It took me years to come to terms with what was really happening. When I was 9 years old, I met a boy online, and we quickly became friends. We knew everything about each other - He was 15 when we first met. When I was 10 and he was 16, he asked to be my boyfriend. Being a naive 10 year old girl I said yes. I can’t be mad at her for that. It was innocent at first. Just what you’d expect from a childhood relationship - “I love you, goodnight.” “Hope you’re doing okay.” “Let’s play some games together!” The only difference was that one of us were nearly an adult. Someone who should have known better to not even THINK about being romantically involved with a 10 year old girl. However, it went sour. He started talking to me about sexual subjects. Stuff I wasn’t at all familiar with. He’d make us roleplay situations, what he’d do to me if he got ahold of me in real life. Asking for photos. Guilt tripping me for seeming “off” or uninterested. I began to feel distressed at the time, but I was so young, that wasn’t really an emotion I had felt before. I told myself, this sick feeling must be love. That must be why I feel so nervous, why I feel knots in my stomach when I see his name pop up on my screen. I was very attached to him, at least I thought I was. I was always picked on in school and the few friends I had were awful to me, so he was my only real friend. My worst fear was somehow losing him, and he must have known that I thought that. He took advantage of that, and would guilt trip me at any opportunity to make sure I did whatever he wanted me to. After a while, he broke up with me, but we were still very much so “friends”. We would talk everyday, and he was still just as inappropriate and creepy with me as he was before. Throughout the years, he would begin to talk to me about worse and worse stuff. He explicitly told me about his attraction to children, and that he worked as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I tried to brush it off and keep it at the back of my mind, but I got to tipping point last year when he started to pressure me into meeting with him in real life. It went on for 7 years. I hate to say it, and it makes me sad for the little girl that I was, but the rest of my childhood was stolen from me. I’m 17 now, about the same age he was when we met. The thought of EVER saying the stuff to a 10,11,12 year old that he did makes me feel physically ill. I still haven’t fully processed what happened to me, but I’ve been working on it. I’m yet to cry, at least properly, about it. The thing that sucks about this is that this went on for so long, that it felt completely normal. The people in my life who know all cried when I told them. It felt unfair, really - that they could cry about it. And I’m just stuck in a mindset I’m desperately trying to get out of where this is normal, and I feel completely numb. Recently, I decided I wanted to do something about it. I went to the police. This night, I sent off old screenshots of conversations between us to a detective working on my case. It’s terrifying, being that vulnerable. But I feel obligated to do it. The thought of him being around children all day makes me sick. I don’t care if he doesn’t go to prison - as long as he’s never near a child again I’ll be happy. That’s why I’m doing it. I won’t let shame and embarrassment stop me from doing this, and I especially won’t let my brain tell me he doesn’t deserve punishment. Because that’s exactly what he’d want me to think, too.