Look over to the top right of this blog and you’ll see a poll I’m conducting asking what’s holding you back from opening up about your own incest story. I should have made that more general ie. “sexual abuse”, because as much as this blog is based on my own history of father-daughter incest, it’s really aimed toward all who have suffered or are still suffering from sexual abuse. While the specific details of the sexual abuse will differ, the long-term ramifications and affects on our lives are most likely very similar. So, if you’re reading this now, have been or are a victim, please take the poll. It’s anonymous and time-limited.
And so back to the topic of today: why are we so afraid to come out and share our stories? This post has been prompted by the reaction I’m getting from friends on Facebook as the word spreads about what I am trying to do here. I’m very grateful to all those friends who are sharing this blog and my FB page, COMING OUT FROM UNDER. But as they do so, it’s becoming obvious that some of them, like me, have been silent about their own sexual abuse for most of their lives. It’s also obvious they want to talk about it, but are still holding back. So they will lurk anonymously around this blog and read the posts on Facebook all the while still fighting the urge … and the need … to tell their own stories. Why?!
I can only answer from my own experience. What things made me keep my mouth shut all through adolescence, marriage, motherhood even menopause (LOL)? The first answer that comes to mind is SHAME. I know I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me, but the shame grew year after year, even when I’d long left my maternal home. I would think people looking at me could see what was being done to me and conclude I was allowing it! Imagine what it was like heading off to primary school knowing that an hour earlier I had left my father’s bed! (My book will supply the actual details). I was sure that as I greeted my playmates, they knew. I felt like I was covered in excrement and they could see it. I felt dirty, ashamed and I hated myself and him.
When my dear husband came into my life, to my horror, he was a photographer. His greatest pleasure was taking photos of me, very close up on my face at times. He didn’t know, but I was cringing. All I could think was what was he really seeing through that macro lens he was so busy focussing on my eyes? Couldn’t he see that under the smart teacher’s clothes I was wearing and behind the professional smile I had for all my associates and students was someone so despicable and ugly? Shame!
And then, of course, there was the FEAR so deeply instilled in me by my father. Fear that he’d kill me if I told anyone; fear that my mother would be infinitely hurt; fear that no-one would believe me anyway. Dad had made sure of that last one: he reminded me of it constantly. Yes, he probably felt pretty safe knowing that even if I did tell, most people would think I’d just lost it. Who could believe that smiling, proud papa who everyone else liked was messing with his adolescent daughter that way? FEAR!
And as I moved into marriage and eventually motherhood, fear continued to hold me back. What would my handsome groom think if he knew the ugly truth about his bride? Would he ever want to touch such horribly soiled goods again? Best to keep my mouth shut. So I did. Then there was the children, my two lovely girls. How could I let such a secret out? How would they take it? What would be the effect on their lives? One was aspiring to a career on the world stage as a singer. If she made it, would the dirt hunters come looking for something sensational to gossip about. An incestuous mother makes for juicy reading. No, keep it to myself. Tell no-one. What others don’t know doesn’t hurt them, right?
And then there was the RESIGNATION: he had won. If I told, what would it achieve? I didn’t know at the time that there are things like Children’s Aid Societies who could step in. But even if I had and they showed up at our door, dad would have thrown them out saying I was talking nonsense. With his temper, he would have sent them packing. Mom didn’t know anything about any of it, so she would have backed him up. And when the door had closed, I would have been beaten to a pulp. Who needed that? I became resigned to my life. I was in my early 20’s when I met my husband and by that time I was resigned to being daddy’s concubine for the rest of my life. Thankfully, falling in love saved me.
Of course, one of the strongest reasons for not coming out from under that I’m sure most of us share is that fear of what everyone will think of us. Our society is so geared to “how would it look?” “what would people think?” “what would people say about me?” etc. etc. that we are held back daily from doing the many things we know we want and should do, let alone exposing our darkest secrets. Our need for approval supersedes our own need to even be honest with ourselves. We let it stifle us, strangle us, keep us from being who we really are and saying what we really feel. And no wonder after years of being unable to say “NO!” to my abuser that I still have the hardest time saying “NO!” to anyone. So great is the need for approval and above all, love.
Can you relate to all this? Even if you’ve not been victimized by sexual abuse, I bet you can from other aspects of your life. But it’s just so much harder to speak up and come out when you’ve spent 20, 30, 40 or more years holding it back because of shame, fear, resignation and the need for approval.
Well I’ve got news for you: now that I am finally talking about it, what I’m getting the most is support and approval! How wonderful is that? With that support, love and approval, years of fear, shame and resignation are melting away with every word I write here and in my book. And it feels SO GOOD!
Join me. Subscribe to my blog here. Take the poll on the top right. Face your fears. Face yourself. Join my Facebook group, OUT FROM UNDER. The more I research and read online, the more I realize I am not alone. You will too. It helps to read about people like us and there are so many like us. Why should we be ashamed? Why should we be silent? Come out from under with me. I need your courage to help me finish what I’ve started here.
Thanks for reading. Please share this blog and my Facebook group page link.
|Graphic from Peggy Loretta Hornbake|