Sunday, September 2, 2007

Family Secrets---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 5

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 .

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 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.


Unknown said...

Hi Patricia,
Thanks for your comment on my blog,
In keeping with the tone of your recent writings, you might appreciate this page,
I'm looking forward to perusing your blog, although I can already see that it could be triggering in some ways. It is comforting to find others who deeply know the sadness and terror of keeping the secrets, but who are also forging ahead in hopes of increasing health and peace.
Be blest,
Cari Nightingale

Patricia Singleton said...

As I said on your blog, thank you for your courage, Cari. We all deserve to find peace and joy.

Anonymous said...

The more you write Patricia, the more glimpses of your reality I catch... which helps me to understand a tiny part of what life was like for you.

The beauty of facing such terror and fear in one's life is that it unveils the huge depth of courage we do each possess.

Thank you again...

Patricia Singleton said...

Kara-Leah, you inspired this article with your statements in Part 4 comment section. I wanted you and others to fully understand what it means to be a survivor. I am sure that my feelings and growing can be applied to any kind of abuse situation, not just incest. We all have our own set of fears to face in life. Thanks for your continued encouragement and understanding. Your comments let me know that you do "get" it.

KA said...

Hey patricia, thanks for your comment on my site (

You're dealing with very big issues, these are problems that shoudl be brought out into the public view more often because of who the victims are - children. I applaud your courage in stepping up and sharing your experiences. Maybe you should consider authoring a book on this subject?

Patricia Singleton said...

Katana, thank you. I won't say no to a book possibility further down the road. This is my first experience with breaking the silence on such a big stage.

mike said...

Thanks for your comment on my life attract site. I also have another site that was started for my clients who are parents - I am a social worker and I work with children who have experienced what you have gone through.
I would be interested in your opinions.
Mike S

Patricia Singleton said...

Mike, I will check out your other site. Thanks.

KA said...

Honestly, I'm just happy that you're able to talk. most don't and it keeps people blind to the problem.

Patricia Singleton said...

Katana, before I broke the silence and started talking, I was like a pressure cooker. The pressure would build and build inside me until finally I would have to explode. I would be ok for awhile and then the pressure would start to build again. Over and over, this cycle repeated itself.

Once, I started talking, then I reached out for help and learned to control my anger. More important, I learned to "feel" my anger instead of hiding from it. I could feel it when it was just a small irritation, address it and release it instead of holding it in my body. I am much healthier today because I learned to feel again.

Patricia Singleton said...

Thanks to Andrea Hess for including this article in the Try Commenting - Carnival of Truth #2 found at

Andrea, it is I who have been blessed by your friendship and continued support on my blog. Thank you.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article has been included in the January 12, 2008 edition of Carnival Against Child Abuse found at Bleesed Fearscapes at Thanks Annaleigh for the link.

Patricia Singleton said...

I left out an "s". It should be

Marj aka Thriver said...

Thank you for letting us include this in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. This is honest, emotional, courageous stuff. I know about keeping those secrets: My twin sister and I shared a room for 15 years and were often abused right in front of each other. Yet, we didn't speak of it even once until we were in our late 20's. Amazing what fear and secrets can do, isn't it?

Patricia Singleton said...

Marj, thanks. I know that you know exactly what I am talking about. I remember in my first counseling group a lady talked about how she was in high school before she realized that sexual abuse didn't happen in all families. She thought it was normal. The secrecy can keep us chained in the dark.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article appears in the Carnival Against Sexual Abuse #40 found at the site of Marcella Chester's Abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open found at
Marcella does an excellent job of raising awareness with this Carnival.

Patricia Singleton said...

Marj aka Thriver has included this post in her Carnival Against Child Abuse for February 2008 along with some other great articles. Please feel free to check them out at