Shame, guilt and fear. Those were the things that drove me to silence. A silence that was difficult to break. Once it became my secret it stayed that way for years and it hasn’t been until very recently that I have even shared parts of my story with people that I trust about being molested by a family member when I was young. It has been something that a few people knew about, but I couldn’t say more than it happened. I had been told not to say anything, he told me that I would be in trouble for sharing. He said that if I was a good girl I would keep it a secret. He said that I was a good girl when I listened. He said he was showing me how to be a good girl and that girls do what they are told and like it. He said I would be the one in trouble because I was the one who made him. He said that if I told anyone they would be mad at me and wouldn’t love me. As a kid I just wanted to be good, loved, and didn’t want anyone mad at me.
I knew it was wrong. We were taught about safe touching and how if an adult touches you anywhere private to tell. I heard about it every single year at school. I sat there each time and thought if you only knew. And each time his words played in my head over and over again. And it seemed unreal that I would be able to tell someone and be believed and loved. I thought they were just trying to get me in trouble or find out who had done something bad. I had heard his lies played over and over again in my head that it became a solid truth and reality for me. There was fear that someone would find out, that as they talked about safe touching and telling an adult someone would just look at me and know. So, I just had to be very strong and make sure no one could tell. It was a lot of work carrying that secret around for so long. And it was a big heavy secret growing up as a kid and hearing and facing those voices and memories alone. But I’m not that little girl anymore.
Once it was out and a few people knew I thought that was enough. That I didn’t need to talk about it. So I stuffed it all back away. However, after I was raped that all came flooding back. And as I found a voice in sharing about what had happened with that a part of me wanted to share. But I didn’t have words. I didn’t think I could ever share it. I still felt like that scared little girl who couldn’t say because people wouldn’t love me. They could love me through being raped by a stranger, but molested by a family member, that was something different plus his voice still played. I finally just reached a point where I couldn’t keep it any longer. Where I had to share what happened. And I did with a dear friend and with my counselor. Both times my heart raced, my stomach flipped and flopped, the room felt small and like I couldn’t breathe. But each time I was met with belief, encouragement and love. It took a lot of time of writing and telling myself over and over again that it needed to be heard and that I could be brave enough to share. Courage. It took a lot of courage.
This is what I am working through now, his voice with those lies. Digging in and replacing that with truth. But after carrying it around for over 20 years it’s like changing my view and what I have known my whole life. It has been some of the hardest conversations that I have had because it means those things that I thought no one should know are becoming known. That I have to say what those lies are to face them. It is a place of vulnerability that each time stirs up anxiety. But each time I make it through I know I am getting stronger. I know that I am slowly taking that power back. That I am learning to let God define me, not my past or the lies that have become so comfortable to me. That I have been believed, that in the response of being loved that it has also been expressed a sense of protectiveness and seeing other’s anger at him for me makes it so I can say that wasn’t my fault. That he was wrong.
I came a across a quote this morning that made spurred this post:
“If silence is a predator’s best friend, and if shame and denial are the ingredients that help this epidemic to grow, then how can any of us stay silent? Maybe instead of just focusing on how uncomfortable this conversation is, we could focus on how this is an opportunity to have courage.” Jill Tolles Dear Tayrin Inc.
This is my step of courage today. And for those of you who have been carrying around this secret. You are not alone. I believe that you will get to a place where you will find your courage and be able to share. For those of you who have had the courage to share know that you have encouraged someone else or just by sharing someone else has known they are not alone. If you know someone who has been through this thank you for having that uncomfortable conversation with them and even if it is uncomfortable keep the conversation going and fight for others. Today is action day for Sexual Awareness Month. What kind of action are you going to take? Something as small as posting a statistic or saying you believe someone, educating yourself and others, that is action. Let’s have the uncomfortable conversation and have courage.