My first encounter with semen, I was eight. My eyes’ first encounter with a fully grown hard-on pulsating penis I was eight. It looked like a dark writhing monster with a swollen red head, like a bright red cherry cut open, the colour of an open wound.

But these moments happened separately because sexual abusers are skilled in slow manipulation and steady escalation of physical contact. I share the semen incident because it happened first.

Only now it occurs to me that I never saw said penis much because he was always pressing down on my pelvis and legs, and my head was almost always looking up at the ceiling. If my head wasn’t looking up, it was to the side, checking the door in case someone walked in on the whole shameful thing. He was 17 or 18 I couldn’t have known the specifics. His beard was already sprouting and his penis was just huge. Before I actually saw it, I knew it was huge because when we all had to sleep in the same room, he would press it up against my bum, or make me touch it under the blankets.

No one ever questioned the wisdom of putting an adolescent boy in the same room as young girls. It was partly our Black way of thinking – all the children are our children, they are all the same, they share everything and the older ones take care of the younger ones. Well, during the day, the older one would find ways to sneak me into a bedroom when the adults were gone and hump me fully clothed. I suspect his sister who was just two or three years younger than him knew what he was doing and chose not to walk in on it.

She knew. I am convinced she knew because on the night of the semen she was sleeping on the bed and we were on the floor. Admittedly, she was very fast to doze off and snore, but I think her snoring was often a cover. The television was on; we were watching a late night film, we hadn’t switched off the lights. We weren’t really watching; it was just buying time for her to sleep. It bothered me that the lights in our room were on because I knew what was coming and was afraid the adults would come in and ask us, the children, why we were up so late and catch us our sordid acts in the full glare of the light.

He was sleeping in our room again because another activist was on the run from South Africa and his room was the only one available. I felt a bit uneasy because late into the night, she still hadn’t switched off her light, her baby was keeping her up, it was hot so she left her door open. I hoped he would be sensible and extra cautious that day. He always set it up so I ended up next to him. That night it had been, “Let’s stay up and watch films, why don’t you get off the bed so you don’t disturb ——- (his sister) when she wants to sleep.” I always obliged, so I went on to the floor and we watched the television from his temporary sleeping area.

When the moment seemed right, with his sister snoring on the bed, and with the sound of the television acting as an alibi for the pretence of innocent late-night activity, he rolled up on top of me like he normally did.  But this time, he escalated things. He unzipped his pants and my instincts told me exactly what his intentions were. Although I can’t remember exactly what he did in the seconds that followed, I remember the feeling of panic that came over me because I was afraid we would get caught. The woman next door was still tending to her baby; I knew her door was open. I was scared she would get curious and perhaps walk in to ask why we were up so late. I feared that his sister would wake up to go to the toilet. But what I feared the most was that that night he would actually put it inside and have sex with me.

On the floor, on my eight year old back, I looked straight up to his eyes, hoping he would read my panic and anxiety at where he was now taking the whole thing; but he was unrelenting. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught his sister’s face on the pillow at the edge of the bed, lips parted and snoring, I didn’t want to waken her, so I whispered “Please don’t do that. I’m going to fall pregnant.” So he whispered back, “No don’t worry that only happens to grown girls like —— (his sister).”  No, no you don’t know that it can also happen to me! I wanted to plead reason because I had read in the paper a story about an eight year old somewhere falling pregnant. But I didn’t want to speak too much in case my voice betrayed us, so I just quietly said “No no Sbu no” I tried to keep my legs tightly together.

We battled for my underwear for a few seconds. He won and threw it under the bed; I looked to the side anxiously because I wanted to know where to find it after the whole thing. I don’t know what happened after that because I can only remember the light on the ceiling, the worries in my head, his weight. Flashes of unreal, slippery and foreboding thought coursed through my body and converged hot in my head. I don’t know… the light was bright, the chattering television, the grumpy baby in the next room, his sister snoring on the bed…

I was ready for anything.

But, very suddenly, he rolled off me, onto his side and made a grunting noise.

When his weight came off me, I sat up very quickly and saw a whitish blob on the carpet. I knew what it was and where it had come from; I don’t know how. He got up and went to the bathroom, leaving the damning evidence behind. I hoped he would return quickly to wipe it away; we always had to remove traces of these acts. I did my part by looking frantically under the bed, but it was dark there and I couldn’t find the underwear. I got onto the bed, careful not to wake his sister, and hoped it would be easier to spot my entangled panty in the morning light. The next morning, I remember that when I woke up and saw that the white blob had disappeared, I was just very relieved.