Swimming Pool

There are some places we may assume are safe, but no place is absolutely safe. I learned this lesson when I was 16.

I lived with my mother and stepfather in a very large apartment complex. The layout of this complex included about a half dozen, two-story apartment buildings, all surrounding a swimming pool. One might think a swimming pool encircled by all those eyes, ears, and windows, would be a safe place for a dip in the chlorinated water.

Not so.

My mother and stepfather decided to have a pool party. My stepbrother and his wife, and a couple of my stepfather’s friends and their wives, attended this soiree. The festivities began with beer and snacks, inside our tiny apartment’s living room. After the mind-debilitating effects of the poisonous alcohol began working its magic, the revelers debouched from our small habitat and headed for the pool.

It was a cool, overcast day in San Diego, that November afternoon. All the other tenants were snuggled indoors near their wall furnaces. So we had the lukewarm pool to ourselves.

A volleyball net bisected this outdoor natatorium, and one of the tipplers grabbed a volleyball and called for a game. Sure, what the hell, they all shrugged. I joined half of them on the shallow end, while the other half squared off against us on the deep end. I didn’t swim well, so I was glad to be on the side where my feet could touch the concrete.

After a few sets of knocking the ball around, things began to drag. No drunk at a party can stand for that, so somebody livened up the action, and I got one of the shocks of my life. My stepbrother sneaked up behind his dad, grabbed his swimming trunks and yanked them down.

I gasped. My stepfather was a prideful, crosspatch of a man, whose sense of humor did not abide this sort of affront. Especially when he’d been drinking. I expected a harsh backlash that would spell a sudden end to the party. So I got my next shock when he responded with laughter and just pulled his trunks back up, with a grin.

Next thing I knew, everyone was getting pantsed in the water. Except me. I was 16, and very shy about my body. I felt mortified about the prospect of my bare ass being exposed, even if underwater. So I held on tight to my trunks whenever anyone approached, especially from behind. There were a few abortive attempts, but the pranksters soon realized that I meant business, and gave up.

After about a half-hour of this frivolity, the drunks were ready to get out of the pool and go back inside where the beer was. But I opted to remain in the water. I’d been learning to swim, and wanted to practice a few laps.

One of my stepfather’s friends also decided to stay behind.

He was a big, husky man in his early-40s. He trained greyhounds to race at the nearby Agua Caliente racetrack, in Tijuana. And he had lived for awhile in the motel near the border, that my family had managed, until we moved to this apartment complex a few months before. That’s how he had become friends with my stepfather.

He was always friendly to me, but I tried to avoid him. He was a little too friendly, and I’m wary of people like that. And he talked about sex a lot, whenever he was visiting my stepfather. I thought he was a little weird.

But he kept to himself, in the pool, and I was able to swim my laps without much interaction with him. I felt safe there. After all, this was a public place, surrounded by many homes.

I was improving at swimming, and enjoyed getting in a little practice. But finally I tired of this exercise, and headed for the ladder at the deep end. I didn’t notice him swimming up from behind.

Halfway up the ladder, he yanked my swimming trunks down, then threw his arms around my waist. He pulled hard on me, trying to get me off the ladder. I shouted a protest, something like, “Hey, I don’t want to play that game! Let me go!” But this was no game. There was no laughter. He just kept pulling on me.

I felt terrified. I instinctively realized that if I reached down for my swimming trunks, he’d be able to drag me off the ladder and into the deep water. There, I would be helpless for whatever he was planning, which I could only imagine with dread. So instead of reaching for the trunks, I wrapped my arms around the bars of the ladder and held on tight while shouting, “Help!!!”

I cast my gaze desperately about, at all the windows of all those apartment buildings. Surely someone would hear me, peer through their window, and see what was going on. There was no way this creep could get away with this in broad daylight, in such a public place.

But to my dismay, nobody responded to my cries for help. No alarmed faces appeared in windows. It was as if the apartment complex was abandoned. Nobody came to my rescue. I was alone in my struggle against this assailant.

He angrily commanded me to let go, but I held on tight to my one and only savior. The ladder. He was much stronger than me, but when you wrap your arms around the bars of a swimming pool ladder, it probably requires a team of mules and a crowbar to pry you off.

Finally he must have realized I wasn’t going to budge. And that the longer I kept yelling for help, the greater the chance somebody would hear me and catch him in this criminal act. So he released me and swam away.

I instantly pulled my trunks up and scrambled up the ladder. Then I fled, running for the safety of my apartment. Once inside and safe, I headed for my bedroom without saying a word to any of the drunken partiers.

I figured nobody would believe me anyway. Hell, they’d take his side. And I realized he could pass this off as a misunderstanding, arising from an innocent continuation of the pantsing game. I felt no confidence that my mother or stepfather would take me seriously.

I heard him enter the apartment a few minutes later and tell his wife that it was time to go home. I stayed in my bedroom until I was sure they were gone.

He was a smart one. He’d been around my stepfather long enough to realize what an abusive asshole he was. So he must have calculated that I was an easy target. When kids have a bad relationship with their parents, they rarely share their vulnerabilities. An embarrassing thing like an attempted rape is nothing one would want to divulge to a person who has belittled and demeaned them most of their life.

So my stepfather’s friend was safe. I never told on him. This left him free to find new targets and new victims. I regret that, but at the time I felt too afraid to talk about it to anyone. I trusted nobody.

I finally told my sisters about it when I was 53. And they understood, because they had been molested as children also. I was just another member of the club. Though not a full member, like them. Their predators had succeeded, so I was pretty fortunate. They shared some of their experiences, and their stories were much more horrifying than mine. I felt aghast at what some men do to children. And these men were trusted family members.

I doubt our society will ever be rid of the crime of child molesting. I think it’s been going on for thousands of years, and will likely continue for thousands more. But I believe there are things parents can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening to their little loved ones.

I think one of the best ways is to always maintain a strong level of mutual trust. When it’s clear to family members, friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances that the children of a household feel safe to tell their parents anything, I think those children are far less likely to become targets.

And of course another way, is to never assume that a public place is a safe place.

50 comments

  • When my children were small, I told them that if someone touched them where their swimsuit covers, to let me or Dad know right away. We’d get them to stop. I never thought of grooming, because I hadn’t been taught that it was part of the process, though I had experienced it myself.

    I agree with you about the near impossibility of keeping child molestation from being a part of most children’s experience, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry you experienced that. Hopefully it didn’t happen to your children. I don’t know what the percentage is of children being molested, but if you include attempts at it, I’m sure it’s very high.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I too had a similar experience, in that I was approached by a man on Kings Cross station (London) when I was there on my own in the early hours one morning (I was sleeping on the station at the time). I was fortunate though because when I rejected his attempt to touch me, he just backed away. Kings Cross is a 24 hour “operation” so I guess he knew that if I made a noise, I would get some attention. I understand that the % of young boys approached by adult males for a sexual encounter is quite high. What is wrong with our species?

    Liked by 2 people

  • wow – that must have been scary. I’m happy for you that it went no further, but I feel bad for your sisters. I can see why you have such a strong dislike to alcohol.

    Fortunately, I have never experienced such situations, but I can see how important trust is between children and parents. I’m confident my parents and I had such a relationship, and I hope my children felt the same way about my wife and I when they were younger.

    Liked by 2 people

  • also, you taught me a new word – debouched…

    Liked by 2 people

  • I can’t hit the like button on this post because there is nothing to like about a story of molestation (attempted or otherwise). I am so sorry you had to go through this, TG. I think you are bang on about how these predators pick their victims. And I don’t blame you for not saying anything. I too learned not to say anything because somehow I would either be not believed or considered at fault. And I was one of the “lucky” ones too, with only unsuccessful attempts being made.

    Deb

    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

  • You made my eyes tear up with this post. Good for you in hanging onto that ladder with all your might and yelling! So glad that it made the man give up!
    My heart again goes out to your sisters and how sadly they were not able to escape.
    Child molestation has to be one of the most heinous crimes in the world today and I wish it could be wiped out for good!!
    The after affects of the trauma stays with a child forever. They can overcome it, but the scars are always there and seeing your child suffer with that, is one of the hardest things to go through as a parent! Knowing you weren’t able to protect them.
    Good points in your post! We always warn our kids of strangers, but the majority of child molestation cases are by family and friends which is even more sickening to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s gotta be hell, knowing your child has gone through something like that. But it can be a difficult crime to prevent when the perpetrator is from your own family, or a friend.

      I haven’t had any scarring from it, but my attacker was unsuccessful. But I do know my sisters suffered some lasting trauma. Apparently it can be pretty tough deal with.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is! But it does no good to beat yourself up, like you said, it is really hard to protect, when its family or a friend. Your guard is down for you trust them! And your kids trust them because after all Mom and Dad liked them and they wouldn’t like someone bad!
        I am just very glad that my daughter did finally spill the secret so that her abuser can be in prison now, where he belongs!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yeah, if Mom and Dad like them, then they must be okay. Predators can be very clever in sensing that. But it sounds like your daughter’s abuser miscalculated.

          Liked by 1 person

          • He miscalculated her and me! During the investigation , he and told me over the phone that I should just forget all this and walk away. Just walk away! I can still hear the coldness in his voice when he said it.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Wow, that’s chilling. Sounds like he had no remorse or regrets whatsoever.

              I have a nephew serving a very long sentence for child molesting. He recently came up for parole. The parole board was very helpful in their questioning, giving him every chance to express regret and provide reassurances that he’d never do something like that again. Instead, he kept maintaining that he didn’t see anything wrong with it. Amazing. Needless to say, he was denied parole.

              Like

              • No remorse at all and I can’t wrap my head around it!! Sadly your nephew sounds very similar.
                Having remorse would still not fix the damage he did BUT it would help just to know that he regrets the pain he caused. I had to come to terms with the fact that I will NEVER understand what he was thinking and why he did what he did! And that it doesn’t look like he will ever apologize, short of a miracle!

                Liked by 1 person

  • I’m horrified by the behavior of your family “friend” and glad you managed to escape. When you said you yelled and no one paid any attention, it reminded me of a car alarm going off and no one paying any attention because it’s such a common occurrence. They say it is more common to be molested by a person you know than by a complete stranger, and that children don’t tell because they are ashamed, or because the abuser has threatened them with something worse if they tell. Therapy can be a great help. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are sooo right Joan about people just turning a blind eye, like they do to car alarms.
      And that it is far more common to be done by someone you know! Its just horrible! If punishment would include castration, it might deter people more, but apparently that is inhumane!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hope someone yelling “Help” real loud would be less common than one of those annoying car alarms. It was a cool day, and I think everyone had their windows shut. I doubt anyone heard me.

      I agree that it’s people you know who are most likely to commit the crime, as it is often a crime of opportunity.

      I probably could have benefited from some therapy way back then, but the attempted rape would have been among the least of issues. There was a whole lot worse going on in my life.

      Liked by 2 people

  • I have a close relative who will remain unidentified, and with whom I have only very limited contact anymore. He has become very “born again”. One thing I do respect about him, however, is that when his son reported to him that the much older son of their church pastor was molesting him, he immediately reported it to the police and found a new church to attend. It takes courage for kids to cry for help, and it represents desperation. Adults that don’t recognize this are in my opinion party to the crime.

    Over the years, I’m always stunned to hear how many of my friends endured creepy uncles or friends or babysitters or… I don’t know if I was just lucky, or if it was a cultural thing, or perhaps my bad attitude simply elicited a modicum of fear. To be honest, by age 13, I might very well have killed anyone who attempted to assault me… definitely would do so now. About the closest experience I’ve ever had was encountering a “chikan” (creepy groper) on a crowded Japanese train. I don’t think he realized that I was an American.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It can seem amazing how some kids will put up with creepy relatives without saying anything. However, they must feel very confident that they will be safe saying something. One of my sisters once told my mother that our stepfather had been touching her in certain places. My mother came unglued and beat the crap out of my sister, and told her to never say things like that again. So there you go.

      Maybe you were very physically fit by age 13, and really capable of killing someone. I think smart predators try to avoid going after such dangerous targets.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So glad he believed his son!! I agree about being a party to.the crime when adults don’t believe a child’s cry for help.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Ugh, 😦 my heart aches so much for you and everyone who went through such horrible time like you. So glad to know he didn’t succeed. The a-hole 😡

    Liked by 2 people

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