He wasn’t supposed to be there. I don’t recall exactly why. If I think about it hard enough, his stop should have been a mile back. The bus was nearing my house, and I was at least slightly concerned.

He wanted our attention so badly. He was a bully, a clown. He was also capable of being very mean. I think he was held back, or at least he was large for his age. I was small.

5th percentile small. Off the charts small. They actually drew my line in the margins when I went to the doctor.

I don’t recall exactly how it began, or why. All I know is that I recall being very scared as he moved around, hoping that I would be safe. He sat down next to me.

He sat down next to five of us, boys and girls alike, all in turn. In the third grade, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. We were bundled up like snowmen, but the intent was unmistakable. Possessive, hostile, hurtful.

We got off the bus, but he still wanted to play. He called after us. We ran to our parents.

We spent the next day in very serious tones, talking to the adults. I think we all cried.

In many ways, we were lucky. He was already a problem child, we were the good kids. Our parents held clout, and there was no doubt what would happen once we told. All together, we were believed.

We shouldn’t have been lucky. Luck, privilege, should have nothing to do with being believed as a survivor of sexual assault. The right thing to do is not a scarce good to be doled out to the “right” victims, and withheld from the bad. Nobody deserves to be hurt like that, everyone deserves compassionate response after trauma.

I say this mostly because of what I have learned with age. A 3rd grader does not accidentally sit down next to fellow children on a bus and violate them. This is learned behavior. I didn’t see him for years…and while he still struck terror into me every time I saw him, it was accompanied by a growing and sickly sense of compassion.

One that did not forget my pain. One that did not demand anything. But one that told me that whatever he had done to us, had been sown in his life tenfold. I pass his house sometimes, small and rundown. I pray that he has healed. I pray that the evil done in that place might somehow be undone.

-sly

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