I decided to do my first RAofJ collaboration. I have been a member for a while, but never did one of the projects as of yet. Either nothing jumped out at me, or I just couldn’t find the time or energy. But this one struck me, so I decided to give it a go. 🙂
I chose the following quote as my kick-off point.
The cruelest lies are often told in silence. — Robert Louis Stevenson
It is a cold night. I bend my knees against my chest and pull my blue flowered cotton nightgown over them, and lean my head against his strong shoulder.
I can’t recall now what it was we were watching on television. But I do know that those were the very last few moments of true self-assurance and contentment that I have ever felt.
His arm is around me, but back then it made me feel safe. Special. Daddy’s little girl. His big hand is rubbing my back, and I snuggle in. Then the hand moves lower, until the fingers are curving around my buttocks. Touching my lightly between my legs. I pull away, look up, confused.
“Does that feel good?” he asks.
I…..I don’t know,” I mumble, pulling away a bit more.
He stops, pulls my nightgown down, and says…”That’s our little secret, OK?”
I am seven years old.
Fast forward. Through four years of secrets, lies, silence. Fear. A broken spirit inhabiting an eleven-year-old body. A desperate attempt to break the silence. I tell my mother. I am quite explicit, there is no mistaking what I am saying. She looks at me as if I have three heads. Brings HIM into the room. He laughs at me. Tells my mother I need friends, I am mistaking a few hugs for something else. She believes him.
The shock of being brushed aside so callously by the one person I should have been able to trust slides me deeper into the silence.
Two more years. She married him, and now is divorcing him for cheating on her. Suddenly, my “story” becomes leverage for more alimony. Does she really believe me now? Does it even matter anymore? Glad to be away from him, but missing my “father figure.” Ambivalent. Distressed. I attempt suicide. My grandmother begs my mother to let me live with her for a year or so, until I “forget about it all.” My mother puts me into a mental hospital instead. Probably the one and only intelligent decision she ever made on my behalf.
There, I learn how to begin breaking the silence. To chisel away at it in little bits, plying my words like a hammer, until the dam breaks and the river of feelings floods out, almost threatening to carry me away, but the overwhelming relief proves stronger.
Some people have asked me why it seems so easy for me to talk about being abused. Well, I spent almost half my life being squashed and bullied and begged into silence. Lied to. Telling lies. The cruelest lies are often told in silence, indeed. I will never again allow anyone to silence me. If I could stand on a rooftop and scream out all that has happened to me, I would do it. If I could prevent the same thing from happening to even ONE more child, I would do it. If telling my story helps to break the silence of even one abuse survivor, I will tell my story unil I turn blue.
For in silence, there can only be despair.