so long and they would surely HATE him. The consequences were too dire and the stakes are too high, plus the statues of limitations have run out on any prosecutable actions, so what else is left? I also feel that I’m lucky it wasn’t rape. If it had been, that would’ve been a whole other story all together. His ass would’ve gone to jail for sure. But the fact, even after the whole incident, I am still trying to justify “Well it wasn’t THAT bad, it wasn’t rape” perfectly exemplifies society’s need to clarify and validate that all forms of sexual abuse of children as severe and detrimental to one’s long term physical, mental and emotional well-being, just due to the age and level of maturity and exposure of the victims.

    (I’m giving away some of Part II but it is pouring out of me right now, so I’m gonna go with it)

    This incident has taken me on a roller coaster ride in my love life in the ensuing years, but I finally confronted him about it about 3 1/2 years so in a long long email and then we had about a 3 1/2 hour talk on the phone as soon as he received that email. There was a lot of screaming, ugly yelling and crying, hateful words (mainly from me to him), but there was also candor and a vulnerability I have rarely seen in men that shocked me to my core. He had suffered torment with regard to this incident over the last 20 years in his own way and even contemplated suicide when he came to terms with what transpired. He never touched another minor again (he swore).

    I have of course seen him throughout the last 20 years and since we had it out, and while we are back to being close, there is still some trepidation and uneasiness just below the surface. I’m not sure that will ever go away even now that I am in my early 30s and he in his early 40s, a father and now a widower.

  • ASQ: Oh my God. THANK you for sharing this. It was powerful, raw and honest on so many levels. Thank you for taking the time to detail the account, and for being so honest with your emotions.

    As a parent, this is one of my worst nightmares. I know this sort of thing happens too frequently with people whom you should be able to trust. Sending you love as well!

  • I am sad. I am going to bed.

  • Malaka and Nana D, THANK YOU ALL for creating a forum where I could share such an experience. The impetus for finally sitting down and writing this was a Sept 2014 Fb status I saw on friend from childhood’s profile. She said “Exactly 1 year ago today I sat in a courtroom, waiting nervously for the last case on the docket. I had my speech in hand and my mom, Aunt, and a victim’s advocate, whom I had just met, surrounding me with their love and support. He pleaded guilty to a 20 year old crime, 2 years and 3 months in jail. I faced the judge as he listened…vowed before God and my mom that I would not allow this moment to define me, that I would fight through the depression and guilt, that I have done NOTHING WRONG. I did this for whomever he preyed on or could potentially hurt. I fight this battle every day, but I do not apologize to family, to friends, to myself…I do not apologize, my voice was heard 1 year ago today…I am free”

    While I still don’t have the balls to even tell my parents (with whom I should share I am extremely close), writing was my way of letting go and setting myself free.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Thank you for taking the time to read it, Shungu!

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