I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about writing something about what happened to me – actually many times I’ve even written it – but then I bury it in a notebook or a file cabinet or save it on my hard drive never to be touched again. Full of good intention and good motive, but it never goes much further than my own lips. Sometimes I’ve shared it with a trusted friend or maybe even two, but that’s all the further it goes.
Why? I suppose it isn’t an easy, simple answer. My biggest hold back honestly is that I don’t want to hurt anyone – I don’t want to hurt my mom mostly. But I don’t want to hurt my brother either. Sometimes I get self-righteously indignant toward my own self in this equation – what about me? Where’s my voice? When do I get to speak? And then I think of speaking, but I don’t. I guess my protective nature for others, even others who have hurt me, overrides my conviction that I have a right to my voice.
I’ve also been encouraged to keep silent – to protect my family, to protect myself. I’ve told people and had it backfire – like someone who I thought was a friend who told another friend who told another friend and I found out about it right before my geometry final in 10th grade. Or a husband who used it to ostracize me from my family, and then to ostracize himself from my bed. I’ve been told, it’s better something kept to yourself – sharing it can only hurt me more, hurt my family more, hurt my brother more – when there has already been so much pain. I see that – I see that I’ve been told that for good, or at least I can see that it was said with good intent. But what it feels like is a gag order.
My motive in wanting to speak is good. The reason I want to speak isn’t so that people can go through my trash can, hold up my story to the light, and say, “Oh my God look at this horrendous thing”. I don’t want to be a person in a fishbowl or a monkey in a cage. I want to be a famous writer, but not like that. Ha!
I have spent hours and days and years trying to find my story. To me it would be so….. healing to hear my story utter forth from someone else’s lips. When I read the account of Tamar and Amnon in the Bible, I did a sharp inhale and did a half out loud scream, because in one of the places I least expected to see it, I heard some of my story. In the Holy Bible of all places. Seeing it soothed my soul in a way I can’t express. I am so grateful that my God talks about the ugly. I want to share my story so that someone else can find their story inside of my story. I want them to see their story, or some of their story, on paper, and feel like less of a freak, or not feel like a high drama queen, or to know that their pain is real and not concocted. I want them to go seek out Tamar because I told them it’s there. II Samuel 13, if I have any takers.
But I love my mother. It’s a love that is so deep, so strong, so innate in me – I don’t want to hurt her. I’ve had therapists tell me that should be examined. I’ve been told that that feeling in itself is out of whack and speaks of damage. But I cannot change it. I love her, and I feel like she’s incurred enough damage. [Yes, I have a little voice that’s screaming “but what about YOUR damage?” Shut up, voice. So that’s how it all ends up in the bottom of the recycling bin.]
My voice cannot continue to just end up in the bottom of a bottomless recycling bin. It cannot. Or wait until I’m 70 and my mother is passed. My voice desperately wants to be heard, like an innate power that is almost beyond my force. It slams itself against my walls, trying to break free. My therapist (she makes very clear to me she is not a licensed therapist but I call her that anyway) says I’m not ready to share my story – that I have not worked through the pain enough yet – that the ground is too sacred, my heart is too tender. And all that is true. But I also feel like I am carrying around a 10,000 weight that I could just throw off by speaking a word that my lips cannot bring themselves to utter. My soul yearns to shed the weight, to break the silence, to just puke it out into a cyber space that, while blatantly and almost pornographically completely public, also has an ability to shroud me in a cloak of ironic anonymity. I want to go back in time to that 16 year old girl and hold her head and stroke her hair and tell her that her part in her own story matters. You see, she was told not to speak. She was sold a lie that her role in the story was as a support actress only. She was told it was her job to be a peacemaker, to be on her brother’s side, to be her brother’s friend, to not say anything to draw more attention to the family. She was told she was the strong one – and thus she was left to carry a burden that was as big as Atlas. Alone. Later she was told not to tell her lovers, where in the midst of the most intimate of acts her very soul would visibly shatter. How do you silence something that rips your heart out of your core? Where you literally end up in the back of the closet hiding behind the hanging clothes in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, sobbing silently, panic welling and escaping only through shorts bursts of airs that come from your lungs in burning, un-rhythmic waves, with a husband outside the door standing unsatisfied and helpless and baffled? The silence is soul robbing. It’s voice robbing. It’s stealing the very breath of life. It’s The Destroyer. Destroying. The already Destroyed.
I think that’s what cuts me to the core (besides that Amnon then hated her – I’ve seen that hate) in Tamar’s story is the family reaction. Her father, David, isn’t shown to come to her, soothing her, playing with her hair as she sobs. He doesn’t ask to hear her side of the story, to hear her heart. There’s no rape kit or therapy sessions. She’s hidden away – she’s silenced. Her other brother, Absalom, comes to her aid (thank God). When Absalom later avenges Tamar by killing Amnon, David finally grieves – he grieves over Amnon!!! Not Absalom, not Tamar (although in verse 39 I see he grieves Absalom).
I would like to say I can’t imagine how Tamar felt, but I don’t have to imagine. I know. I know well. My brother is only two years older than me. Like Tamar, I also have two brothers, but we are just speaking about this brother. From as far back as I can remember he….. See, I don’t even know what word to give it. He did not rape me. As far as I can remember, there was not any sexual intercourse of the scientific definition. But he would caress me. He would try to get my clothes off when I was sleeping – sometimes he was more successful than others. I vividly recall his hot breath on the back of my neck, his penis pressed into my back side. I can still smell his breath. I learned to “sleep” through it. I learned to dress myself in a way that protected me. I don’t know how young I was when it started, but I know I was 11 when it ended. And so he was 13. I remember clearly the day I “woke up.” Even after I “woke up,” I have come to realize that I was being raised with a sibling who had some sort of a mental illness, and he consumed more than his fair share of my parents’ time and energy. Even after the sexual abuse ended (I think that’s what you call it), abuse continued that was just as painful, just as destructive. I try to poo-poo it. I try to say we were just children and children explore. I try to tell myself to get over it. I tell myself so many unkind things to destroy it, but at the end of the day, it’s very real, and it’s very painful. It has left a wide path of destruction in its wake.
But I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor. Actually, I’m pretty amazing, if I am to be completely honest. I have not been destroyed by The Destroyer – I’ve actually been saved by The Redeemer. There is so much more I could say. And maybe there is so much more than I will say. But for now, I think just saying is enough. And if at least one person out there feels a little less alone, then it was worth it. Because, baby, I’m worth it. [That’s a song.]