I was sitting in the bath when I decided to tell her.
I said the words while staring intently at my plump pink knees. I couldn’t look her in the eye because I felt ashamed. Guilty.
It was my fault that the nice old man across the road, who invited kids to play on the swing in his back garden and gave us Quality Streets, had touched me, once on my pants, the second time, underneath. Must have been. Why else would he have done it? He was kind. Wasn’t he?
Even though we had never talked about such thing, I felt the need to confess to my mum. I can’t remember her reaction, so she must have played it right; hidden her shock and anger and reassured me that what he had done was definitely not my fault.
I do remember the police came and I had to tell a WPC exactly where he had touched me. She asked me to use the word we used in our family for a girl’s private parts. My face burned with embarrassment. It still does now when I think of that word, which surely can’t be right.
The man - my abuser - wasn’t charged, but he moved away, presumably to do the same to some other eight-year-old who may, or may not, find the courage to tell her mummy.
The NSPCC’s current campaign, The Underwear Rule, is encouraging parents to ensure their children can talk openly with them, use those family words without embarrassment and understand that their ‘privates are private’ and not to be touched in certain ways by anyone. The charity has discovered half of parents asked had never spoken to their children about the issue of inappropriate touching.
Some may see this as heightening kids’ awareness and potentially robbing them of innocence, but my view is more important to protect them.
One in 20 children will be sexually abused and nine times out of 10, it will be by someone they know and felt they could trust. Like I did. If I’d had one of those talks, I’d have told my mum the first time it happened to me, not the second.