When I was a little girl I knew another little girl down the road. I’ll call her Jenna Gates, although that wasn’t her real name. Jenna and I were the only two girls our age on our block for the longest time, and we played together as a matter of course, but we didn’t always get along.
I remember one day when we were around six she wanted to play inside my house. I wanted to leave her on the back patio while I went inside to secure permission from my mom and grandmother, but Jenna would have none of it. “You let me in right now,” she screamed. “If you don’t do what I say, you’re not my friend anymore!” I snorted, told her to go on home in that case, and closed the door.
A few months later Jenna accused me of stealing a hair scrunchie. I hadn’t even seen the thing, but she was convinced I had it. She attacked me and scratched my face. After that, I wasn’t allowed to play with her anymore.
Months after this, at last, another little girl our age who I’ll call Marcia moved into the neighborhood. Jenna and I were fiercely possessive and competitive over her time. I remember waiting in my front yard for Marcia’s school bus to drop her off, so that I could get to her house first and be the one who got to play with her.
On one of the rare occasions when Jenna and I were both playing in Marcia’s backyard, Jenna pushed me into Marcia’s inground swimming pool while I was wearing roller skates. I sank to the bottom and could not swim up. Marcia’s mother dove in and dragged me above the water, to the edge of the pool.
I do not and cannot hate Jenna. Despite these clear, vivid memories, my feelings toward her are overwhelmingly of gratitude. You see, Marcia’s father sexually molested me and when I told the truth, of all the dozen children on our block, ONLY Jenna believed me instantly. Only Jenna never once blamed me or theorized I must have liked it. I have always suspected Jenna believed me because Marcia’s father was likely doing it to her too, but whatever her reason: Jenna believed me.
You can literally try to drown me and I will forgive you if only you believe me when it counts. THAT is how much it matters to have someone believe you about sexual assault. It matters more than anything she had ever done or said about me in the past. It washed away every “sin” between us.
Believe people. It matters more than I can express.