My friend Matt, founder of Speak Your Silence, is up for a non-profit foundation award and asked me if I would write a letter backing up my Outspoken Campaign.
As many of you know, I first spoke my silence on November 29, 2012. I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words the impact that the Speak Your Silence foundation has had on my life, so instead of talking about how thankful I am, I promise to never stop talking about what happened to me. I promise to never feel ashamed, guilty, or angry about the events of my past; but rather feel empowered, humbled, and thankful that I can be apart of a foundation that loves to support the prevention of child sexual abuse.
This might sound silly, but when I decided to “speak my silence,” it was all for selfish reasons. I had seen the way that opening up about his childhood had helped Matt accept the things that happened to him, and I was jealous. As proud as I was of him, I envied him. I envied the way that he could so effortlessly talk to anyone about his past—friends, family, complete strangers. I envied him for the fact that he could sleep through the night without waking up to nightmares and flashbacks reminding him of every intricate detail enveloping his existence. I envied his strength and ability to regain control of his life.
I envied him, and I wanted the freedom that he had found. So I broke.
My decision to speak was based solely on the hopes that it would free me from the chains weighing me down and help me leave my past behind. I chose to speak so that I could talk to my sister and closest friends about what had happened to me and no longer feel constant guilt that I was keeping such a big ‘secret’ from them. I opened up in hopes that by the time I meet my future husband, I will no longer feel ashamed, anxious, and scared when it comes to trust and intimacy. I chose to speak my silence for me.
What I didn’t realize was that by speaking my silence, I not only freed myself from the anchors of my past and helped others dealing with similar situations feel like they weren’t alone, but I instantly became part of the solution.
Within a month of speaking my silence, 11 people opened up to me and spoke THEIR silence, causing a chain reaction of conversations instantly removing the stigma associated with sexual abuse to anyone involved. I had so many peers and classmates approach me to ask how they could get involved, show their love and support, and even had one classmate tell me that he had never met someone that had been affected by sexual abuse but that hearing my story made the issue seem “real” to him.
Well, let me tell you something, the issue IS real. And the cold hard truth is that statistics show that 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in every 6 boys that my classmate has ever come in contact with has been abused, I was just the first person to say it out loud.
My sister called me after I spoke and told me that she and her husband sat my niece and nephew down to explain what sexual abuse is and teach them the difference between safe and unsafe touch. Tears began overflowing from my eyes as she promised me that she didn’t use my name or tell them what had happened to me, but what she didn’t realize was these were tears of happiness—tears of relief.
In a selfish attempt to free myself from a terrible thing that happened to me, I sparked a conversation between my sister and my precious niece and nephew that would hopefully result in neither one of them ever having to experience the things that I had to go through.
In a matter of seconds, my attention shifted from the way speaking my silence could benefit ME to the fact that speaking my silence might be able to SAVE someone else. Save someone from living in fear, save someone from feeling at fault, save someone from carrying someone else’s mistakes until they finally break.
Initially, I may have spoken my silence for myself. But now, I speak for everyone else.
We all hold the power to prevent sexual abuse simply by sparking conversation, and, thanks to the support I’ve received by becoming apart of Speak Your Silence, I promise to never stop talking.
CONVERSATION IS THE SOLUTION.