“We are only as sick as our secrets” ~unknown
Something is happening within the soul of a number of people I know, or who read my Blog –people who have been sexually abused as children, have grown deeply tired of the secrets, the lies, and especially being a lie to themselves by not speaking up to those who have abused them.
Fifteen years ago, I wrote my mother the letter that I never thought I would have the strength to write, much less send.
Fifteen years ago, I mailed the seven-page letter and I did not die.
Sending that letter was one of the most healing and strengthening moments of my life, and to be able to tell my mother that I remembered the incest, and that she did not stop it, and to continue healing without the validation from anyone in my family, was deeply empowering for me.
When I told my mother it set me free, and in a strange way, I think that deep inside herself, it also set my mother free.
More importantly, when I revealed the deadly secret, it set the little one inside of me free. She was finally able to tell.
If a previous victim of incest or child sexual abuse (or even physical abuse) decides they cannot stand keeping the secret anymore, or carrying on with the family functions and phone calls without shouting out the truth, I want them to know that it does not violate the law of love if you intend no harm, but only wish for the false interaction with the family to end. Lying to yourself helps no one. Pretending only helps them, and will probably keep you sick.
It was very painful being attacked by the keepers of the lie, as I call them, –the people I thought loved me.
I would rather be alone than with people who want to cover up a dirty secret with superficial pleasantries and family make-believe. I prefer animals, nature, and the love of my husband. Animals are especially good company because they do not lie. They are true to themselves, and they do not judge me, or demean me. Animals don’t viciously attack me with personal insults, or cut me out of their life for personal, selfish gain.
I find nature to be extremely healing, forgiving, and ever giving –in spite of what we humans do to nature and the earth, the earth continues to sustain our life and provide us with what we need to survive.
So do I prefer the company of nature and God’s furry creatures over human companionship….absolutely. Do I prefer it over the relationship with my blood relatives? You bet!
“Thank you for sharing your story. You have done what I am trying to do. I want to tell my parents and sister about the abuse, but it is hard. I am afraid of what their reaction will be. I will try to draw courage from you because telling takes more strength than I ever realized” ~A survivor
It does indeed take more strength than we ever realized. But having gone through what I did with my family, and using that experience to help others has given me more joy than any phone calls riddled with false-harmony. More than any Christmas get-togethers (where everyone gets on eachother’s nerves anyway), and certainly more than catering to the comfort of my family by pretending the incest never happened.
I know in my own flesh, blood, and body how badly it feels to speak up and to be cut off. This is the fear every adult survivor has when they contemplate exposing the family secrets.
But I would do it again in a minute, and that is what must be understood.
I cried deeply when I realized there was no real love for me from my sisters to begin with, and it took me about another decade of healing before I finally became strong enough to wake up and realize that my mother never loved me, has never felt empathy for me, and resented me for being born.
But after “mourning” the death of the illusion that my family really loved me, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, threw my shoulders back, and decided that I needed to move on without looking back.
In spite of the excruciating pain I endured when I let the secret out, I would do it again. The family members who want to live the superficial life they have created cannot silence us by denial. Speaking out was the best thing I could have done for my inner child. She was crying out to be heard, and I gave her the chance to finally speak up after thirty years.
Speaking out for me was especially difficult, as well as simultaneously healing, because as a child I was threatened with death if I told. Speaking up and being cut off was just like a death. When one of my sisters threatened, ‘If you tell I will cut you off,’ it was similar to “If you tell I will kill you.”
I had to be strong and not let them break me. Though, I am thankful to those sisters for putting me in touch with what so many victims and survivors go through with family backlash. I could now see why so many survivors and back down from their truth out of fear –fear of not being accepted and not being loved, but I found my strength in the middle of chaos.
I have transformed the pain of being cut off, and the anger at the injustice, into something else. I have turned it into a strength I never knew I had, and will continue to use that power to help others.
Victims and survivors are given the signal “We will only love and accept you if you don’t speak up.” The power of silence is strong, but the power of speaking up is stronger.
It was worth it. The pain I am going through of what my family is doing to me does not matter. In fact it has made me stronger. My sisters have put me in touch with the reality that many survivors face, the denial, anger, hateful words, being called a liar. ~Alethea’s journal 1998
In my family silence was the law, and I broke that law. I would not tolerate pretending nothing ever happened between my father and me. I would not cooperate with the system of denial any longer.
I was sick to my stomach for a week after receiving the ugly family backlash fifteen years ago, but I refused to allow their ugliness to affect me in a negative, self-pitying, shameful, guilt ridden way. I transformed the guilt into something else –a drive to help others find their voice, and to use use their voice in spite of their fear, and in spite of what could happen when they do.
Family members create a fantasy reality world and nothing can penetrate it. One survivor wrote to me, “I think there was a class in their days in school DENIAL 101, and there also must have been a secondary class PERFECTING DENIAL (DENIAL 101 PRE-REQUISITE)”
Another survivor wrote to me, “In my 40′s I wrote a long, frank letter to my father. In it I mentioned a recent suicide attempt and the efforts I was making to dig myself out of the hole.A few weeks later, I got a reply:
“Dear ___, We got your long letter. The weather here is really nice this week…”
Once the secret is out, we cannot cannot expect a healthy response from unhealthy people. If the sexual abuse, or incest, is revealed in a letter, some people may never receive any response at all.
Nearly all of the family members in cases of hidden child sexual abuse and incest, are psychologically dysfunctional, so their responses will be too.
Those who do not respond at all, are protecting themselves from the truth. People don’t like to see, or hear the truth, that threatens the system of what they have created as “good.”
Others have to work out their own issues, in their own time, and in their own way. We each have our own timing in life. For siblings, there may be such deep pain about them also being abused, that they are not willing to face it, so they will not be able to face your abuse either.
If an abuser, or the mother who protected the abuser, does not admit anything, it often means they are unwilling to face their own shame.
When I first came out with the abuse to my mother, I wrote Marilyn Van Derbur. She wrote back to me, “denial is a given in incest families.”
To anyone who has recently spoken out, and who was denied truth:
In my own family, and in talking with many survivors, and doing much reading from others, there is rarely the confession, acknowledgement, regret, apology, or even slight admission that would bring us the small amount of peace that a small grain of truth would bring. What is important is that you were able to break through fear and discomfort and SPEAK what needed to be said, what was long overdue, and what their soul needed to hear. The soul knows the truth, and even if they denied and if they lashed out at you, or if it got ugly, the most important thing is that you used your voice and spoke the truth to them….and they know it…inside. You stood up for yourself. Pain now, but strength will come from this. When we remain silent, they hold our power. You took your power back. LOVE and PEACE, you are awesome.
Please also read my series, Voices from the Bedroom