They say “silence is golden”. No, it isn’t, it’s tarnished and rusty on the edges. At least when it comes to abuse it is.
Allow me to show my work:
Backstory: A few months ago I was visiting a family member. One day when my son was about 7, he was walking home from school when a stranger rode up beside him in a car and told him that his “dad” sent him to give my son a ride home. My son immediately knew it was a lie and was able to outsmart the stranger. (Thank God!)
We wrote the book to help other children. This is what I was going to talk about. But I never got into that. This is as far as our conversation went…
I told her about the book my son and I wrote together. In that book my son talks about being approached by the stranger who tried to trick him.
Me: You know, I love that my son could trust Darryl like that. He knew that Darryl would never have sent anyone to pick him up. That’s one of the things I love about my husband, you know right away where he stands.
So, on the show, we’ll address trust and……
Family member: Oh, okay. Well, let’s stop talking about traumatizing things.
Me: (Bewildered, stunned silence.) Then (rerunning the conversation in my head checking for “traumatizing things”)
You know, I have had years of counseling & mentoring on and off. Silence isn’t an issue for me anymore. I can’t say the same for everyone around me though. See, while I am comfortable with my history, some folks are not. Me and silence don’t get along when it comes to abuse. Here are 5 reasons why:
Silence further isolates: Silence can make Survivors feel alone. It is as if you brought the secret to light. Okay, but now everyone would be a lot more comfortable if you would kindly take your feelings and struggle back into the darkness. Thank you. You’re great.
Silence reinforces a sense of shame. I am dirt. If you think that you are dirt, then imagine that there is no accomplishment, no level of success, no amount of money, no standard of beauty that you can attain that will make you feel greater than dirt. You can’t wash it off. You can’t do anything. Talking about abuse helps Survivors to gradually rid themselves of shame. Survivor’s should be free to speak openly about abuse just as they would if they were a victim of any other type of crime.
Silence reinforces a sense of guilt. I did something dirty. You believe that what happened is your fault. Yeah, in your head you know that it wasn’t, but an influential part of you still believes that you were an accomplice in your own abuse. Abuse is not the Survivor’s fault. Survivor’s should be free to speak about abuse just as they would about any other crime.
Silence is toxic: I watch a lot of crime shows. It is so sad to see a family member poison another family member. A vibrant human being gradually becomes someone unrecognizable even to close family and friends. The poison slowly dissolves their essence from the inside out.
The abuse is a part of your story. The abuse is a part of my story. Just like this ugly scar on my knee that I got on a metal sliding board when I was a kid. Guess what, I still have cute legs, so I will be wearing my skirts.
One scar don’t stop no show.
Keeping all of that ugliness inside is like retaining poison. Never let anyone make you go into hiding. Scars and all, it’s all you. It is the collective that makes you beautiful.
Silence stifles the self: Years of abuse brought scalding pain, depression, and scars that will be there for a lifetime. It also brought a deep well of creativity, empathy, compassion, strength, and resilience. I am a beautiful collage.
Silence redacts the good memories. If I have to be hypersensitive about never talking about the abuse I forget about all of the good times. I used to do that.
I forgot about all of the many times that I laughed with my siblings. I forgot about the great books that I read as a kid. I forgot about the great music that I grooved to.
Going back to that conversation with my family member. How grateful I am that my son came home that afternoon. How grateful I am that I healed so much so that I opened my heart to a man of integrity who loves me the way that he does. All of that is amazing!
I refuse to let the good memories stand in the shadows of the bad ones. When I exposed those ugly secrets to the light at the age of 13, I had no idea it would be a fight to keep them there. But in the light is where they will stay.
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“We’ve been there, experienced that. Trauma, Pain, Abuse & Rape. These are the lessons that we brought back.”
–Tonya GJ Prince has been a leading subject matter expert (SME) in domestic violence and sexual violence.
For over 25 years she has helped people heal, prevent, and overcome domestic and sexual violence.
In order to accomplish this mission, she founded several diverse & inclusive platforms designed to allow Survivors to use their own voices including;
WESurviveAbuse.com, SurvivorAffirmations.com, & BraidtheLadder.org.
Tonya is an author, activist, advocate, Survivor, speaker, counselor, & mentor.
B.S. Organizational Management & Development/Bluefield College
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