Sex abuse attempt happened 50 years ago, ‘but I can still remember’

Sex abuse attempt happened 50 years ago, ‘but I can still remember’

The author, Bella Santos Owens, at five years old in her Marilao, Bulacan home. CONTRIBUTED

TOWSON, Maryland — I remember vividly. It was a sunny morning, and I was playing on the veranda of our house in Marilao, Bulacan. I was sitting on this low table while playing with my doll.

I remember his cheap cologne and scratchy stubble on me like it was just yesterday.


Our male helper, who must have been in his 20s, started talking to me and then started kissing my arms, shoulders, and neck. Someone came and he stopped. I was around five years old then because I was not in school yet.

I told my mom that evening. As I remember, I told my mom in a conversational manner and not like I was scared. I just knew something was not right. I remember my mom was calm, but I sensed her being upset. I was the youngest, and the only girl, of four siblings. So, as you can imagine I was very protected in my family.


I never saw him again after that day.

My mom and I have always been very close, I told her everything. Looking back, I told my mom, a full-time housewife then, easily because I was a child and I did not associate it with embarrassment but rather more a question of why he was touching me.

As I grew older I remember that I was touched inappropriately, but unconsciously I tried to erase it from my memory. I never talked about it with anyone until this past weekend. I told my husband and children. And up to this day, I had to ask my husband and children’s permission if it is okay with them that I share this with the outside world.

With her family–husband, Floyd Owens, and children, Michael and Ayana. CONTRIBUTED

Recent news about sexual abuse and #whyIdidnttell made me remember what happened to me, and like everyone else who has been through any kind of sexual trauma, it makes you remember. I just told a therapist my story and personal aversion to anything furry-like or soft touching me, I never thought that this may have stemmed from what happened to me 50 years ago.

Now I feel a certain kind of relief that while it happened to me, it is okay to talk about it. Last night I shared it with my closest cousin who is like a sister to me, and this is what she texted back: “You are BRAVE. You are ADMIRED. You did not create the ugly story BUT you will write the ending 50 years later. Silenced no more! Now, u are part of the strong women that are rewriting history. I CELEBRATE YOU!”

I was 5 years old then and it has been 50 years ago, but I still remember. I decided to tell my story because I advocate for women, but I was embarrassed to admit my story — now this is my story! #whyIdidnttell

Bella Santos Owens is the chairwoman of the newly formed Baltimore County Human Trafficking Work Group, created by an executive order of the Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on January 25, 2018, to address the complex issue of human trafficking. She also served as the president of the Baltimore County Commission for Women for six years, and remains a commissioner member of the board. She lives in Towson, Maryland with her husband, Floyd. They have two children: Michael, a Fire Protection engineer, who is based in Virginia; and Ayana, an art director, who is based in New York. @The FilAm

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TAGS: #whyIdidnttell, abuse survivors, attempted sex abuse, Baltimore County Human Trafficking Work Group, Bella Santos Owens, Brett Kavanaugh, child sex abuse
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