Paradigm Shifts

December 27, 2016

When Matt asked me to work with Speak Your Silence, I was ecstatic! Like, over the moon, I-did-a-happy-dance-when-I got-his-email ecstatic! I had been in love with Speak Your Silence’s mission for a long time and had volunteered for months because of how much it meant to me, despite the fact that the cause of child sexual abuse somehow seemed far away. Distance didn’t reduce its value to me because I believed that I didn’t need to experience something personally to be deeply passionate about it. But when I started telling my family and friends about my new job, my perspective began to shift in ways I wasn’t prepared for.

It started when I told my dad. An awkward pause lengthened between us after I told him until he said, “But why? Why do you care about this? Did… did something happen to you when you were a kid?” I was startled that this was the first thought that came to mind, and then I had to convince him that I truly just cared because I thought it mattered, and that there were no dark secrets. It was one of the most uncomfortable conversations he and I had had in years.

My dad wasn’t the exception to the rule though because other responses were sometimes just as strange.  But the ones that most shocked me were from those whom I had known for years and considered to be some of the people closest to me when they said – “Oh. That happened to me when I was a kid you know.” Some of them would quickly change topics, others would share more about it, but by the time I had finished sharing my news with those in my life, it worked out to be approximately two out of five that had been sexually abused as children, and I had not known about a single one. These were people I had known for years, that I was close to… and yet they had never said a word.

My paradigm shifted drastically through these conversations. Child sexual abuse was not some distant evil that hurt those far away; it was one that had touched those most close to my heart. It’s one thing to hear the statistic that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused, it’s another thing for your friend to look you in the eye as they say that they were that one.

That is why Speak Your Silence matters. The conversations about child sexual abuse need to change and those whose lives have been directly affected need to feel safe to speak, to be able to break the power of that cruelty that made them silent. And why don’t people feel like they can speak of this cause? I believe it is because that while with other causes you can dress it up or make the reality less harsh and more comfortable to speak of, child sexual abuse is a kind of evil that cannot be softened, a shade of black that cannot be lightened. It is a cruelty that cannot be prettied up now matter how many nice words you throw at it. So it is better to ignore it. Better to leave it to molder in the darkness and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I believe however that the light shines brightest not in pastel hued rooms, but in those full of shadows. I want to throw open the shutters and rip down the curtains so the light can flood in and chase the shadows away, and bring hope to the forgotten corners.

Because child sexual abuse is real, it is heartbreaking, and we can change the conversations so the light of truth can shine on it. Thank you for standing with us, standing with me, as we all open the doors to let the light in.

– Alanna

 

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