Content warning: I will be touching on sensitive topics such as sexual assault that might precipitate strong reactions in you. Please take care of yourself if you choose to continue reading.
“Should I give you my phone number then?” said the worker at the social security office in Hawai’i. Earlier as we did my application, he commented on my good looks asking if I ever considered modeling. I should, he encouraged with his queasy smile.
I felt no flattery. I felt uncomfortable and sliver of fear. This person looking like they are in their mid-thirties, did he not see my birthday when he filed my papers? I was 19, far too young for him. I looked at his colleagues all busy with other customers and slumped over papers and computers. I looked to the security guard gazing about. Was this really happening?
I thought, “Oh right, the law can’t protect me anymore since I am no longer underage.”
My childhood flew through my head. Me in my pre-teens, being called by cops to their car. 3 big Marshallese men who looked over to my scrawny self.
“Do you really want to keep him in jail?” asks one of them.
I sat muted. Jimma(grandpa) was not here. Mama was not here.
They ask of a former stepdad who had walked into our girl’s room late at night and while I slept, he kissed me. My body pushed down by the weight of his built body. At first I thought my cousin who had slept alongside me was smothering me with a pillow, so I pushed. He immediately got up. When I opened my eyes a little, he was standing by the door, the light behind him giving him a halo over his dark shadow. He smiled. He smiled right at me before he walked over to his and my biological mother’s room.
Once my brain processed what had happened, in tears, I walked over to Jimma sleeping on his camping bed in the living room. Where he had been sleeping for the past nights because the stepdad kept coming home drunk. It was Jimma’s ways of keeping an eye on us and protecting us. How his aging body did it, my heart aches. He cannot have been comfortable.
We went and got my adopted Mama and her partner and they called the police. The stepdad yelled at me as he was pulled away in the dead of the night, “Tell the truth Selina. I did not do anything.”
The policeman in front of me turned to me and said stepdad was a sad and pitiable man.
“He was hurt. He only did that because he wanted to take revenge on your mother.”
“Do you not feel bad for him? He has no one.”
All of a sudden I was the inconsiderate person. How dare I not be sympathetic towards him being cheated on by my mother. It makes sense after all why he did it. No matter that I had nothing to do with their affairs, that I was an innocent child who had been molested that night. That was not even the first and only time.
Like that time we were watching a Bollywood movie in their room and he crawls over to me and bites my ears. I shakily got up and went outside to mother and massaged her legs. I told her he licked my ears. My child self reasoned licking was not as bad as biting therefore I won’t be in as much trouble with her. If I were to be beaten, then it won’t be as much.
She calls him outside and they have an argument. My English was still developing and the last bit I got in mother’s Marshallese accented English, “If you want her, why don’t you marry her?”
But of course, she never saw me as her child. Just the nuisance one who annoyed her children, my siblings.
I looked to the three policeman, whom my society’s culture and tradition would have me call as uncles even if we are not blood related, “Let him go.”
They smiled at me and said I made the right decision. I saw him later as I was crossing the street. Nonchalantly, he asks me where my mother was. I said I did not know and walked away, fast.
The law, even back then as a child, never protected me. Men whose job was/is to protect its citizen empathized more with a pedophile than they did the victim child.