“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Gandhi
At one point in my life, this is what I longed to do. I wanted to shake the world gently. Actually, for most of my life, this was my dream. My desire. I wanted to touch hearts and souls. Create a deep and meaningful conversation. Make a difference. Leave something significant behind. Change the world.
How did I long to change the world?
By revealing an ugly reality that most others choose not to see. By exposing the truth beneath the lies.
I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to tell it in such a way that people would come to understand the depth of destruction caused by child abuse. I wanted to paint them a picture of the massive damage. I wanted to show them such a vivid and terrifying portrait, they would gasp and heave in revulsion, but finally comprehend how awful it was. I wanted to show everyone the hideous scars, the disfiguring wounds, the traumatic dismembering, the ugly aftermath. I wanted to speak in such a manner that the horror could no longer be swept under the rug and ignored. I wanted people to see and grasp the nightmare a child lives through when they are being abused by their parents – if they survive – and clearly demonstrate how these experiences misshape them throughout their adult life.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass
When we pass a gruesome wreck on the interstate, our foot involuntarily eases off the gas and we slow our speeding vehicle. We stretch our necks. We seek the gore. Our attention is removed from the road before us and is drawn to the smashed cars and flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. We’re looking for the blood. Dead and broken bodies. We want to be shocked. We long to take in the full horror of the disaster.
But when a child is being raped by her father, we cover our ears and run. When he is using her to fulfill his sick sexual fantasies, we close our eyes and flee the scene of the “accident.” Not only do we turn away, shut our ears and refuse to see, we avoid the scene completely. We look everywhere but at that wreck of a child. We look at everything except the signs of their abuse. We even blame and shame the child for what has been done to them. We tell them to keep their ugly secrets.
When they become adults, it isn’t any better.
No one wants to hear what you lived through or how it damaged you. It’s considered bad manners to discuss such sordid and disgusting details. To even confide that you were abused is crossing some invisible line. You’re told that you’re being negative and pitying yourself for bringing it up. That sharing this kind of disgusting information is highly inappropriate. It’s all in the past, you know. Get over it. Let it go. Move on. Focus on the positives. Forgive. Forget. Walk away from the wreck of your past and leave it behind you.
“What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give.” ~P.D. James
So great was my fear of inadequacy and so deep was my feeling of brokenness, I decided as a teenager that I couldn’t allow myself to become a mother. I was petrified of not being able to give a child what they needed because of my own lack. So great was my fear of hurting a child deeply because of my deficiencies, I decided it would be selfish to give birth. This is the sole reason I am childless. I wanted to tell my story and shake the world gently so someone would understand the tragedy of my sacrifice. I wanted them to grasp how important it is to bring child abuse to and end.
“The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants.” ~Shakespeare
My parents forever changed me in horrendous ways. They shaped the way I see the world. How I see others. How I view God. How deeply I can connect or trust. They changed my perspective, limited my potential, closed doors on opportunities I would have had, maimed me, tortured me, then blamed me for it all. They convinced me I was worthy of nothing else. Showed me I was an object. I believed them. And they very nearly destroyed me.
Maybe they did destroy me.
I wanted to shake the world gently, but profoundly, by speaking the unspeakable. By uncovering my broken foundation. By exposing all the gangrenous tissue in my heart. By shining a light on the twisted, tangled and chaotic thoughts that continually pummel and populate my mind. By flinging open the door to my soul so others would be forced to face the gross deformity. I hoped it would spur change.
I didn’t want to shake the world to cause harm, but rather to shine a light into the darkness so the darkness would be revealed. And dispelled. I hoped in being heard, my words would make a difference. That people would at last stand up and demand the madness stop. I never wanted another child to have to endure the abuse I had endured. Nor to be burdened with putting back together the pieces of themselves after they had been gruesomely demolished by those who were supposed to love, nurture and protect them.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small. ~Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears A Who
I wanted to be a voice in the silence. A light in the black night. A cry that would be heard around the world. I wanted to shake the world gently until they finally woke up. No child should ever suffer as I suffered. They should not be hurt as I was hurt. They should not be damaged the way I was damaged. Nor destroyed the way I was destroyed. I wanted to speak for those who couldn’t speak. To stand for every tiny person who was trying to be invisible because being seen meant to be abused.
I wanted to shake the world gently to stimulate change. But in the end, telling my story woke no one and caused no revolution. Gentle shaking isn’t enough to wake us from our slumber. It is going to take a massive jolt. It appears it will require a million voices joined together, shouting in outrage, demanding change. Maybe then, we will arise from our sleep.
But we, the abused, are secret keepers. We don’t know how to scream out loud. So the only world that shakes is our own. Thus we stumble on in silence. Voiceless. Unnoticed.