Our experience with being groomed as teenagers and what we learned about personal safety.
TRIGGER WARNING: TOPIC OF GROOMING, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, AND ABUSE OF AUTHORITY.
Please do not read if these subjects trigger you. Instead, check out one of our other stories Lost, Found, Never Gone.
We were homeschooled for most of our childhood. This left us in a precarious position for various reasons. Firstly, we were raised in a cult which meant most of the adults we were exposed to were not safe. Secondly, we did volunteer work which again had us surrounded by authoritative figures. Predators look for the isolated or the weakest link in any situation and we were that person.
Again. TRIGGER WARNING. Please stop reading here if any of the above-mentioned topics are triggering for you.
15 and alone at work
We worked one summer for an art program. Since we were extremely detail-oriented for a 15-year-old, our job was taking inventory. We met a friendly teacher from a local high school. She was super enthusiastic and we loved talking with her because she was deaf. No one else at the events knew ASL, so she would rely on us to interpret conversations and any other communication while working.
Since we were fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), we felt safe with our voice off. We could talk with her, take inventory and drown out external stimuli. When she asked for help talking with other adults we were happy to help.
One night, we worked until 6 pm and our ride was late. She offered to take us home and we politely declined. Even though we liked her she was still a stranger. We never got into cars with strangers. She wasn't pushy and said good night. The next day she was working and the situation was feeling oddly uncomfortable.
She asked about our home life, our age, and our favorite movie. We were shocked that she didn't know we were teenagers, but she was surprised. Looking back we know she was pretending, the comment of you're so mature for your age is a warning sign. Especially, since she was 24 years old at the time. The questions became increasingly personal as the hours went by: are you a virgin? Have you ever been with a woman? Do you want to be? This situation was wrong and we felt uneasy.
However, we were taught to respect authority and never be rude. She was a teacher after all. She continued to speak of inappropriate things about sexual contact, even as far as showing us pornographic images.
We did not want to work the next day, but had little choice in the matter.
The best choice we made
The next week she upped her game. Shoulder touching or hugging us around the waste. We squirmed away every time, but she didn't give up. Then she proposed a scenario: when your mom isn't home, I can come over and we can spend time together. It will be like a date.
We said a firm no. She was treating us badly and we refused to let her push our boundaries anymore. This choice saved us from a physically dangerous situation and more emotional damage on top of what we already carried. After this happened, we refused to work if she was there and we told an adult what happened.
Damage is done
Grooming a child is despicable. A teacher is in a place of authority and this power should never be abused. We still hold this memory over 12 years later and it reminds us of a time when we were victimized by people in places of power. The emotional damage, while not as bad as it could've been, was done.
A word of warning for others
An adult should never treat you as an equal. Conversations on intimate topics, physical contact that makes you uncomfortable, or pressuring you to be alone means THAT PERSON IS NOT SAFE TO BE AROUND.
Authority means absolutely nothing when wielded by a predator. You do not owe them respect, you do not have to allow them in your personal space. It is your right as a human being to set physical and emotional boundaries with those around you.
If someone questions the boundary you set, that is a red flag. Put your emotional and physical safety first.
Go here https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/how/ for resources to protect children from abuse and neglect.