August 22, 2012

A Beyond Survivor's Story: Spoken Secret - Part 1

Hi all,

I recently had the opportunity to work with J. Eve through my Beyond Surviving program. As we got to know each other, I learned that she was a writer and was beginning to piece together some of her work for various publications and projects. Her story has recently been published in Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women, and she has agreed to let me share her story with you here as well. 

J. Eve is a powerhouse young woman who has dealt with the struggle so many of us face: How do we tell our story, how do we deal with the outcomes of breaking the silence, and who do we become after telling our story. For the next four weeks, she will be sharing her journey of speaking her story with us.*


I wonder where and who I’d be today had I never disclosed. For seven years, I didn’t have the ability to express anything about what I had suffered. From the time I was eight until fifteen, “remembering” the abuse I’d endured at about eight years old felt more like a figment of my imagination than a secret I kept hidden. Sometimes, this fragment felt like a vivid nightmare, at other times like a lie I was itching to tell. But the possibility that it was a real experience simply didn’t make sense. Why would my family member, someone I idolized and deeply trusted, expose me to such horrifying sexual acts? The protective mechanisms of my mind repressed the images, scents, and emotions for a long time, but gradually, slowly, they rose up and entered my awareness.  

The beginning of “remembering” took place while I was journaling on an ordinary spring day, sitting on the porch steps of the house I’d lived in my entire life. My abuser walked to his car and made a goofy face at me that sparked a thought—a memory—which translated into a written disclosure to my journal that I believed nobody would ever read. Within hours, my mother discovered my journal and saw my secret. No investigating, no prying, no discovering the crime in action, she simply stumbled upon my journal as so many snooping mothers do, only to discover a sentence that would change our futures indefinitely: “I wonder if anyone will ever find out about what happened between Sean and me.”

Though we were all devastated, each member of my family adopted a different mentality to make sense of what had happened. My father minimized the abuse, categorized it as sibling bullying, and said I needed to let the past be the past because “shit happens.” My brother didn’t allow himself to process any of it because he simply didn’t know how or what his place was in this drama.

My mother asked me questions to which I had no answers; it was as if I’d known for years, yet I quite literally couldn’t remember enough to respond. Her tone was urgent; she was furious. I stood before her emotionless. Despite remembering the abuse enough to write that one sentence, I remembered nothing more.

Instead of teaming up with my distraught, protective mother, I warned Sean that my parents knew. Years later, I would miss this brief moment of feeling I had an advocate. Yet at the time, I wanted to protect him and me—this was our secret. Maybe he could think up a lie or find some way out of trouble. I never told on him; I thought we were in this together.

Within hours—or days—my abuser was confronted. The intensity of these events caused my memory to fail me. It felt like everything happened so fast and then, just like that, was over. He admitted to it right away and that night he wrote me an apology. Wanting her family to put all of this behind us, my mother encouraged me to forgive and reconcile with my abuser. I forgave him, or at least that’s what I told him. I had no idea what it meant to forgive someone who says they love you but is responsible for much of your own needless suffering. 

*Names have been changed

Check in next week for Part 2 of J. Eve's story. 

In 2010, Lisa Shultz and Andrea Costantine published the anthology, Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women. Their goal with this book and its subsequent volumes and spin offs is to provide a beacon of light, hope, and connection for women as they navigate their lives while overcoming challenges and difficulties along the way. They had 49 contributing authors in Volume One who shared their stories of family matters, love and abuse, faith and spirituality, health and healing, and finding their path."

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