Jumping in with both feet

*TRIGGER WARNING* Child sex abuse….please do not read if you are likely to be triggered. Look after yourself.

Swimming was something that I learnt to do at the age of 7 and I was good at it. I was like a little fish and I couldn’t get enough. Before I knew it I was representing my school against other schools in swimming galas where I even won some races. I also joined a local swimming club which met on Wed evenings at the local pool. I just got better and better. I was fast, fit and lean. I felt free and it was something that I excelled at compared to my brother and sister. It was a first and I loved it.

Those clubs I went to and the practice sessions were freedom. I loved learning new things, adding more lengths to the amount I could already do in one go. I loved everything.

However, my mum and dads friend from church was soon taking us to the pool. I remember my little sister was still in the baby pool and my brother only able to stay in the shallow end of the big pool. But because the lifeguards knew me and I was able to swim well I was allowed to swim to the deep end.

I don’t remember when it first happened, whether it was the first time he took us or after several visits. I don’t even remember if my brother and sister had come with us or if he had taken me on my own.

What I do remember is being in the big pool. It wasn’t very busy. I was at the side having a rest. He came over to me. He looked like he was kneeling, whether he was or not I don’t know. He came up close to me and started to tell me how good I was getting at swimming and how I was toning up really nicely and that if I kept it up I would look athletic and have really strong, sexy looking legs and a really firm butt. I was 9 years old.

I can’t remember whether it was this time or another time. In my head I’ve rolled them into each other and time frames are blurry. What I remember though is him groping me. Telling be to make my butt tense so he could see how firm it was. Getting me to relax leg muscles so he could feel how muscley they were.

I remember one time when he grazed his hand across my chest…  I was virtually flat chested.  I felt unnerved because he had not done that other than over my clothes before.

I swam away. Although I was fast I was not tall and therefore despite trying to escape down to the deep end he kept up and followed me down. I had tried to head for where there were more people because I thought I would be safer.

I remember the change in the temperature as I got into the deeper water. It got darker too and I got this feeling of dread as I got towards the end of the pool. I was out of breath from exerting myself and he was right there. I felt sick. He came up to me and held on to the side with one hand and was treading water with the other. He talked to me like he was trying to help me catch my breath and was being caring. I don’t even know how it happened or anything other than the next thing I felt were his fingers touching me down there. They went under the thin layer of fabric which was my costume and found their way inside me.

I avoided going swimming with him after that. But he took us all the time because he ‘was helping my mum out’. He didn’t come after me every time but almost always something was guaranteed to happen.

The last time I went swimming in a public pool was when I was 14/15. I had gone with my friend not knowing that he would be there. He was charming and funny to my friend. It was busy because it was the summer holidays and my friend thought he was gorgeous. In fact everyone thought he was. He looked like a young Keanu Reeves and you could see all the girls trying to get his attention.

That day despite being flirted with by girls his own age, really pretty girls. He still came over to me and managed to touch me inappropriately.  I don’t know what happened but I remember feeling claustrophobic and I felt sick. I managed to get myself away from him and out of the pool. I told my friend I felt sick and needed to go.

The noise, the smell of chlorine, the way the tiles felt under my feet. The whole thing made me feel overwhelmed and I got really hot and struggled to catch my breath. This was the first time I ever experienced a panic attack.

It was the last time I went swimming for two years. The next time I went swimming I went with a friend and her to goddaughters. There was a wave machine and slides. We lied and managed to be allowed to keep out t-shirts on over our swim wear.

Whilst I did go swimming I never went back to that pool and as time went by I avoided going near public pool. I swam in the sea with my boyfriend, in a private pool when I was on holiday. But swimming was no longer what it had been. I felt vulnerable and exposed. It was like I was a walking advertisement for sex. It felt perverted and how a night club can feel after several drinks with men perving all over you. Undressing you with their eyes.

Last year my daughter wanted to go swimming for her birthday. I didn’t have anything I could wear so I just watched. But that hot, claustrophobic feeling came back and I couldn’t breathe. I had to leave hubby and the kids and come home.

Three days ago hubby had a day off and decided to take the kids swimming. I didn’t have a costume but both the kids have learnt how to swim in the last couple of years and they love it. They love going with their dad but their enthusiasm for the thing that I love has ignited a little spark and I wanted to go too. Hubby and I bought a swimming costume, my first in 19 years and some goggles.

I was really nervous about the whole thing. I was shaking like a leaf. The smell and feel of everything was just so familiar.  But I had my 10 yr old daughter encouraging me. I managed to fight through the fear and memories and focused on my children and husband. For the first time in more than 20 years I went swimming in a public pool and loved it!! I’m seriously unfit and was ready to die at the end of 3 lengths but I had fun and I helped me kids. We bonded a little more.

I am really proud of myself for pushing myself. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if it hadn’t have been for my family. It has made me want to swim again. Use it as a way to get fit again. Someday I hope I’ll be able to go alone and swim lengths like I used to.

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