At times the need to speak out to warn or help others is louder than the need to be silent, to protect the self; but fear and shame remain. I stare at that blinking cursor for long agonizing moments. I start, panic, delete; several times. When it finally begins, when I allow myself to share, it often rushes out in an almost painful flood; as though the words fear to be stifled unless they stain the pure white field as fast as blood from a shocking wound. Then, when my finger hovers over the delete key, they stare at me, imploring me to use them, to speak out. This battle with myself will no doubt be familiar to any survivor of any kind of abuse. Even if the words are only for ourselves, it’s still so hard, so traumatic, to write them down. Why?
The process is cathartic; it’s like a strange ritual, a self-therapy where we still fear being judged. We must coax the courage to do so out of a wellspring of fear, condemnation, accusation, neglect, pain, disbelief, conditioning, and lies. If there are no outside witnesses, we can offer up these stumbling blocks, these reasons to be silent, to ourselves; and we often do. I do, every time I write these essays, letters, or my poetry. I hesitate, I question; because the belief that I am worthless and nobody cares, or they won’t believe me, has been instilled in me since birth. So to overcome it, to not only write my fears but to share them – takes an act of desperate lunatic courage at times.
For me, the main motivator is to help others. In the midst of my abuse years, a baby, a child, a teen – I was powerless, cowed, terrorized, and brainwashed. Too physically weak, too emotionally numb, too mentally conditioned, to help myself. Nobody noticed, or if they did, they were too afraid, or just “too busy” to help me. The realization of that, the hopelessness of it, nearly made me give up so many times. So now, as an adult who has found a new and loving family, a survivor who works to reassemble the pieces (in spite of all the missing ones) of the person I am left with; how can I do nothing to help those who languish in the same hell I have begun to crawl out of? Nobody helped me, but is that a reason to refuse to help others? No. All those prayers, wishes, and day dreams of help, of escape that went unanswered, I can answer them for somebody else now. I know if I can help somebody just like me, even just one, then it’s maybe like somebody helping me back then. It may not change anything for me, for my daily battle to survive, to stay alive – but it could mean life or death to the person who reads my words. I may want to see those who harmed me punished, but my silence only punishes those just like me.
Yet I do believe that speaking out to help others can and does help me in one way – it gives my suffering a purpose if not a reason. Child sexual abuse, physical, verbal, and mental abuse, and rape are such terrible senseless crimes, there is no way to “make sense“ of it, even if psychoanalysis attempts to sort out why abusers do it. Survivors can have a purpose though, to help others, and it can help us to feel that we have found a way to make it stop for somebody just like us.
Another critical way speaking out helps others is by bringing awareness to those who can prevent these horrors from happening to anybody else. All people who are horrified by any kind of abuse, if they are armed with the knowledge of what to watch for, how to prevent, to stop, to help and they use what they know – then the numbers of the abused can start to shrink, and victims can find the courage to seek help and become survivors. I also hope my words may show them that the abusers rarely turn out to be that “weird loner man with the limp and hunchback”. Pedophiles, rapists, and other abusers can be anybody, and the pedophiles especially are often people that everybody knows and trusts. They can be parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, babysitters, stepparents, siblings, teachers, neighbors, school friends, or anybody else. They can be lawyers, doctors, politicians, coaches, or respected business owners. There are myths to dispel and signs to learn to see.
When I write of my pain, the horror and confusing suffering I endured directly for nineteen years at the hands of my father and other men, I think about the little boy I used to be. As I write about the decade that followed my abuse years, some of it spent homeless or engaging in prostitution to eat and survive, and later spent sorting through the ashes as I tried to learn how to become a human being, I imagine the little boy I was, because it all began with him, with how he was treated. I see him, long black and often filthy hair, bright blue eyes wide with pain and wet with tears, pale slender body marked with bruises and scars, a voice nearly cut out of his maimed face by a cruel and angry man, his father…. I see him and I tell him, “I’m going to help you. I care, I want to save you, and I’m going to do something to make your pain stop. You are precious and special, and you deserve to be loved, to be safe. I’m going to do something, I promise. I’ll fight my fears, my shame, my guilt and regrets. I’ll battle my feelings of worthlessness, my paranoia that others may despise me or be disgusted by my past, or that they may not believe me. I’ll set them aside for you, so that my words can help you.”
If you are reading this, whether you’re a survivor or just a person who knows a child or anybody else who may be abused and needs help – what will you say to that little boy? He is a symbol of so many others. Will you promise to learn what you need to so that you can help children like him? Or will you say, “Not just now, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Don’t wait. We all have lives to live, food to acquire to provide for our loved ones, I know that; but do something, I implore you. Even if all you do is donate to organizations that help children, or anybody else who needs help to escape abuse. Intervene for somebody who is being bullied. Call a congressman to tell them you don’t want to see more kids lose hope and kill themselves. Help in any way you can.
Each bruise or cut that mars the innocent flesh of a child may as well spell out the words: “I’m busy now, I’ll do something to help you tomorrow.” For that child, tomorrow may be too late.
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© W.R.R. 1/30/2012
You can find me on Twitter via my survivor journal at @AsAshesScatter or my personal account at @RagMan_RIP.
To help in any way, these organizations and people (via Twitter) are a good place to start: