Being ordered to be quiet about something painful is at times, more painful than the actual traumatic event. The words, ‘stifle it’ still rings in my ears from my early days of childhood. My father was well known to use this common household phrase in my younger years. One example of dad’s habitual use of the words ‘stifle it’ was spoken after a traumatic event in my life. This time listening to my father changed my life forever. ‘Obeying thy father’ wasn’t what was in store for my lesson. What I was about to learn would change my life and others’ lives in the future.
It was the summer of 1979 and school break was in session before my high school years were about to begin. My parents thought a trip to the mid-west by myself to visit our extended family would be a nice way to spend a few weeks. This was not to be the case. During my visit, my uncle raped me. I was silent about the incest for a few months. After informing my parents, they insisted that we not tell anyone. There it is again, ‘stifle it’. Since my parents didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of a young girl’s depression, retaliation and the variances in behavior that had overcome my teenage youthfulness, I was sent to a boarding school.
I remember one of my thoughts being, “Why is my father telling me to ‘stifle it’ when he is supposed to be taking care of me?” My inner voice always wanted to scream and shout, but repeatedly was being hammered down, “don’t say anything”. My uncle who had raped me echoed the same words. Didn’t my parents realize they were re-victimizing me by telling me not to speak about this crime?
After completing my freshman year at boarding school, I went back to live with my brother and newly divorced mother. During the next few years my uncle had been invited into our home on numerous occasions. My inner voice was screaming so loudly during these visits, and I didn’t think I would survive. There were a few family members that my mother had informed about the rape, so I knew that others were aware of the crime. The feeling of being with others that knew what this monster had done to me is beyond describable.
How my family dealt with the abuse, actually molded me into who I am today. It has taken me many years to realize why I have gone through so many negative tragedies in my life. It has been God’s plan. I believe that God will not hand us anything He does not think we can handle. He handed me many ordeals to live through in order for me to now have the job that is so dear to my heart.
Every weekday I educate middle and high school students about violence prevention. The lesson plans are filled with sexual assault, dating violence, assertiveness, healthy boundaries, just to name a few. If by some chance they do not learn about these things at home, they will learn from me. My determination, passion, and wisdom are my driving forces for over 3,000 children a school year. I also speak to the public throughout the year regarding my sexual assault (as well as domestic abuse). I attend conferences and have my own workshops, speak at colleges, churches, civic organizations, etc., wherever there is a need.
I have taken ‘stifle it’ and turned it into ‘speak it,’ because everyone has a right to a voice, even our children. And I let them know.