I was 15 years old in this picture. I’m sitting her looking into my own eyes. This picture was taken 30 years ago. I remember the night well. I was with my girl friends. I was momentarily happy. I let myself be happy that night. But do you see sadness? I can see sadness. Do you see innocence? I see innocence. At 15, I felt I was not innocent anymore. I felt, at 15 years old that I was tainted, ruined, dirty, worthless, and a failure. I feel sad for that 15 year old part of myself. I’m trying not to let tears well up while I tell her, ” You are special, you are worthy, you matter, I love you, God loves you, don’t give up! Please don’t give up.” No one told me that. That is the price I paid for secrets.
Is the secret really worth it? I have gone over in my mind the sheer magnitude of people that were in my life at that time ALL protecting their secret. Taking on other’s secrets. Creating their own secrets. These adult’s secrets cost their children dearly. Just on my lake alone everyone was willing to keep the abuse I went through a secret. They shut the door on me to keep the door open to the abuser. That ski club HAD TO KEEP RUNNING. Lives COULD NOT CHANGE JUST BECAUSE I WAS ABUSED. Their lives did not. They managed to keep their secret at the detriment of not only me. They put hundreds of other lives in danger. Any one of them who think I was the only one sexually abused by that man are gravely mistaken. Secrets. There was a man in our family who sexually assaulted multiple women. That was kept a secret. Who did that secret help? The abuser. Who did it hurt, the women that are still alone in their suffering AND the countless women he was left to abuse along the way. He got protected by the secret. That pains me to think about. Just on my little lake in my small town. The secrets of who was gay, were huge. Secret gay groups of people cheating on their spouses was huge. It was astounding actually. Secrets I found out took precedence over caring for me and protecting me. Secrets can only be kept for so long. They ooze out and drip into the mouths of those willing to finally speak of them. By those who were hurt by the secret as well. I do understand coming out as a gay individual is and always has been deeply complex. I do not judge that. I don’t care that they were gay! I cared for those men. Knew them. I hated the secret. I hate the secret still. Their secrets were more important than the welfare of a child. That is a painful pill to swallow. Secrets. Teachers in our town having sex with their students. I am sure it happens in many towns but in a small town whoever knows will zip their lips tightly. Secrets. Forty year old mothers having sex with teenage boys. That happened and still happens in that small town. Nobody says a word. Nobody ever did. It seems nobody but me ever will. I hear about the secrets and have heard about them throughout the years. Liars and cheats don’t always do a good job of covering up and hiding. I was and am a very observant person who listens. I have seen and I have heard the secrets. I know also who those secrets hurt.
Maybe I will start a revolution of sorts. Maybe the 14 year old who had sex with the 40 year old will realize how wrong that was. How against the law that was. Maybe the 15 year old who was sleeping with the 30 year old teacher will realize that she may have thought it was consentual but in all actuality it was statutory rape. Maybe one member of the ski club that is still going on will leave because they don’t want to be part of a club that protects sex offenders. Maybe one girl in my family will speak out about what was done to her so the others don’t feel so alone. Maybe we can stand together in the power of the truth.
Secrets place a burden. That burden ALWAYS falls on the abused, the innocent, the victim. That person grows up feeling shamed. Feeling they did something wrong. Feeling they are to blame. The secret has so much power that it consumes the secret keeper while condemning the victim.
When will this change? When will all of the SURVIVORS stand up and say NO MORE! The secret ends with me. I will speak my truth! I will start a truth revolution so that the secrets have no power ever again! This can happen. It just takes a voice. A word. a choice. We may not have had that choice as children, tangled up in the adult secrets, but we no longer have to carry their secrets with us. I have released my secrets. They were NOT MY SECRET. They were NOT MY SHAME. I just wonder, when will everyone else release theirs. When will the other bystanders, those who watched in silence, who didn’t contribute, but didn’t protect either, finally do the right thing.
When will the truth be stronger than the secret. For me that is happening right now. I look into my own eyes at 15 years old and I know I have made myself proud. I have stood up for that 15 year old at 45 years old like no one ever did. Shame on every person who did not stand up for me. Shame on every person who has burdened a child with a secret, wrapped them in a shame of a secret, and bound them by the power of the secret. It is time that all of those children and teenagers who have grown up, release the secret. The time is right now. You deserve to be free.