The following post, The Amulet for Generation Z, was originally a commentary about some unfortunate events that occurred during my latchkey childhood. Specifically, childhood sexual assault. After it aired a friend sent me this quote from Maya Angelou:
“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”
I appreciated that so much. Here is my story, told for you.
A Brief Memoir: Latchkey Kids, Childhood Sexual Assault
When I was seven years old I lived in London Lane, in Colorado Springs. I loved playing with topper dawn dolls, riding my banana seat bike and watching ISIS on T.V. She was an archaeologist with an amulet that turned her into a superhero who fought evil.
Like many Gen Xers, I was a latchkey kid. One day after school, I came home to an empty house and was sexually assaulted by a trusted friend of the family. He probably should have gone to prison, but we never told anyone.
We didn’t want him to get him in trouble. We didn’t want my father to kill him.
So, the child predator went on to become top military brass, and I crawled into a bag of candy, so I’d get fat and nobody would ever sexually assault me again.
My first pelvic exam was that year, 1975. I remember everything about that day. The doctor’s office had green metal cabinets and jars full of cotton balls. The doctor was gruff and the office smelled like cough syrup. The nurse was tiny and my dress was bright blue from Montgomery Ward.
I was so happy when the doctor said I was OK. This meant I wasn’t going to have a baby. I could ride my bike and run on the playground again. I had worried that if ran too hard, I would kill the baby inside me.
I’m proud of myself for loving that baby so much, the baby that wasn’t inside me after all. When I left the doctor’s office that day I was relieved. I thought I’d be able to forget everything that happened to me and be happy again, but I was wrong.
Over the years the predator’s name came up in conversations, pictures of him were strewn here and there in boxes and albums. This extended the trauma far beyond 1975.
I learned to smile when I wanted to cry, stay put when I wanted to run. It was a traumatic experience that ruined my life, but it’s not ruined anymore.
Heaven Shot Back
A few years ago the man who assaulted me re-invaded my world through Facebook connections. This was the straw that broke me, so I crawled back inside the back of candy. But, then one day Heaven shot back. I was lucky to be alive. That man with his shiny brass had so much to lose. He could have put me in a trash bag and thrown me down a mountain, but he didn’t, I am so glad for every day I have lived. I found the mercy in my situation. This gratitude makes me happy.
In 2007, I picked up a book on Generation X (13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?) by Neil Howe and William Strauss. They said Generation X had an abbreviated childhood that was insecure and unhinged. This permanently affected the way we see the world.
That’s when I decided to start a blog about Generation X.
The other night we got Chinese takeout. My daughter Bridgette got a fortune cookie that said she had a secret admirer. She was ecstatic with this news.
She asked, “So, who do you think it is mommy?” Next month she turns seven, she believes in fortunes and magic and childhood because of me. This is the legacy of Generation X. Under-protected in childhood, we have raised the most over-parented kids the world has ever seen. We are the amulet for Generation Z., and for the lost generation that we are, I hope history will give us that.
For another story about childhood sexual assault and sexual harassment at school read by post about Mary DuBueno, another latchkey childhood memoir of sorts.
Some Child Abuse Statistics
Did you know there was a strong increase in all forms of maltreatment of children from the mid-1970s into the 1990s? After a short plateau, a decline in sexual abuse decline started in 1992, and the physical abuse decline gained momentum after 1996. The years of the increase occurred during the Generation X years of latchkey childhood, and then declined during the years Generation X began having children.
The Silent Children
In 1980, Lynn Sanford wrote a book called The Silent Children. It chronicles the widespread denial of sexual abuse of Generation X children and a stark unwillingness to acknowledge its significance. Victims, by the way, cut across all classes.
During these years, sexual abuse was never discussed. Children were confused by touches and manipulation. Instinctively, they knew it was inappropriate and damaging, but at the same time, didn’t really recognize it. Moreover, children were threatened with vows of secrecy, which left them more vulnerable to attack, depression, etc. They were without power, knowledge and resources.
Finally, I am a person of faith. God has healed me from many childhood wounds. Nothing has helped me more than The Bible. I like The Message version. I also love The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey.