Keeping Secrets

me-with-cat-age-7

Me at age 7

. . . Daddy walked toward me and sat on the back steps next to me without speaking. He was about to apologize. That was the way it always worked. Dizzy with the smells of him, beer and whiskey, sweat and wood shavings from the mill, I felt my cheeks burn. He pulled a candy bar from his shirt pocket and began removing the wrapper. The tears I’d fought to hold back began flowing. I listened to his raspy breathing and waited for his words. “There’s nobody out there that loves you like I do. You know that don’t you?” I nodded and slowly began eating the candy bar. It was what he expected. My insides curled up tight, and I struggled to swallow and stop the tears at the same time. “Do you understand?” Again, I nodded, but I didn’t understand. I kept my eyes fixed on my feet, now dwarfed by the dusty, steel-toed boots next to them. My right foot covered the left one protectively. “You’re not going to tell your mom about this, right?” His hand cupped my knee, and his thumb made a circle, the size of a dime, round and round. “You know how upset she’d be if she finds out you aren’t being good.” I swallowed hard, ashamed, and shook my head. I knew my being bad must be kept secret. Daddy took my small hand and held it in his. His touch was gentle, and my tears welled up again. “You love your daddy, don’t you?” he whispered. The candy in my mouth turned into a repulsive paste. I looked up at him, and again, I nodded…

[excerpt from memoir] 

A child sex abuser needs their victim to remain silent. (a) They don’t want to stop the abuse. (2) They don’t want to get in trouble.

A child victim wants to remain silent. (a) They don’t want to cause trouble. (b) They don’t want to break up the family. (c) They blame themselves for what is happening. (d) They don’t want the attention they get from the abuser to stop–especially if it’s the only form of affection they get.

This is what I know now.

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