“Silence is golden.” It was almost a mantra for decades, if not centuries. There was even a top recording released in the 60s by that title, “Silence is golden, but my eyes still see.” As Diane Sawyer was closing the national news recently after another look at her interview with Jaycee Dugard, her final remarks for the evening were, “If you see something, say something.”
From the age of 7, when it began, until I reached my 30s, I remained silent about being molested as a little girl. Was my silence golden? No, it was a cave where I hid what was being perpetrated upon me from the world. I learned to crack jokes, keep things light, and was even called “Merry Sunshine” because of my supposed naïve and innocent nature. I was willing to choke on the words before allowing them to come across my lips – I’m being sexually abused. I did everything within my power to hold on to the persona of an untouched vessel of purity and innocence, and would be damned if I’d let others know what was going on in my “other life.” Amazingly, many years later, when my memoirs were published, countless classmates and friends came to me, astonished and stunned, repeatedly asking, “How did you keep it from us? How did we not know?” I even had one friend, nearly forty years after graduation, stand over a book signing table at an event, stare into my face and implore, “We were best friends. We were like sisters. Why didn’t you ever tell me? Why did you keep it from me? I was your very best friend. We told each other everything.” Well, that’s just not how it works for a victim of abuse.
The silence continued throughout all those years that followed the molestation, when I married an abusive alcoholic. Talk about hiding! That was the challenge of all challenges. It’s not very easy to keep things under wraps when an obnoxious drunk gets started. The threats begin. They’ll tell the family “this” and “that,” divulge all your dirty little secrets, like how you abuse prescription drugs to make it through the day. They will take your children away and you will never see them again. After all, what judge is going to let an unstable drug abuser have custody of her children? I could have asked, “And what judge is going to give an abusive drunk custody?” But, I realized that could quite possibly mean no judge would give custody to either parent, and my children would have become “part of the system” as a result of my shortcomings. I could not let that happen. So I just kept silent.
I am sure there were visible “tips” others could have seen if they had known to look for them. Today the information is voluminous on what domestic violence and sexual abuse “look” like. We should all get to know the statistics, the hotline numbers, familiarize ourselves with the agencies all over the country that are available to help victims. Then, if we see something, we can say something, and quite possibly help make a difference, perhaps even save a life or two.
God bless you, Jaycee. I’ll never understand how you possibly lived through all you experienced, yet here you are—a remarkable surviving woman of empowerment and inspiration.
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website at orangeblossomwishes.com.
- Bills to protect domestic violence victims advance (sfgate.com)
- Jaycee Dugard book sells 175,000 copies on first day (today.msnbc.msn.com)
- When silence is not an option (theage.com.au)