In this series, I have been talking about "breaking the silence" for several weeks. In my last article, K-L left a comment that said, "The biggest clue for the insidious nature of the abuse came for me when I read that you didn't tell your sister until you were in your late 20's . . ."
K-L went on to say, "I just can't imagine . . . because it says so much about the huge amount of blame and responsibility you must have taken on as a child for this happening to you.
Why should the abused be afraid to speak up, be afraid to stand up, be afraid at all . . . ?"
You can find the article which inspired this comment at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/08/breaking-the-silence-incest-may-be-part-of.html .
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, "Secrecy is the practice of sharing information among a group of people, which can be as small as one person, while hiding it from others. That which is kept hidden is known as the secret."
Under "Natural and sociological secrecy" Wikipedia continues, "Humans attempt to consciously conceal aspects of themselves from others due to shame, or from fear of rejection, loss of acceptance, or loss of employment. On a deeper level, humans attempt to conceal aspects of their own self which they are not capable of incorporating psychologically into their conscious being. Families sometimes maintain 'family secrets', obliging family members never discuss disagreeable issues concerning the family, either with those outside the family and sometimes even within the family. Many 'family secrets' are maintained by using a mutually agreed-upon construct (an official family story) when speaking with outside members. Agreement to maintain the secret is often coerced through 'shaming' and reference to family honor." This information plus more comments about secrecy can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secrecy. This description of secrecy could have been written about my family.
Here are some of the lies and secrets that I grew up with.
1. Having sex with him meant my daddy loved me.
2. What we were doing was a secret that I couldn't tell anyone, especially my mother.
3. As long as I did what I was told then Daddy would still be faithful to my mother rather than going out with other women. He told me this.
4. My dad told me when I was older that men only wanted one thing from women and that was sex.
5. Sex was shameful and something that you did in secret.
6. Girls should not have babies unless they were married.
7. Pregnant was a dirty word.
8. Protect my mom from being hurt, at all costs.
9. Grown-ups are always to be obeyed, no matter what they tell you to do.
10. Never let anyone see you cry. Tears are a weakness.
11. No one was allowed to get angry except Daddy.
Yes, as K-L said, the secrets of incest are insidious. Incest affected every part of my life. I learned not to trust anyone, including myself. If you grow up in a safe and loving environment, then you learn to trust. I didn't.
Instead, I learned to fear. I can't tell you how old I was when I learned to be afraid. Because I lived in constant fear, I wasn't even aware of it until the night that I decided that I had to leave home or lose my mind. I was 19 years old. Fear had kept me home longer than most young adults.
I recognized fear for the first time on a Friday night. Daddy had been drinking since he got home from work around 6:00 p.m. I don't remember specifically what my sister was supposed to have done that my dad got upset over that night. Most of the time, if my dad and sister were together in the same room, an argument would start. My sister was a typical rebellious teenager in the early 1970's. With our family life, she was given plenty of reasons for rebelling. I remember that she smarted off at my dad trying to defend herself from his verbal attack.
Daddy decided that he was going to use his leather belt and whip her with it. This whole incident took place in my mother's kitchen. My mother, brother and I were present listening to the argument between my dad and sister. When dad started taking off his belt, I stepped between my dad and sister. He told me to get out of the way. I told him that I wasn't going to allow him to hit my sister with that belt. He told me that he would whip me instead.
For the first time ever, in my life, I smarted off and told him to go ahead if he thought he was big enough. My mom and brother then stepped between dad and me. Daddy hit my brother with two swings of the belt before my mom could stop him.
My sister and I ran out the back door and around the house and down the road. We didn't know what to do. We just ran down the road away from Daddy and his rage.
It was at that moment, running down a dark, empty, country road, with no where to go and no one to run to, that I felt and knew terror for what it was. At that moment, I knew that I had lived in terror for a long time and hadn't recognised it for what it was before that night. When we realized that we had no where to go and we couldn't run anymore, we walked back home and went to bed. The next day was "normal" with no one talking about the night before.
So, for me, terror was the biggest secret of all. I had not been aware, before that night, that terror had been my constant companion. I now had the awareness.
Many more years passed before I had the tools to face the terror and begin to whittle it down to a manageable size. In an ACA meeting, I admitted to myself and everyone else that the fear that I was carrying around was this blackness that filled the entire room that I was in. The weight of it had been almost more than I could bear at times. That was the night that I began releasing the fear. Small bit by small bit, I chipped away at the fear. Today, fear is no longer my constant companion. I have learned that facing the fear is well worth any minor discomfort. Each time that I face my fear, I become stronger than I was before.
If I got sidetracked from my original point of the story and confused you, I apologize. When I start to write about the incest, I have learned to go where the story takes me. All of this needs to be shared so that others can understand and heal from that understanding, starting with myself. Thank you all for taking this painful journey back to my childhood with me. If one person sees themself in my story and starts to heal because of it, then revisiting this pain is worth the trouble and the loss of sleep on my part.