Understanding Children Can’t Consent. Day 12. (14/16).

We sexualize children a lot and steal pieces of their childhood away.

I was an early bloomer, or whatever they call it and I suffered dearly for it. When I was almost 8, I had tiny pointy breasts that made me embarrassed. When it started to become noticeable, my mum interrogated me, pushing to be sure they didn’t appear because I was sexually active. Yes, the question wasn’t if someone was abusing me but if I was sexually active. As though, at that age, I could decide to have sex. In school, I got teased by my mates and seniors. One time, I walked past a senior who stopped to look at my chest then ask about my age. When I told her, she said "na this small girl don dey get breasts" which is a Nigerian way of saying "how has this little girl started growing breasts". I was the first amongst friends to grow them. I was also the first to start menstruating. And all of these normal experiences as a result of puberty made me a target. The shame I felt for my body was something I learned from adults around. My body was some sort of temptation I needed to handle with care so I don’t entice men. It’s no surprise I struggled to accept I was abused. I was laden with heavy guilt, that my body had caused a man to sin. When the abuse stopped, I apologized to Pastor Ayo for my sin. I was convinced I had to make up for all the wrong my body had done.

Puberty is usually rough but to me, it was extremely difficult. It was around the same time my abuser came into my life and started grooming me. I was suddenly a grown-up stuck in an 8-year-old’s body. He’d say "How can you say you’re a child with such a full chest? I can see your hips. You’re old enough to be married". When the abuse stopped, he went with two stories. The first, I was possessed and was used to seduce him to trap his great destiny. The second, it wasn’t rape and we both “fornicated” because it was destiny. I can’t describe in words how that messed my mind up. I felt responsible for being molested as a child. I prayed to God for forgiveness, for using His temple for sin. I prayed to not be consumed by His wrath because my body was supposed to be His temple. Since I began to unpack this weight placed on me, I’m feeling lighter every day affirming to myself that I couldn’t have consented to sex and marriage with an adult. It wasn’t on me to protect myself. I was a child.

I write this with a heavy heart because even though it should be obvious that children can't consent to sex, they're still treated as sex objects. And it can be easy to simply say, well, all you have to do is cover-up. The reality is, you can wear outfits that fit like a blanket and you'll still be that child with a body men lust after. Children are too young to carry the burden of another person's ungodly desires. The solution to ending child sexual abuse doesn't lie with children, the ones who can pass off as adults or those in diapers. It's not on them to protect themselves. Instead, we need a zero-tolerance for child sexual abuse rooted in the knowledge that " CHILDREN CAN'T CONSENT". Let adults stop staring at children and fantasizing about them. "CHILDREN AREN'T SEXUAL BEINGS". No one is a sexual being unless they consent to be one by agreeing to sexual activity. Since children can't consent, leave them alone and allow them to be children. Protect them from family members who openly make remarks about their bodies. Protect them from men who always want to pick them up and carry them on their laps. Protect them from visitors who can only be affectionate by kissing and touching them. Protect them from adults who send subtle messages reinforcing the idea that they're old enough to be married. Protect them from men who call them wives.

It's too late for me and several other women in the sense that we can't go back in time to change what happened. We'll never know a childhood where we weren't abused. We'll never know a childhood without our abusers in it. The damage has already been done. While it's possible to heal, it's better to not experience it at all. Protect children at all costs. Let them have the childhood they deserve.

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The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

Psalms 103:13 NLT

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