Warning: Reading the following series may be injurious to your peace of mind. They are intended to be. Without knowledge, we cannot prevent child abuse from happening. Go beyond this point at your own risk. Join me for the painful, frightening, emotional, freeing journey.
Breaking the silence is the most frightening, courageous, freeing thing that a survivor can do for themselves. This is where recovery can begin.
Breaking the silence is the most frightening thing that I have ever done.
For so many years, I kept this really big secret inside of me. I was afraid to tell anyone, afraid that if you knew the real me, you would see how bad I was, how tarnished I was, how ashamed I felt. I believed that I couldn't let anyone know the real me. I thought that there had to be something inherently bad in me for me to keep attracting men who would abuse me in this way. I thought, "Why can't I be good enough or smart enough to stop the incest?" I even thought that God didn't care or He would stop the abuse. Even God did nothing so I must really be bad. These were my constant thoughts.
Finally, when I was seventeen years old, I reach a maturity level where I knew that I was older than my dad - emotionally and intellectually. I knew he was the child and I was the adult. He no longer had any hold over me. His threats meant nothing to me. By this time, I knew he would never tell anyone.
Not everyone is as blessed as I was to finally be able to say, "NO" to the abuse. Eleven more years of living with the silence went by before I had the courage to tell anyone.
Breaking the silence is the most courageous thing that I have ever done.
My younger sister shared with me that she had been fondled by our dad starting when she was about five years old. She and I were spending some time together driving to a small store near her house when she told me this. I, then, told her about the sexual abuse that happened to me as a child.
My sister was the very first person that I ever told about the incest. I was twenty-eight years old and she was twenty-five. I still didn't have the courage to tell my husband of eight years. A few weeks later, my sister came to visit us. In front of my husband, she said something about the incest. My husband immediately demanded to know what she was talking about.
Because of my sister's comment, I was forced into telling my husband. Without my sister making her comments, I don't know when I would have gotten the courage to tell my husband. You see, I was still afraid of what he would think if he knew. I loved this man so much that I was terrified of losing him so I had not shared the depth of my woundedness with him before this time.
Once I saw my husband's reaction, then I had the courage to start being more open about the incest with my sister and my husband. I was still many years away from really beginning to work on my incest issues and to admit how much the abuse was still affecting my marriage and my life.
I had successfully opened the doors of communication between myself and two other people that I cared about. To open that door took more courage than I knew that I possessed at the time.
I was thirty-eight years old when I found an Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) group in Hot Springs, Arkansas where we had moved to a few months earlier. January 1989 was when I finally broke my silence in a big way.
To me, the alcoholism and the incest in my family were so intertwined that I didn't know how to separate the issues. So I went to ACA meetings, and a few months later, to Al-Anon meetings. When I went to these meetings (4-5 a week for several years), I talked and talked and talked about incest and alcoholism interchangably.
I know that some people got tired of me talking about the incest. How do I know? At one meeting a woman and her boyfriend told me to stop talking about my incest all of the time. I went home hurt. I thought about what they had said and then I got angry. I went back to the next meeting and told them that if they had a problem with me talking about my incest issues then it was their problem, not mine. I later came to realize that the woman was an incest survivor herself who had not addressed her issues with her father. For me, my emotions and words were like a dam breaking. Once I started to talk, I didn't stop for several years. My meetings were a safe place for me to work on my incest issues. I will forever be grateful to those ACA and Al-Anon people who taught me about recovery and gave me hope. I truly believe that they saved my life, my sanity and my marriage. It was several years later before I went into counseling.
My dad was an alcoholic who wasn't always drunk when he molested me. Drunk or sober, he was still an alcoholic. Because he was sober, as much as he was drunk, when he molested me, I never blamed the abuse on the alcohol. I have seen many people get stuck in the blaming stage of recovery and when they do, then recovery stops at that point. You have to give up blaming to move forward. In the beginning, it is easy to channel all of your anger, no, make that rage, into blaming the people responsible for abusing you and the people who ignored the abuse. You can even get angry at yourself for being abused, for allowing it to happen. Forgiveness doesn't come instantly, or just because you want it to. For me, forgiveness didn't come for years. (I wrote an earlier article called Forgiveness, Done In Layers at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/forgiveness-done-in-layers.html and another article called Happy Father's Day, Daddy at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/happy-fathers-day-daddy.html . Both of these articles deal with forgiveness.)
Writing this series of articles on my blog is another way that I have chosen to break the silence. Again, I have had to be courageous and to allow myself to be vulnerable to reach out to others who may need encouragement and may need to know that they are not alone. You can break the silence of abuse and become a better person for making the effort.
Breaking the silence has been the most freeing thing that I have ever done.
Breaking the silence has allowed me the freedom of releasing the internal pressure that keeping such a secret can cause. Breaking the silence sometimes allows you to discover things about yourself that you didn't know. Breaking the silence can bring forth memories that you have forgotten.
I have memories of the sexual abuse starting when I was eleven years old. I suspect that the incest started years before that. Why do I think that when I don't have any concrete memories?
In 1992, I had been going to ACA, Al-Anon and open Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings for three years. The Alano Club, a social gathering place for Al-Anon, AA and ACA members, celebrated their 10 year anniversary. The AA group who organized the event asked me to be one of their guest speakers. I agreed. My ACA sponsor would not let me refuse. I had never told my story in its entirity to anyone, including myself, so I brought a small tape recorder along and recorded my talk. I listened to it at home. Next I listened to it with my Incest Survivor Counseling Group. I was shocked at what I heard myself say.
In my talk, I stated that I remembered an image of myself when I was three years old. I was sitting in church with my maternal grandmother. I remember hearing the Assembly of God Preacher talking about the sin of adultry. I knew what he was talking about. Remember, I was only three years old. At three years old, I knew what adultry was. I remember calling myself an adultress, in my mind. Until I gave that talk that day, I had forgotten that day when I was three and called myself an adultress. (Yes, I know, technically, I wasn't an adultress since I wasn't married. In my three year old mind, I was an adultress.) Why would I call myself an adultress? How would a three year old even know what that was? Conclusion: Sexual abuse was probably already happening to me. Remember, this was in the 1950's. We didn't learn about sex on TV or in the movies like the kids do today. Do I have any proof? No. Does that mean it didn't happen? I have my answer. Accept it or not, as you see fit. I don't care.
When I was in my first counseling group, I did some art work, some drawings for the group and a series of paintings that I did on my own and shared with the group. My counselor said that the art work was not what an eleven year old would do. He said they were the work of an eight or nine year old. Another clue? Possibly. So there are clues that seem to say that my years of silence started long before the age of eleven. Can you imagine the pressure that builds up in a person carrying around this kind of secret, especially if you are a child without the coping tools that most adults use. Breaking the silence has given me the freedom to release the internal pressure that keeping a horrible secret causes.
Breaking the silence has given me the freedom of expression without having to continue the lies of secrecy. I truly have the freedom to be the real me who is loved and loving and no longer being shamed into silence. The feelings of guilt and shame are no longer a burden being carried around in what a friend of mine calls my "grief belly". Each time that I have released certain areas of incest issues, I have lost weight, especially in the belly area. I know that when my incest issues are no longer an issue then I will no longer have a weight issue. I will no longer need the extra weight of protection that I carry around my waist and hips.
I now have the freedom of feeling joy and pleasure in my life and in my body. I can feel and express joy about who I am and about how very far I have come. I have the freedom that only comes from truly loving myself as I am. I have the freedom that comes from accepting myself as a whole person that I have grown into. Yes, the incest has had a major impact upon my life and the incest is not who I am. I am free from the stigma of incest.
Breaking the silence has allowed me the freedom to access all of my emotions and to reconnect with all of my body and my self. Accessing and reconnecting with my self has been a lengthy, painful, sometimes joyful process. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Why am I breaking the silence again through this blog? To reach out to others to let you know that life is worth living. You can release all of the pain and tears that you have silently held inside for all of these years.
Breaking the silence is the most frightening , courageous, freeing thing that I have ever done. If I can do it and survive, so can you. I invite you to break the silence.