Everybody’s Aunt

Mention of details of an occurrence of sexual abuse.

When you grow up being told on numerous occasions that you remind people {{your twelve year old peers}} of their aunt… it sort of stays with you. I’m not saying it’s the worst thing that could happen in adolescence, but coupled with a few other things, I’ve come to realize it might have played a role in shaping my self-image. As an actual aunt in the present day, I can say, of course it is an absolute compliment. I know in saying it, those kids were not intending to offend me, but I was already aware of my “different-ness” and I did not like that they saw me as anything other than a kid.


The first time a peer said this to me, I was at someones birthday party in a finished, suburban basement, and my body was just starting to develop. For me this meant a rapid growth of hips and breasts, which by comparison to my classmates development, I might as well have been an adult. It was around the same time that I was wholly aware of catching my abuser’s eye every time I was in his presence. I know this, despite having tried to push those memories out of my head for so long, because pictures of me at this age almost always include fleece vest wearing. They were a popular trend in my pre-teen years and I had several of them. This item of clothing sticks out in my head because one of the times he abused me, I was wearing one of these vests. A black one.

On that particular night, I was in a car with family, on our way to one of those kid-casino restaurants like Dave & Busters. He abused me under everyones nose in the backseat of that car. I remember trying to get him to touch my breast under the vest so that his actions would be more visible to the other people in the car. I remember thinking there was something wrong with me when he didn’t want anything to do with my breasts, and continued with his hand in my pants. I remember wondering how this was happening without anyone, adults nor cousins, acknowledging or saying anything. Was the dark night sky really that dark that no one could see? I remember feeling very small. When we arrived at the destination, I pretended as if nothing had happened, and tried to enjoy being a kid with my cousins. I truly believed this was my only option. Though, I wonder now, if I was actually more afraid of what would happen if I did speak up. Or what wouldn’t happen, further confirming my suspicion of not being worthy of defense and protection. The thought of this night churns my stomach, not only because I was abused, but almost more because of the silence. The power that his actions had over me, to silence me, to make me deny being my authentic self, being honest. The thought of my young self trying to ignore what had just happened and play. That churns my stomach because I know how absolutely painful and damaging it was to my mind, body and spirit.

At that birthday party, where I was compared to an adult woman, I chewed on it carefully processing all the potential innuendos…I’m fat, I’m not fun, I’m not cool, I’m someone else hiding in this pre-teen body, I’m… not like the other kids. This comment, it wasn’t an epiphany or traumatic or a turning point in my life. In fact, I didn’t remember it (or recognize a pattern) until I was much older and began reflecting with a more honest and healthy lens on my childhood and upbringing. I do, however, remember it occurring multiple times in peer settings well throughout my twenties. It perpetuated my constant fear of being unlike others and above all of being judged. It made me feel like an outcast, and I can remember going out of my way to prove being a kid, like them.

As an HSP, I couldn’t understand the dynamic. I could never understand why I was different from others. I could never understand why my ideas, which were (and continue to be) outside the box, were often shot down with ease. I could never understand why I would spend so much time, thought and effort into putting myself in others shoes, and then articulating my understanding of others perspectives as well as my own. Yet, in return receiving most times only, “Wow, yes, I’m so glad you get it!” I remember thinking I must not be communicating correctly, that there was something wrong with the way I approached these things and that was why I wasn’t getting back what I was giving out. Always assuming responsibility for this and many things, including the abuse.

As a sexual abuse survivor, I was petrified with this “remind me of my aunt” thing being a visible scar. A physical, energetic scarlet letter which gave me away, sure to freak out and disgust peers. For years, wondering, “was I a target for the abuse because I reminded him of a woman? Or was this differentness a result of having been targeted by an old man?”

As a 30 year old woman, after years of therapy and unpacking the deep wounds that sexual abuse leaves, I’ve finally embraced my otherness. I’ve finally been able to work through enough of the abuse trauma, that I can begin seeing, accepting and loving all the other parts of me that were left to the wayside in order to focus on the more pressing issue of trauma. I’ve embraced my Aunt-like qualities and I am entirely fine with being called everybody’s Aunt. I see why I was compared to women in their 30s 40s and 50s. I was introspective, sensitive, I didn’t like angry competition, I wanted everyone to get along, I got mad at classmates for acting immature and disruptive. I was sensitive to their needs, wants and desires, I was comfortable to be around, and I was generally inclusive.

{One caveat: This was how I was for much of my childhood, but I will be honest in saying that I most definitely went through more than one phase where I was ill-spirited and mean to other people for their differences. I remember, particularly, making fun of a girl for being tall. I was not, am not, and never will be perfect and I will never claim to be such.}

Throughout my youth and adulthood, I’ve been told that I’m an “old soul” and have “wisdom beyond my years,” which I never really took as a compliment. In fact, I honestly viewed it as another reason for being different. Of course now, I view it as one of my strengths and superpowers. But, to be honest, it was (still is) a little lonely. But I know now, it is lifelong part of my journey on this earth.




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