I wrote a story for chapter 15 of Minding the Light entitled “One Shining Light.” It is a deeply personal story about my own experience with abuse. I wrote it at the time to recognize and honor my brother who played a signiﬁcant role in keeping me safe throughout childhood.
After submitting the story committee, I edited it again, toning down some parts so that the simple facts remained. After all, the point was not to make anyone feel bad, but instead to draw attention to the under-appreciated role my brother had played in our family. I sent this edited version to my brother and my father.
I guess this was a bold move. Perhaps an unnecessary one.
After reading the story, my father asked the following questions with concern “So are you over this yet? When are you going to be over it? What I mean is….did you forgive? Does it still torment you?”
Apparently my brother had talked to him as well and he also thought I just need to get over this.
At ﬁrst, I thought I was writing my story to honor my brother for the role he played in my life. I thought that maybe by sharing this story with my dad he would make an effort to appreciate my brother a little bit more. I assumed that any dad who failed to protect his daughter would feel anguish and sadness over this and would also experience a deep sense of gratitude at the awareness that someone else had watched out for his little girl at a time when he was unable to do so. This was not the case.
To answer my dad’s questions: No it does not torment me, but it did impact my life and these questions hurt because I was never provided a space to process and “deal with” my experiences as a child or adolescent. These questions reinforce my feelings of being alone and I am respectfully outraged.
An act of child abuse is not a one-time thing that one can be expected to experience and just get over. It’s a series of life experiences, adaptations, and ways of being that at the realizations of being safe, you then have to peel away layer after layer after layer like an onion. And yes, I have forgiven. But that’s not even the point. Forgiveness does not magically remove years of life experience that occurred as a result of a single event.
While these responses from my family members who clearly did not get the point of why I sent them my written story are painful, this is the deeper truth which I embrace: I did not write my story for my brother or for my dad. I wrote it for me. And I wrote it for you. And for anyone else who has experienced abuse. Because in writing and sharing my experience, I see my immense progress. I see that I truly am as free as I choose to be. I am no longer chained within the walls of secrecy and shame. I am walking towards the light – not fully there yet, but well on my way. And I am not afraid of the shadows that linger all around. And this is a good and healthy place to be. Even if my family can’t see it.