by Gordon DeLand
I have been silenced, me and my trouble.
I first silenced myself in shame, not even knowing exactly why, but somehow… it was wrong, what had just happened. And I knew it. I looked for a friend but got something else. The trust I had put in him had been violated, shattered. I was pretty sure it was wrong, but there was no one to ask without shaming myself for “not knowing better” It was just a vague feeling then, but it needed a private answer and there was no one to ask. So I silenced The Question. Thus The Silence began.
Then my abuser said, “Don’t tell.” We both knew what had happened. But both of us—my abuser and I— had The Question. But it was a hard question, hard to figure out what the question really was, too hard to figure out the answer alone, and it was too shameful to ask anyone else about. So my abuser told me what he told himself: “Just shut up about this—tell no one.”
Finally, I felt so much shame and guilt that I finally did go ask. I asked someone in charge of me, asked The Question, or what I thought was the question: Was it okay doing that? But when I asked, they did not know the answer, and more than that, they were shocked at the very asking of The Question and the questions that The Question brought up. I was told to be silent. Or that I was wrong, it couldn’t have happened, could it? Or at very least, be very quiet about it now.
So, there! I knew I was right. What I had done was something bad! Now I knew. What a relief! Except that, now, I was bad. Asking the Question had proved that. And now it was my responsibility to maintain The Silence about the bad thing I had done. Telling would not help, I knew that now for sure. And telling more people now—any other people—would also be bad, just like my abuser said it would be. The abuser was right. I was wrong. And I was the bad one for trying to tell. Bad, stupid me. And The Silence got stronger.
But there was hope: I could be a good boy, a big boy, by keeping The Secret and The Silence.
And life went on. The abuse went on, too, although we didn’t call it that. We were friends. Nothing violent or hurtful. Just Special Friends. There were times in between abuse when I could forget and just be a good, big boy and do my duty to not tell. Then more abuse and again I was a good quiet, obedient boy for my abuser, even though I knew that, somehow, pretty sure, less sure, that this was bad. And The Silence grew again.
Then the day came that Someone Else found out about us and the abuse stopped. No more being good for my abuser even if it was wrong and even if I was bad for doing it. The Someone Else who found out made us stop. They told, but they didn’t keep telling because it was nasty, dirty and bad. And no one wanted to hear that. And soon everyone forgot about the whole thing. Everyone but me.
And two things happened. First, I didn’t get to be with my abuser anymore, and the sudden, complete separation from the only one I dared be close with made me think maybe this would happen to anybody I got close to. Second, there were some new rules. First New Rule: No getting close to anyone sexually. Maybe when I was older, or married, they said. But not now. So I figured, no friends allowed (what other way of being close was there?).
I was told boys don’t do that kind of stuff with boys. It was nasty, dirty and bad. So, Second New Rule, one I thought up all by myself: Since boys don’t do that, and since I did do that, I was not really a boy. Not a girl, for sure. But not a boy. BOYS don’t do what I did. So…I wasn’t sure what I was, but not a boy or girl. And whatever I was, I was nasty, dirty and bad.
Steadily, slowly, they expanded as I got older and my own world expanded. My guilt and shame were always there for me, familiar, comfortable. And they and the confusion always expanded to fill whatever new experiences I had, experiences that made me grow up and out of childhood. Grow up into…what? Good question. Into what? Manhood? I knew I was different because I had not been a boy. So, now, how could I be a man? Not a girl, not a woman, for sure. But what, then? Very confusing. And no one to ask. So I kept silent. And The Question still remained.
And besides, I should be able to answer all these questions for myself by now, for god sake! I’m an adult! And who cares anyway? It was a long time ago. The other guy is dead now, even. Forget it. Shut up. Keep silent. Please.
“Please, please, please! Just SHUTUPaboutit! For god sake just shut up!” That’s what I kept telling myself.
But as an adult, the day came that someone found out about me. What I thought I had hidden so well, for so long, all came out.
It happened a little at a time at first and then more and more, faster and faster. This person kept finding out things about me. They found out that it was me who had been abused, not the other guy. They found out that it wasn’t something I asked for—it was plain, simple Male Childhood Sexual Abuse. And they found out that it wasn’t my fault, that I was a victim. And then they did the one thing they promised never to do: They told The Secret. They told on me. They told the worst possible person they could tell, too. They told ME.
Yes, the person who told, was the same person being told on. I told on me, to me. I quit lying to myself and told myself The Truth. I quit lying about the abuse, that it didn’t happen, that it didn’t matter, that it couldn’t have been me that it happened to, that it was all my fault, that I asked for it. I quit lying that I was the nasty, dirty bad not-boy who was responsible for it all.
And in the end, I listened to myself. And I believed.
Now that you’ve heard my experience and thoughts about this, I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments so you can continue to partake in the discussion.
It has been only the last six years that Gordon DeLand has actively addressed the fact that he is, indeed, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In that time, one of his main passions has become writing about his journey of healing and helping others who are on that same journey. Gordon is a semi-retired “jack-of-all-trades” ranging from pastor to plumber and resides outside of Dallas, Texas.