My babysitter molested me when I was five years old. He was 13. It happened on several occasions. He made a game out of it. The last time it happened I was eight. I told no one and suppressed the memories for many years. It’s amazing how our brains can block out and shut off certain memories as self-preservation.
Why am I telling you now? Because of beautiful, courageous women like singer/songwriter, @MILCKMUSIC (Connie Lim), who wrote the incredible anthem, “Quiet,” and performed it with a choir at the women’s march a year ago. In an interview with Allure, Milck stated, “It’s difficult but I wanted to share this. I feel if I do it will empower others, and we can start healing our personal shame, and empower ourselves to be community leaders.” (Allure’s, “Singer MILCK Shares The Deeper Meaning Behind the Viral Anthem for the Women’s March” by @ChantelMorel, https://www.allure.com/story/milck-womens-march-anthem).
I’m telling you because repressed memories have a way of catching up to us, and we need to let them out so we can release them and begin to heal.
Many years after my abuser was out of the picture, when I though I’d never have to see him again, I ran into him at a funeral. By this time I was a 29-year-old adult, and yet I suddenly felt like that small, helpless child all over again.
As I met his gaze, my body went rigid with fear and I felt the blood rush out of my face. The memories came back like ocean waves crashing over me. I couldn’t speak, could barely breathe, and began shaking uncontrollably.
The rest of that day is a blur. I tried to act normal, tried to just get through the day so I could go home and fall apart. I needed to cry for the little girl who lost her innocence too young.
I told two people: my mother and my husband. Neither one was equipped to deal with the news. Neither one knew what to say or how to support me. I didn’t know how to get help or what kind of support I even needed, so I shoved the memories back down again, ready to repress them for a few more years.
Now I lend my voice to the brave women who are fighting this fight. Speaking up is not easy. Speaking up is terrifying and I’m shaking as I write this. But something has to be done to stop the violence. We have to end the cycle of abuse, and if I don’t break the silence I become part of the problem.
“For too long, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been in the shadows. We have been afraid to speak up, to say ‘Me Too’ and seek accountability. For many, the consequences of doing so have been devastating.” Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. @TaranaBurke
These women are making a difference. These women are changing how we, as a society, treat victims of sexual abuse. It is time to use our voices. It is time to take our power back.
The word ‘victim’ often conjures negative connotations. It is surrounded by a stigma of shame and guilt. Many victims are shamed and blamed, mocked, ridiculed, mistrusted, and even demonized. They are put on trial and accused of seeking fame, attention, or even lying. Why the hell would anyone want to become famous by claiming to be a victim? What kind of sick society do we live in where people prey on victims as though they are the villains?
In my book I struggled with whether or not to include a rape scene. I nearly left it out because I didn’t want people to judge me. I didn’t want them to look at me differently once they knew. The humiliation and shame a victim feels are so powerful that we tend to want to stay silent, for fear of being shunned, or worse.
Fortunately, that stigma is slowly being lifted as more and more women are banding together in unity and sharing their stories.
“ . . . Every voice matters, whether you name your abuser or tell your story publicly or privately or in a journal or even just sort it in your head—that may make zero sense to you if you’ve never experienced it, but a survivor knows and understands . . . . Whatever your story, know that you’re not alone. All sexual abuse is bad, and it’s not a competition. You matter.” Rachel Thompson, “This is the One About Sexual Harassment.” @RachelintheOC
I get angry when people openly condemn women for speaking up, for sharing their stories. And I get even angrier when it is other women hating on women. What’s that about? No one signs up to be a victim. We don’t want to talk about what happened to us. But if we don’t, how will real change occur? For many, it’s still something they can’t talk about. They carry around this horrible secret and stay silent in their suffering, bearing their heavy burdens.
I don’t tell you my story because I want attention, fame, or pity. Who needs that kind of attention? Trust me, it is so much easier to stay silent. I tell you my story because I know I am not alone. I tell you my story for the millions of survivors who haven’t found the courage to tell you theirs. I tell you my story because there are brave women out there making a difference. We are changing the world for our children and our children’s children, so that one day they won’t have to live in fear. I tell you my story because I have a voice—and I’m using it.