Friday, May 23, 2014

I Can See Your Dirty Laundry!

Hopefully you don't have piles of your dirty dainties lying around your home for guests to gawk at! But that's the general idea for the term "airing your dirty laundry." Nobody wants to see it and you should do everything you can to keep it under wraps.

Dirty laundry= dirty secrets

This has been the main topic in discussions with several of the victims I’m working with lately. Why is it that when a victim or Survivor tells their story - their LIFE experience - it's considered dirty laundry? This reference to dirty laundry is really offensive and hurtful because it is telling that person - "Hey. YOU don't matter. Your story isn't important. I don't care what happened to you. Your life is nothing but dirty rags."

Car accident victim
911 terrorist attack victim
Family of a murder victim
Someone with a terminal disease
Soldier with PTSD
Children of alcoholics

They are all allowed to share their stories, pain and ways they made it through the trauma. None of them asked for the mess. These things were done to them. Yet society completely accepts and listens to this part of who they are. But when a victim of childhood sexual abuse begins to find their voice and share what has happened to them they are forsaken by family, called names and told they need to shut up. For some reason, the victim is bullied into believing that what was done to them is somehow their guilt and shame to carry.

Shhh! Don't tell! This is our secret.

Abusers go to great lengths in order to get their victims to keep quiet. In my own experience, the threats made to me if I told were:
  • I would be arrested
  • My mom would be thrown in jail
  • I'd be sent away and never see my family again
  • Since he was "in" with the cops, they would believe him over me
  • My siblings would be taken away and I'd never be allowed to see them again
  • He had ways of making me disappear so no one would ever find me

In addition to threats, abusers will groom the victim and give them a false sense of being special. They'll buy them presents and treats followed by words such as, "See? I love you. You're special to me. Nobody will understand. That's why we have to keep it a secret." The victim is then torn because they feel shame, guilt and fear accompanied with an intense desire to protect the abuser. This is especially true if the abuser is a parent.

I lived my childhood in complete fear that someone would find out. Partly because of the threats and partly because I was so embarrassed and ashamed at what was being done to me. The one part of me hated him with a passion and the other half would defend him to the death to anyone that had a bad word to say about him. One part wanted to scream and tell and make it stop but the other half withered inside out of shame and hoped nobody would ever find out. This started when I was 9 years old and went on until I was just about 16. Do you know a 9, 10, 11 year old? Do you remember being that age? Can you put yourself in their little shoes and imagine what it is like to have very adult things done to you- things you should know nothing about- things that hurt physically and emotionally and at the same time live under the threats, fear and shame? And then be so twisted up inside because you can't stop loving and protecting this person who is doing such awful things to you?

I remember going to great lengths at one point to get someone to realize what was happening without actually saying anything. I spent a few weeks visiting my aunt in Colorado and did things in order to get her attention like stealing money and makeup. It got her attention all right because she knew that I wasn't that kind of person. She went to her pastor and then brought me in to talk and I began crying because I felt such relief! They knew! They knew! And I didn't say anything! It wasn't me that told so none of the awful things he threatened me with would happen. But they didn't know. They thought it was because my parents had just divorced and I was having a hard time with it which just made me cry harder because I was still stuck in hell.

There was also the day I molested my little brother which still makes me cry to this day because my brother and my sister were my world. And not that this excuses it, but as a child who was being abused myself, it was a 'natural' thing to do. Many children who are being molested will act out and molest other children, especially siblings. I didn't do it to hurt him yet that was the outcome. I did it because my little child brain believed that he would tell on me and then the truth would come out - again without ME having to tell because if I told I already knew what would happen. As an adult, I see why he never told but as a child I was unaware of just how dysfunctional our family was or even aware that my siblings were having issues, fears and feelings of their own - many of which revolved around what was being done to me.

Oh no! Did I just hang a pair of my dirty dainties out in public?! No. And here's why. Sexual abuse continues to happen BECAUSE we keep it a secret. It happens in secret and victims are threatened to keep it that way. It lives and breathes because nobody will acknowledge it is there so it roams freely, injuring the souls and hearts of children who grow up and become dysfunctional, hurting adults. Family secrets that are kept hidden do not keep families intact. They destroy them from the inside out. These secrets and abuse will continue from generation to generation until they are exposed. Abuse doesn't stop until we speak out. We cannot heal until we use our voice and share our story. When a person is possessed with a demon and the pastor is trying to cast it out, most of the time the pastor must name the demon (blasphemy, confusion, pride, etc.) before it will flee. It is the same way with sexual abuse. We cannot be free of the pain, shame, anger and the million other things that go along with it until we can name it, speak out and share what has happened to us.

Victims, no matter what anyone tells you - it is not your shame or guilt to carry. You did nothing wrong. Nor are you doing anything wrong by speaking out about it. Your life and your experiences are NOT dirty laundry. God certainly doesn't see your life and traumatic experience this way at all so there's no reason anyone else should, either. You matter! What happened to you matters! How you feel matters! And your healing journey is important!

Keep speaking! Keep healing!

1 Thoughts:

michaela nevala said...

PERFECTLY SAID MOM! <3 I love you!!

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