Every day there is another voice speaking out. Hearts that have carried hurt, pain and shame in silence from sexual assault, abuse, harassment and even rape. I know those hearts - I'm one of them. For years, I too, carried unspeakable pain in my own heart. There are many reasons why our stories stay hidden.
Sometimes it is fear - plain and simple. Fear of the perpetrator, fear of blame being diverted back to the victim instead of the accuser and fear that speaking of it once more will bring back the nightmare, while the truth is, the nightmare doesn't go away in silence - not in our minds and not in the minds of the perpetrator. Our silence doesn't buy them, nor does it give us peace.
At other times, people hesitate in telling their story because it is like a sore that is scabbed over. They do not want to bump it or pick at it to cause it to rip open again and produce fresh pain and extend the time for healing. The irony of that it is, the sore isn't healing at all in our silence - it is festering and infecting our spirit and soul.
Another common reason that some victims of sexual assault remain silent is because they are closely connected to the perpetrator. It could be a boss, co-worker, neighbor, relative, even boyfriend or spouse. The woman either wants to protect that person or feels that no one would believe her - especially if the person has a perceived "good" reputation in the community or society at large. Abusers are masters of deception and manipulation. For me personally, my experiences were with my spouse many years ago and then with an old high school friend many years afterwards. In the first instance, it was a dysfunctional love that wanted to hide and protect my husband - coupled with fear of his irrational behavior. In the second instance with the high school acquaintance, it was crippling fear due to the threats he made to silence me. In both instances, the men were well-known in the community, had reputable jobs and careers. One was a minister, the other former military officer and government employee. I was just so afraid no one would believe me.
The revelations coming out on so many now, prove just how rampant this evil is in our society. People are asking why many of these women are finally speaking out after all this time. I think the answer is in the fact that their is "strength in numbers." Victims no longer feel they are alone in their suffering and feel free to reveal the secrets they've hidden for many years. I have thought much about the feelings of validation that come with standing with other women who have suffered. When we wrap each other up in affirmation and validation, it is like finding safety inside a cocoon while we are developing and growing into all that we are made to be. The fact is, each woman (or man, boy or girl) who has suffered sexual misconduct of some sort forget who they are, lose their sense of worth and value and fail to see their own beauty because of the dirty feelings of shame that result of these horrible acts. Resting in that cocoon of safety with others produces growth and metamorphosis until that beauty breaks through and is revealed again in its full splendor!
Whatever the reason for staying silent, there are many more reasons to make a choice to be heard. Just look at the results coming forth everywhere now! Victims are becoming victors, perpetrators are finally facing the consequences of their behavior and society is being forced to take a long look at the "open" secrets that they have tried to sweep under the rug or hide in the closet for many years. I finally shared my story and made my voice heard publicly about three years ago because of the love and support of my family and my son, as well as a man who took the time to understand my pain, hurt and shame. He did not question me or judge me. He did not doubt me. In fact he stood by me ready to fight my perpetrator. He wrapped me in a cocoon of love and acceptance and helped me to find my true beauty again. He saw beauty in me when I no longer saw it in myself. Where would we all be without our cocoons? Do you have those who wrap you in love and safety? Have you found the courage to let your voice be heard? If not, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!