Monday, August 28, 2006

We now interrupt this regularly scheduled TWC for this just in

I just published this on I'm Doing the Best I Can. I rarely editorialize on TWC, but this hit a real nerve in me.

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"Truth Hurts People"

This was a comment sent in by an anonymous reader of TWC.

I felt like I'd been slapped when it came into my inbox.

My breathing shortened. My face got red. I felt like a little girl who had just been caught doing something that she had been warned against doing. The same feeling when you told a secret about your family...and realize that it was never meant to be shared or even acknowledged as happening.

Next came my anger at feeling shamed. Who was this person to tell me that I was hurting people? That "Truth" hurts people? Who the fuck were they to pass this judgment?

AS I sat here, feeling enraged, feeling shamed, feeling guilty for something I had done, I had created, it occurred to me.

These are the feelings of a survivor of sexual abuse. One who talks.

I am one of those women. My perp? My biological father. I was ten. He was not the first, as I was quite the favorite of many of my older male cousins ... until I learned that yelling for my mother at the top of my lungs seemed to keep them away. He was not the only abusive man in the family, for my uncles perpetrated against my other female cousins, I later learned.

He was, however, the least expected. My father. The man I adored. The one that I wanted to please beyond all reason. He was the one to sexually assault me. In my house. After my parents had separated.

My mother, thinking she had left this man, and that the damage he could do to my brother and I was minimized never dreamed that he would come for a Christmas visit and bring this sort of catastrophe.

And like almost all young children who experience this, I kept quiet. I had nightmares. I wouldn't be in the same room alone with him during summer visitations. My signals got crossed. The man who was supposed to love and protect me was my abuser.

This became a distinctive pattern as I aged and began to date. I loved the emotionally distant ones. The more they resisted me, ignored me, emotionally abused me? Like candy. When one got me pregnant and emotionally and physically abandoned me? He became the penultimate love of my life. I would have abandoned my education for this man. I would have had this baby at age 20. To please him. To have him choose me. To give me anything, anything at all. My sacrifice was proof of my love, my worthiness of his love, but still he never chose me.

The first time I talked of my abuse was in my therapy sessions. Trying to figure out where my irrational anger and impulsively as coming from as I whirled in crazier and crazier circles, my therapist finally asked me point blank.

And I told her the truth.

And she cried.

To sit in front of your therapist and detail in a flat demeanor the horrors of your childhood, ,and to have her cry as she told me that none of this was my fault? It was honestly the first time that it may have occurred to me the enormity of the impact that this had on my life path. I was not crying. She was. How could I not cry when it had happened to me, and she was weeping simply hearing my dialogue?

Next I told my mother, and she cried and raged and vowed to kill this man. But I did not cry. I had lived with it for nearly nine years. I had hidden and distorted my truth for so long, it no longer resembled anything but a story for me. An experience, much like falling from your bike and scraping your knee. Or being brought into a drug house so your father can use you as a shield in front of his buyer? Or the time your father shot your dogs one winter because they were barking? Or that time he shot the glass out in the car as your mother drove away from the house when you were five? Or the time that he threatened to kill Santa, and took his gun out to the back yard to prove to you that he was serious? Or the time that you were nine and he taught you how to smoke a bong? Or that time when you were ten and he sexually assaulted you on New Years Eve?

You mean everyone doesn't have these stories?

So, "Truth hurts people" commenter, I respectfully disagree. Truth doesn't hurt people, secrets hurt people. The secrets we keep from our loved ones to spare them pain. The secrets we keep from ourselves. The secrets we keep for fear that we won't be liked, or loved, or admired. Maybe the truths expressed at TWC are the first time someone is saying their truth out loud. You don't have to like it. Hell, you don't have to read it, and you don't even have to agree that there should be a place like this to express yourself.

But keep the shaming to yourself. This is what keeps abused people silent. And I, for one, won't shut up to please you.

37 comments:

Mama-Beans said...

Powerful. Thank you.

KarenB said...

I think the pain that comes from the truth is a theraputic pain. It is like the pain you feel after the surgery that cut out the cancer that was killing you. It may be easier today not to tell the truth, but one day soon the secrets and lies will eventually overcome you and destroy you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such a horrible part of your life. You seem like such a wonderful strong person and I thank you for creating this place for everyone else to come and get things out.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous who posted that. And I SINCERELY apologize if I offended absolutely anyone. Especially you Dawn. That is totally not how I meant it. I was using the word people like I was talking to an audience. I was responding to how everyone was saying the one anonymous post was too harsh. I have lived some of the same things you speak of and I KNOW that the truth actually sets you free. I love your site and have been reading it since the very day you started it. I never meant it as a slap in the face to you and I am very very sorry if I caused you any pain. I will still post this anonymously as you know who I am. I am ashamed to have invoked such a reaction and again I hope you can accept my apology.

Dawn said...

Of course, I can accept your apology. I get so defensive sometimes about TWC...especially when my period starts sometime...oh... right about now.

Big hugs. It was a story I'd been meaning to tell anyway...and I think it helps to understand TWC a bit more too...

jen said...

We all know the truth hurts the one who keeps it in much more than the one it may offend. Courageous stuff, Dawn.

Perhaps the "truth hurts people" person doesn't like the truth itself. Or, perhaps it struck a painful nerve. Whatever the reason, the result made those of us who read your site reflect on their own truth and what it means to inflict it on others. Forge on, sister.

Denise said...

WONDERFUL post! I'm sorry you had to endure that though.

don said...

Yes, the truth hurts people. It washes away the veneer of "everything is OK" and exposes the hard facts that you both are not happy with the way things are.

The truth hurts both sides.

It hurts the person who is telling the truth. They risk even geater emotional pain - as the hearer of the truth usually is unable to fully comprehend how bad things really are.

The truth also hurts the hearer. All of a sudden, their entire viewpoint of the world changes when they hear what is being said. Life is no longer the same, and they may not believe the speaker. Often times, the hearer chooses to brush off what is said - blaming hormones or other circumstances... *anything* to lessen the blow of the truth just heard.

But the truth MUST be told.

Time does not heal *all* wounds. Time also causes the roots of bitterness and distrust to grow deeper. Staying silent to "keep the peace" is rarely an option if the long-term health of the relationship is at stake. No one would want a doctor who would not tell a patient of the life-threatening illness because it might upset them.

It takes courage to tell the truth. Courage to stand in the face of what you know will be a blistering attack on your credibility, intentions, motivations, and ultimately your LOVE for that person.

...but it must be told...

Nancy said...

Amen, Dawn.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story. I wish screaming for my mom had stopped it from happening to me.

Melissa said...

Dawn, That was extremly powerful. Thank you for sharing. My mom is a therapist, has been most of my life. She always says, the truth hurts, but it sets you free...and after awhile if you keep talking about it, one day it doesn't hurt.

Anyway, I rarely comment, but I love this site. You give people a chance to say things they'd never say, but need to say.

Anonymous said...

I hardly ever comment either, but I love the site so much. I read it every day and eagerly await the next installment.

I'm so sorry you had to endure that. You are a wonderful, brave, powerful woman.

Melissa S said...

First of all, I read this blog everyday and this is my first time commenting.

Second of all--Oh my God, Dawn! Hugs to hurt little girl Dawn and cool grown up woman Dawn.

Third of all--I'm a dorky English teacher and I would just like to point out that this misunderstanding could have been avoided with the deft use of a comma and the concept of direct address. Anon should have said "Truth hurts, people!" as though she was directly addressing an audience and that would have conveyed the concept.

Fourth of All(?) Not to be smug here or anything, but this blog makes me greatful for my fabulous husband. Besides being a wonderful father, he also brushes his teeth and goes to the dentist on a regular basis, which is apparently a big problem out there in America.

Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said...

Do you know how many little kids I had to tell, "You will not get in any trouble if you tell me the truth" only to hear them respond with, "I did and no one believed me"?

Speak truthfully.
Speak loud.
Never stop speaking.

Anonymous said...

Not so Dorky Melissa S. because I was wondering what I could have used a comma or what to set apart what I was trying to say. Thanks for the English lesson.

Madam said...

Be blessed hon...this story was truly a blessing to me...

Anonymous said...

Here's what I think about the truth: I think that people tell you that they want to hear the truth but no one wants to hear the truth if it is ugly. I think people would rather pretend ugly truths don't exist because it's easier to make it through the day--for THEM.

I have a hard time telling the truth for various reasons--sometimes it's because I want to protect myself from the wrath I know awaits me if I am honest. I rarely trust other people enough to be totally honest so I feel like I am protecting myself. I know that's warped, but it's my truth.

superhalfling said...

Dawn,

Thanks for sharing. Every time I encounter someone else with a similar story, my sister was abused by my father, it helps me to remember that it shouldn't be a secret and it's not my shame. The truth is a gift. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I just started reading TWC a few days ago. It makes me laugh, cry, want to meet some of these women just so I can kick their husbands's asses for them--anyway--I just wanted to tell you that you are a fabulous writer, and that I am so in awe of the story in this post. I am glad it turned out that the anon post wasn't intended to hurt you. I am also glad that you are such an amazing person. I hope you keep talking--as loudly as you can. A friend of mine once said "Sometimes you need someone who has a louder voice to talk for you." I wish a louder voice had been there when you were little, but it is so wonderful that you are the loud voice for others now. Not only do you tell your story, but you tell it intelligently, interestingly, and eloquently. You make people want to hear what you have to say. It is a powerful position to be in, and you are using that power to help people--even if you don't know at the time you are helping them.

Jen, South Florida said...

Thanks for having the courage to say out loud what I can't.

Anonymous said...

And now I'm crying in my cube. Thanks, Dawn, for providing us this forum, and thanks for sharing your own personal story. I am also a survivor of abuse, and you are absolutely right - the truth will set you free.

Reba said...

I love this TWC. It helps to get the truth out there.

Anonymous said...

When no one heard me. When no one listened. When no one helped me. When no one believed me. When no one cared.
I knew it was wrong. I wasn't lying. I was telling the truth.
The truth was suppose to save me. I'm still waiting.

den said...

Thank you for sharing your story so eloquently. This is powerful and moving and, hopefully, will help others who suffered sexual abuse.

And, thank you for creating TWC.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutly right that sharing secrets can be good for people; I see this site and Post Secret (http://postsecret.blogspot.com/) as valuable places for people to tell painful truths, even if it's just anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dawn. You are awesome and brave. G-d bless you and your wonderful, cathartic site. Rock on.

jenner said...

wow. I did NOT expect THIS when I came onto the site tonight LOL. I am in awe of your strength, but I am sad - for your experiences as a child, and for the WAY TOO MANY others who commented here who have had similar experiences, by which of course I mean that too many people have had to suffer these same experiences. I am fortunate to have never had to experience any abuse, for which I am so grateful, especially after reading all this pain. I wish for strength and happiness for each and every one of you..and great, now I'm crying lol.

E. said...

Anonymous commenter who confessed, thank you for 'fessing up, but you can feel good that your missing comma created an opportunity for Dawn to write this amazing post and for so many people to open up and share.

lauritajuanitasanchez said...

Wow. GREAT.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, just awesome. I love you, Dawn for sharing and anon for fessing. I didn't scream for my Mom but I always wondered why she never noticed my face when I came home afterwards. Why didn't she ever notice the sad little girl. You are very brave for sharing.

Leslie said...

Powerful post, Dawn. And thanks for the site. I read it everyday. Some of the TWCs get a "wtf?", some a laugh and some a tear, but it is a wonderful resource to have.

k said...

that's wonderful.
Everything - the truth.

Old Lush said...

We're only as sick as the secrets we keep....I say it over and over again in my recovery from alcoholism. You are so right....

doc-t said...

This is completely Brilliant.

I applaud you're speaking out. It is horrifying how common sexual abuse is becoming. and it continues in silence. victims tell their mothers, aunts, cousins, whoever.... but what they often hear back is "well it won't do any good to tell anyone now... it'll just hurt the family..."

hogwash. get the truth out. protect the innocent. we can't stop this or protect those who are being molested or those who will be if we stick our heads in the sand.

This is well said. Thank you.

Alia said...

Guilt and shame serve no purpose to the person who is suffering from the emotion. They are, however, powerful handles for manipulators to grab and use, whether that be an abuser, a family that wants to "keep control" at all costs, a Church that wants to keep the "sinners" coming back.

To anyone that reads this: Do your best to live life in a way that you don't need to feel guilt and shame. And if you feel it, then rectify it, or if it is for false reasons, abandon it. Guilt and shame kill. Allow yourself freedom from those toxic emotions.

Anonymous said...

As someone who told and was told flat out that it was my fault and I was too much of a flirt (I was about 3 the first time it happened; please tell me how a 3 year old flirts), I know how much truth hurts. And I know how much worse it is to keep it in. After my first confession, when I was 13, I struggled with it for 2 more years, having to see this man (my grandfather) and speak to this man and pretend everything was happy families. Thank god he lived overseas, things would have gotten so much worse if he'd lived close by. But because of the shame my mother made me feel (yes, she's the one who told me it was my fault) I never told anyone else in my family. A couple of years ago my cousin struggled with a mild drug and alcohol problem (is it ever mild?) and now I struggle with the guilt that perhaps he got to her too, simply because I never said anything.
I have two small children of my own now and I pray that they will always feel like I'm a safe person to talk to, one who will always have their back. And I hope with all my soul that they never have to go through this.

Jon said...

Thank you, The pain never goes but becomes bearable. The only consolation is my children are safe and my siblings are able to talk to me about what happened to them. I thought as the eldest I could take it all and keep them safe. Didn't happen.
We just don't survive we thrive and the abuse stops with our generation!