Breaking the Silence

Cynthia Jeub telling her story brings up a lot for me.

Memories.

Memories of hiding in small dark places with my hands clamped firmly over my ears to try to block out the screams of a sibling who was being “disciplined.” Being isolated, and truly having no one to tell, no one to turn to for help.

Memories of fear and shame and rage.

Nightmares.

Dreams where it all happens over again. That sick feeling in my stomach over not being able to help, change the circumstances, sick from fear. Heart racing, waking up in a sweat. Waking up and still feeling tired after long night.

Regret.

That I didn’t say something then. That I didn’t know what was happening to me and my siblings was abusive. How could I not have known? How could I not have seen? Why was I so completely unable to trust myself and my experience? Regret, that more of my siblings were hurt, because every time someone got hurt, no one ever dared breath a word.

 

When I started writing about growing up in a highly controlling conservative christian home, my blog was an anonymous little mommy blog. No one I knew in real life read my blog, there were no names or other details to give away that it was me. And yet, I typed with shaking hands, and hit publish with my heart pounding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat Cynthia is doing, takes guts. Years of shame, being told to be quiet, being told that love, respect, and family, means that you look the other way, cover up each others wrongdoings, and loyally defend abuse even if it means lying, makes speaking the truth aloud a terrifying prospect. Add to that, that her family is well known in Christian Quiverfull circles, and have literally built their life, community and well-being off of that name. This makes them all the more likely to lash out in anger over Cynthia refusing to play the loyalty shell game any longer.

To read her series, check out part one and  part two. Part three does a great job of explaining why it is important to break the silence, instead of playing by the rules invented by the abusers. And part four explains the revisionist history that can make a person who was abused question their sanity. This quote stood out to me in particular:

“It would take me a few more years to realize that my parents made a habit of denying any unfavorable memories I had of them. They also denied anything that made them look uncool by the standards of whatever crowd they wanted to blend with.”

This week I am going to re-publish a few posts from back in the days when I first summoned the bravery to say something. I hope more and more people continue to find their voice, and reject thinking that tells them that they don’t matter, that “it wasn’t that bad”, that “love” dictates silence and compliance,  or that breaking the silence can’t possibly make a difference.

If even one kid, who is being told that they are evil and rebellious for having independent thought, who is being told that they are only hit because they provoked it, who is told that they deserve to be hurt, who is threatened with worse if they say anything…

If even one person reads, and is able to whisper  “I am not alone, it wasn’t just me”…

…that is making a difference.

 

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  • jenny

    Is there any priest who wants to use this article as a “homily” ? It would do much good .

    I suffered years and years of abuse at the hand of my very “christian” and “pious” father……..under the smiling and compassionate eyes of many priests, nuns and monks, that my father brought home , in order to make me accept suffering as “normal”……
    In church I heard that I have to “love” my father, doesn’t matter what.

    Nobody in the church ever wanted to listen to my cry…. just suffering in the name of God…..

    My mother’s try to divorce, was seen by priests, as a “sin”, not as a desperate way to save her life and my life.

  • Sophia Sadek

    An ancient sage gave advice on child rearing to his audience. He said that corporal punishment is a technique that is appropriate for the education of a slave. He advised against using it in the rearing of a free child. When discipline is based on love rather than on fear, the child will learn quickly and joyously. I taught this lesson to my own mother when I convinced her to dispense with the rod. There ought to be a wisdom saying something like: Use the rod, crush the soul.