Dying To Keep A Secret?

I was listening to Natalie Lamb, Life Coach and Founder of It’s Your Choice, on the radio today and she made the statement that “We are all as sick as our secrets.” I’ve heard her say this before, but today these words resonated within me and caused an array of flashing lights to go off in my head!  It was like I was standing on the edge of the planet and looking back at it from a completely different perspective.

When my daughter initially disclosed her sexual abuse, I was plagued with all kinds of guilt.  The guilt of not knowing, the guilt of not protecting her, the guilt of being a working mom and being sure this wouldn’t have happened if I was a stay-at-home mom (false assumption on my part), the guilt of what others would think about me as a parent, and the guilt of being a failure in my own mother’s eyes.  Yes, all these things went through my mind in the days following her disclosure.  But, even with all of that, it never occurred to me that we should keep her abuse a secret and not demand her abuser face criminal charges for what he had done.  We also made sure that other people in the family were aware so they could investigate whether there were others in the family who had been victimized by this individual.

It never occurred to us that we would have to keep it a secret and sweep it under the rug for the sake of saving face with others, or for fear of being judged harshly by friends, family and strangers.  Of course, we used discretion initially because we wanted to make sure our daughter was protected mentally and emotionally, but it was never about making her keep it a secret any longer.  She had carried that secret long enough and she had the right to tell anyone she felt compelled to share with.  Although, as parents, we definitely gave her advice about sharing, it was NEVER about creating shame, nor was it about protecting us.  It was about being in control of her life-story and deciding for herself who became privy to that information.

I must say however, there were some members in our family who weren’t as comfortable about her sharing, nor were they in favor of this blog.  They believe subjects like sexual abuse should be treated as private family matters that we shouldn’t discuss publicly.   But what if I told you that many of the mental, emotional and physical problems that many people face today are often the direct result of abuse and trauma that they experienced as children and they felt pressured (or was actually forced) to keep quiet about it?

We probably all have someone in our family who just never could get things quite together in life.  They had trouble holding down a job, abused drugs or alcohol, seemed to be a little out of touch most of the time, or just always acted up when the family came together.  But consider just for a moment that this person isn’t just an all-around screw up and quite possibly is being help captive by the secrets that they’ve been carrying all these years.  Maybe their behavioral patterns and choices were simply a cry for help.  What must it feel like to have been sexually abused by someone you know or even trusted; to have never received any counseling, and then told to be quiet about it because it wasn’t in good taste to talk about it, especially with those outside of the family?  How is that person supposed to act?  After-all, they were essentially told that their abuser and the reputation of the family was more important than them!

Now what about the ones that made them carry the secret?  Don’t think that they were simply able to go on with life with no consequences.  Oh no…there has to be a mental battle for the part they played in over-looking or excusing the abuse of a child – even if it’s a subconscious battle.  So now they are running from what they’ve allowed to go on and if you ask me, the secret they are carrying has to weigh on them too.  Undoubtedly, their actions manifest themselves via some kind of mental, emotional or physical problem.  Nobody gets off scott-free when a child is harmed – I wholeheartedly believe God designed it that way!

So now….are we not all as sick as our secrets?  Every child that was forced to swallow the reality of their abuse is dealing with the lasting trauma of their abuse, and every adult who enabled the abuser to avoid the penalty of their action is also carrying the burden for their part in the crime.  And, while everyone is sick because of the secret, the only innocent party is the child!  The adults brought it on themselves.

We must change our perspective on child sex abuse and stop making it something shameful for the child and the family.  Speaking up and speaking out will shed light on these evil predators and prevent them from hurting other children.  I’ve just scratched the surface here….there are so many other facets of keeping these secrets that we haven’t talked about – generational incest, pregnancy and genetic disorders and abnormalities, identity crisis and sexual dysfunction, poverty, chronic depression, and innumerable failed relationships.  We are a sick society and to a great extent, it’s because we are carrying baggage that we need not carry!

Protect the child, not the predator.

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