“What pedophiles have going for them is silence.”~Robert Curle, father of ten year-old Jeffrey –killed by two pedophiles 1
When Oprah Winfrey was nine years-old, she was placed in the care of her nineteen year-old cousin, and even placed in the same bed with him by the adults in Oprah’s family. Her cousin subsequently raped her. Afterwards, he took her out for an ice cream cone and told her not to tell. She didn’t.
Oprah kept her secret hidden for twelve years.
Oprah feels, and I agree, that the act of sex is not so much what destroys the victim, but the secrets, lies, and as she says, “who you have to become in order to bury that inside yourself.” Oprah feels the shame of being a “bad girl” is more emotionally devastating to the child than the molestation and rapes.
Even in her early forties, Oprah believed she was at fault for the rape. An interviewer asked her if she knew what was happening during the assault. Oprah said, “You are never the same. You’re no longer a child even though you don’t know what this horrible thing was that happened.”
Oprah went on to describe the pain of enduring the dark secret, the nightmares, and the visions about the abuse, but having no one to talk to.
Oprah was repeatedly sexually abused by friends of the family for five years after the original rape, and during the entire time, she never let anyone know what was happening to her. 2
“Denial is the great drug of the United States”~ Actor David Keith –quoted outside the Michael Jackson child molestation trial
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation poses an absurd question, “Unexplained is why the child made no effort to avoid the alleged perpetrator or the circumstances in which the alleged abuse occurs.” 3
Of course, it’s so logical. A small vulnerable child, who is being victimized by a parent four times their size, should just avoid contact with the perpetrator. Problem solved!
Do members of the FMSF feel that a four year-old child should have just run away from home? Perhaps a three year-old should simply have fought off her 200 pound father? Certainly a seven year-old should be able to evade being raped.
The FMSF also questions the victim, and calls them liars, by asking why teachers, doctors, baby-sitters, or other relatives didn’t know about -or suspect- any abuse. 4
Siblings were often being abused themselves. Even the ones who weren’t being sexually abused, still conformed to the silence within the family.
The system of denial even affects extended family members. Even if outside relatives visited the home, they would have to be in the same room while the crime is being committed to become aware of any abuse. Even then, outside relatives often turn their heads.
In addition, people who are sexually abusing their children, certainly don’t take them to the doctor to be examined for sexual abuse. Even if the child is given a routine exam, they often don’t show physical signs of sexual abuse –even if they are being penetrated by the perpetrator.
And no one can expect any child to disclose the abuse to a family doctor, an authority figure, who is part of the parent’s world.
Even if relatives do observe anything suspicious, they don’t say anything because they dread uncomfortable conversations or don’t want to get involved in any kind of criminal or civil action against a family member.
I just saw a mother on the Anderson Cooper show, speak of finding blood in her one year-old daughter’s diaper. She got a confession from her husband. He swore he would never do it again. The mother allowed the girl’s father to stay with the family, and again caught him molesting her daughter a few years later. She confronted him again, got another confession, and continued to keep him in in the home becasue her minister told her to give her husband more sex and to keep the family secrets. The daughter was sexually abused by her father until she was fifteen.
If a child’s own mother isn’t going to stop child sexual abuse, then why the hell would anyone expect siblings, and other relatives, to do something?
My father got away with the incest because he had the cooperation of the collective consciousness of denial in my entire family, including me.
As an adult, I carried around the image of a good, loving father, in my mind. Because, somewhere inside myself, I knew what the consequences of truth would bring.
Remembering the monster-father, meant acknowledging that he was malignant and didn’t love me.
Remembering the truth, meant having to deal with a mother and sisters, who made it clear that truth was not welcome –even a threat– and that if I spoke it, I would not be one of them anymore.
The family dynamics in incest cases are:
- “Don’t speak the truth around us, we will get uncomfortable and not talk to you anymore.”
- “We have decided not to know”
- “If you would have stayed quiet, we would not have to deal with this ugly thing.
- “Why did you open your mouth?”
People, who have not been abused, always wonder why children remain silent. The answer is simple. Victims are denounced as traitors while child rapists are uplifted and protected by family members.
At age 37, when I took my symbolic shield of truth, and my metaphoric sword to slash the lies in my family, I was forced to see the power that silence has over a person, a family –even an entire country.
When I dared to break the family code of silence and speak about the incest, I was ridiculed, called names, threatened, made to feel guilty, and cut out of most of my family.
Former Miss America and incest survivor, Marilyn Van Derbur, received over 3,000 letters in ten months from sexual abuse survivors who described the trivializations, denial, and anger in their families, who were unwilling to let go of the superficial harmony that existed before the survivor broke their silence. 4
The victim of incest is first abused by the perpetrator, and when they speak the deadly secret, they are emotionally and mentally abused all over again. The family has an emotional power that can weaken a person.
But not me.
My family’s lies, denial, and threats made me a stronger person. I am happy that I broke the family code of silence, because the little girl inside of me is rejoicing to this day, and I would do it again in a minute.
I will not live a lie.
1. Pedophiles Thrive on Silence, Says Father of Jeffrey Curly, Massachusetts News, February 15, 2001. His 10-year-old son Jeffrey was abducted and killed in Newton by two pedophiles in 1997.
2. Arts and Entertainment Channel Biography, Oprah Winfrey Nov. 29 2001
3. FMS Foundation Newsletter, Vol 7 No. 1, January/February 1998 ISSN #1069-0484 On-Line Version
4. FMS Foundation Newsletter, Vol 7 No. 1, January/February 1998 ISSN #1069-0484 On-Line Version
5. Via personal communication in a letter to me