Thursday, March 13, 2008

Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun

Posted by Lara at 12:32 AM
Recently, I was out and about in the blogosphere and I came upon a post that asked, "What's your secret?" Since this blogger and I have little to no overlap in readers, I decided to divulge a little secret I've been keeping. No, I won't share it here, because it was just something I wanted to get out and be done with. I'd like to thank that blogger for giving me the space to do that.

It got me thinking, though, about other secrets I have. Some secrets I keep because they're not mine to share, and obviously I'm not going to post any of those here. Some secrets I keep because I don't think they deserve the level of attention and thought it would take to tell them - I won't be posting those either. But some secrets I keep because I'm scared of what will happen if I talk about them, scared to dig them out of the dark spaces where they hide. Maybe, though, it's time to talk.

When I was a young child - maybe 7 years old - there was an older couple who lived down the street. Gus and Victoria were pretty much what you would expect of a kindly old neighborhood couple - they liked telling stories, they always had fresh flowers from their garden, and they liked to spoil me with candy when I went to visit them. I remember a number of pleasant afternoons sitting in a big fluffy armchair across from Victoria, listening to her reminisce while Gus tinkered in the kitchen or the garage.

(No, I didn't murder these kindly old people and bury their bodies in the schoolyard. Shame on you for even thinking such a thing!)

One day, I walked down the street to pay them a visit, but when I got there, victoria was out. I don't remember where Gus said she was, but she was gone, and it was just me and Gus. It seemed a little weird to be there just with him, so I said that maybe I should go home, but he seemed so glad to see me, and asked me to stay. So I did - I stayed. And he did exactly what you're all hoping I'm not going to say: He touched me. A lot. In bad ways.

You can probably tell from the way I'm writing this that it still makes me shut down a bit. I can't just come out and be all, "I was sexually abused," I have to revert to kid language and stammer, "He... did stuff to me." But hey, this is hard.

I'm certainly not going into details about what happened, because a) I don't want to gross you out, and b) I don't want to drag it all up and relive it here. But trust me when I say that it was awful. I hated feeling so uncomfortable and yet not knowing how to get out of the situation. I was still worried about not hurting Gus's feelings - not letting him know that I didn't like what he was doing. What kind of warped thinking is that? The thinking of a scared 7-year-old. I wanted out, but I didn't know what to do.

Eventually, I made up a story about having promised my mom that I would be home by 3:30 to help clean the pool. I remember that so distinctly, standing there telling that lie, hoping he would believe it. He did, and he let me go home. He never said anything to me about keeping what had happened a secret - he just let me go. I went home, and I never went back.

I don't know what happened to Gus and Victoria, although I'm sure they're long dead by now. I don't know if Gus ever did anything like that to anyone else, or if Victoria ever suspected. I only know what it did to me, how it made me ashamed for years, scared of my own feelings and those of the men I encountered. I know how hard it made relationships for a long time, how terrifying intimacy could be. I know how the nightmares made me cry out in the night, long into my twenties. Sometimes, I still see him in my dreams.

Why am I telling you this? Sometimes the weight is just too much to bear, even a weight like this, that's been with me for my whole life. How many times have I wanted to just shout it out, to try to explain why I act so weird and cold sometimes? How many times have other people shared their stories, and I want so much to say, "Me too," but I'm too scared? I don't want to be scared anymore - I want to have survived this and moved on.


So there it is, my secret. Do you have any you want to share?

30 comments:

tpiglette on 1:08 AM said...

I do, actually... I'll tell you about it when I talk to you next. It's something that I think only two other people know, which was the first and last time I ever talked about it - freshman year at Stanford.

Thanks for being brave and sharing that.

Hanlie on 1:08 AM said...

I can appreciate that that must have been incredibly tough for you to write. You are a wonderfully brave girl!

What happened was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. Don't blame yourself for not going when you found out Victoria wasn't there. You could not have "known" or suspected. You did not bring this over yourself, you did not deserve this and you do not need to suffer any guilt. You do not need to punish yourself. I know you know all of this, but it bears repeating.

Do you think that your need to work with children stems from a desire to reassure, protect and heal the 7 year old Lara?

Thank you for sharing. You are very brave and very honest.

Sandra on 5:46 AM said...

Hanlie beat me to it but Lara the first thing I wanted to call out loud to you as I read this was ... it is not your fault. It is not. Abuse is always, always, always the responsibility of the abuser. You were a child and even if you weren't ... it is still not your fault. He betrayed and violated you and your trust in a way you can only understand if you've been through it.

And I have said to you before how much I admire and respect your strength and your honesty. I didn't think it was possible but that admiration just grew ten fold. Writing about this and talking about this is so hard. But breaking the silence is important. For you, for that 7 year old inside of you and for the people who will read this and know it is okay to share their secret or who will look at that Gus-like neighbour just a little more cautiously.

Sending warm hugs of understanding to you. Thanks for trusting us to share this. xo

lspoon on 6:05 AM said...

Wow that is quite a secret and anything I would have to share would pale in comparison. I hope it makes you feel empowered to get that out :)

Mrs. Chili on 6:23 AM said...

I, too, was sexually abused. By my father. When I told my mother, he denied it - right there in front of me - and she believed him.

Yet another reason these people are no longer in my life.

Dawn on 6:33 AM said...

Your strength and bravery are inspiring. I was raped by my boyfriend and it was my first time. Needless to say it has cause me a great deal of pain.

I have so much I want to say to you and to give you a hug, but I know the words won't come out right. Thank you for trusting us with your pain and allowing us to share out own.

Mayberry on 6:40 AM said...

Oh, Lara, I wish I could hug both the 7-year-old you and the today you and say it's all better now. I'm so sorry that happened.

flutter on 9:30 AM said...

Thanks for being brave, girl.

You didn't deserve that.

I have one too....I'm a birthmom.

the kaiser on 10:26 AM said...

I have no secrets like that. It's gotta be tough, I can't even imagine. But hopefully getting it out there will help on your way towards healing. *hugs*

Lisa on 4:27 PM said...

Once again, your bravery and strength just astonish me. I honestly think, at this point in my life, you are the bravest woman I "know".
The sad thing is, as soon as I started reading your post, I knew exactly where it was going.
Everything Hanlie said is so right on. But I will add too that this horrible thing that happened to you, in some way, shaped who you are today--and part of who you are today is an amazing woman, a strong person, a brave soul, a good teacher and so in tune with themselves that others must be drawn to you.
I have a secret too....don't we all? But I am not so ready to share...or perhaps, not brave enough to.

Seeser said...

As always, you can talk to me anytime if you want to.

Love you.

Tense Teacher on 7:32 PM said...

Mine was a 12-year-old boy, the babysitter's son. I was 6 years old. I forgot about it for years, and then when I was an adult the memory just came back, seemingly out of nowhere. At first I felt extreme guilt, because I remember wanting the "big kid's" attention, so it must have been my fault, right? Then I felt anger, but now I'm just sad... because his actions helped to shape part of who I am today, and not in a good way.

You've done a brave and good thing in sharing. You've helped others (such as me) and you've probably helped yourself more than you'll ever know.

Lindz on 8:09 PM said...

That's a lot of baggage to carry. I'm so sorry.

Guilty Secret on 5:44 AM said...

I'm sorry you went through that, not just as a seven-year-old girl, but all these years since keeping the secret.

You help people so much when you share things like this. Thank you.

Jennifer on 6:25 AM said...

I think sometimes it's especially hard for women like us (I am counting you like me here, I hope you'll see why) for two particular reasons. First, our feminist sensibilities (or whatever you want to call them) tell us we should be strong and capable and all those things. I feel like I should be over it so I can be a strong woman, or like I must not be strong because I'm not over it, or something like that. The second issue is that we are afraid people might dismiss our other problems (like depression) or relate them to each other. My depression was not "caused" by my abuse, but I know some people might see it that way. I almost feel like that lets people off too easy or something, lets them separate themselves from me. BTW, I don't remember what actually happened to me, I just remember the old man who lived next door to my grandmother asking to see my (five-year-old) legs, encouraging me to lift my skirt higher. I was really unsure that was a "real" memory until I heard that two other people said he molested them. But there's nothing like the complete absence of memories to make you feel a little crazy. I just assume something happened that I have blocked out or something. Maybe it never did.

nutmeg on 9:34 AM said...

No, because I'm not as brave as you, but this is a very important post -- because mothers need to read it. To know that this happens in nice neighborhoods. To know that we think our seven year olds would know to run, but THEY DON'T! To know that our children keep their own secrets. I am so deeply sorry that you were hurt by that git, but thank you for this.

ana on 1:55 PM said...

I'm sorry that happened. You are an awfully brave girl. I too have dark secrets, but I'm not courageous enough to confront them. I like to look at life through the ignore-event filter.

*hugs*

nutmeg on 5:55 PM said...

Found the secret - you're wrong. Better to be right where you are healing!

BetteJo on 4:45 PM said...

Isn't it sad to know I wasn't incredibly surprised? Not because it was you, but because it seems to be everywhere.

20 years ago I worked with a woman who brought up being molested as a child and I said something about the "1 out of 4 girls" statistic. When I said I could not imagine how she dealt with it she looked at me with surprise and said "you mean you weren't?"

Talking about it is the best thing you can do for yourself - and others who are reading it. Thank you.

dancing dragon on 8:27 PM said...

I don't know what to say. I never imagined that you had been through something like that.

I happened to pick up an Oprah magazine after reading this, and an article called "Secrets and Lies", by Martha Beck, caught my attention and seems to relate to this, so I thought about sharing it with you. The Web version of the article is only part of the actual article in the print magazine though, which is better.

Anyway, I hope that by telling this secret publicly, that you'll be able to break free.

Amanda on 7:48 AM said...

The neighborhood boys that I ran with had a little game they pulled out after dusk called, "Tickle torture." It killed me that my best friend's parents didn't let her stay out past dusk. I didn't want to bear the brunt of the game, but I did. My parents never caught on. I never forgot, and have often dreamt of confronting those "boys" who were 5 and 8 years older than me, old enough to know. Period.

KennethSF on 1:24 PM said...

I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you, but I'm glad you found the courage to confront it now. The sad truth is, if Gus did it to you, he probably did it to a few others. Still, you shouldn't have to bear the burden of this secret alone, because you didn't volunteer to shoulder it to begin with. Hope this helps you put this behind.

Saffa Chick on 5:35 PM said...

Oh hell that's awful. I'd like to go and kick the crap out of the old fart. You're very brave to share your secret...

I don't have any secrets like that - I am lucky and I know it.

MB on 5:52 AM said...

You are brave, brave, brave. Wish I could give you a hug.

Sara on 7:44 AM said...

me too sweetie, me too.

and you know what, I'm really proud of you.

I know the problems with intimacy and all too, it actually gets better though, when it's someone who loves you enough to respect you through it

maggie, dammit on 8:53 AM said...

Wow.

Found you through Flutter's email asking us to guest post this week, and reading here I see a lot of my favorite bloggers in your comment section so I'm not sure what took me so long to stumble upon you...

This post has stirred up all kinds of things in me. Kudos to you for being so much braver than I.

Off to add you to my Google Reader...

Major Bedhead on 4:41 PM said...

How awful, Lara. I'm sorry.

I have secrets, but I don't know that I'm ready to share them right now, if ever.

Orangeblossoms on 4:29 PM said...

my secret? I have so many.

It is good, important, AND earth-shaking that you told this secret. We needed to hear it and you needed to tell it.

MisterOregon on 11:27 PM said...

It's really rare for me to be completely stunned anymore. I saw it coming from the first few sentences, yet it still hit me surprisingly hard.

I'd tell you it's not your fault, but you know that, and other people can say it better.

I'd tell you that someday you'll put it behind you or that you'll be "fixed"...but I've never met anyone who wasn't broken, so I won't say that either.

What I RARELY meet is someone who has the strength to share what truly hurts them. That's exposure, that's true and utter intimacy. And that impresses me more than I can tall you.

What else impresses me is your day to day strength. Getting out of bed everyday, making life happen everyday, not giving in to the things that hurt everyday...that impresses me and inspires me. Utterly.

Christina on 10:51 AM said...

Wow. You are so brave to share this. I hope it was liberating for you. Huge to you.

 

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