Note: This post discusses childhood abuse, and may be distressing for some readers.
It’s no secret that I was molested as a child, by numerous people over a prolonged period of time. These days I think of it rarely and speak of it less, but it’s neither a source of shame nor of silence.
Through some extraordinary combination of hard work and exceptional good fortune I have been able to forge a joyful life in which this part of my history takes up an increasingly smaller space. This life moves ever forward.
My principal abuser was a psychopath: charismatic, intelligent and attractive. He charmed everyone he met, including my (our) entire family, and when push came to shove they chose this golden man over me.
He was shiny and appealing, I was in those days a snarling ball of snot and tears, just exactly what he’d made me, and not a person they could love.
Ultimately they set me free, this family of origin, when they taught me that who you love should be deserving, should hold you safe, should see you truly and accept you. Over time I built that family for myself and it was beautiful.
Meanwhile my principal abuser walked a privileged parallel: a career, a wife, a daughter. I needed therapy for this one – how many nights did I cry for that child?
My own family needed me and I was powerless to protect her (and yes her mother knew – did not believe, but knew). I begged for the serenity to accept the things I could not change and eventually, it came.
Twenty years later there is Facebook. Facebook gifts us long-lost friends and dangerous exes, and now the daughter of my abuser seeks me out. And what’s my move? Tell this blood-related stranger her dear old dad rapes children? Surely if she hasn’t learned that from bitter experience it’s not my place to say?
Do I stay silent, knowing silence is manure in which breeds boldness in these perpetrators and shame in those they harm? Surely our survival – meaningful survival - means the freedom to speak up?
Which leaves me in the middle ground: I don’t and won’t engage. Friend request: delete. Simple.
But here’s the twist of the knife: this curious stranger has “friended” my daughter, and they’ve been meeting in real life.
Two young adults, self-righteous and self-assured, mine tells me that their “parents’ fight is not our fight”. And I want to die. I want to die I want to die I want to die.
Here’s the thing – that girl’s dad’s is still my rapist. And while she doesn’t know that, my own true daughter does. She knows there was no “fight” in the rancid hell that was my childhood. Because I was a child. Because he was an adult. She knows about the desperation, the tragedy, the despair.
She knows about the rejection of my family, their protection of this evil man, this most talented of charmers. She knows I nearly died, so many ways to nearly die but ultimately each summed up by the reckless desperation with which I fled that life. She knows these inconvenient and messy truths.
And so, I find myself here again, the family that I fled lives on within the family that I made. Open before me a familiar sinking place, suppression, oppression, betrayal and abandonment. And this wound, you’ll think this wound so trivial, somehow threatens to be the one I cannot bear.
Is the world really divided into two kind of people? Those like my daughter and family of origin, who think childhood rape is not their problem – so move on, get over it, above all else: shut up? Who makes up the rest of us? Will one of these days the zeitgeist be ready to acknowledge #UsToo?