I recently came out about the abuse I suffered for twenty-eight of my thirty years at the hands of my mother. I was expecting an onslaught of naysayers, people who didn’t want to believe that my mother, who to everyone else projected the image of a devoted maternal figure, could treat her child like she had treated me. I was expecting reprimands, threats, and gaslighting. And to an extent, I did get what I expected. People told me to shut up. I was threatened with lawyers. I was told I’d imagined it, that I’d made it up, that I was bitter, that I needed to forgive and remain silent. I was told that a public forum was not the right arena in which to tell my story.
What I did not expect, however, was the outpouring of empathy, kindness, and love. People I had not heard from in years reached out to me to offer support, encouragement, and their stories. I read many, many stories that ended with “Me, too.”
No matter what side you agree with, the ability to share my story publicly was empowering for me. It was cathartic. I didn’t have to hide anymore. I didn’t have to protect my mother from her actions. I didn’t attack her (she isn’t on social media anymore), but I did discover who her flying monkeys were, and who I could trust.
I live in a place where I don’t know many people. The only way I could reach out to people was social media. I don’t have the money for a therapist right now, and while I do art therapy activities at home, it isn’t enough. You can’t keep the abuse to yourself forever if you want to heal. And this year I chose to tell the truth. It set me free.
A few weeks after I came out about the abuse, Harvey Weinstein was outed as an abuser, and much like my experience, the people sharing theirs received some condemnation, but more and more people believed them. As the evidence mounted, his guilt became undeniable. People are starting to listen. While Weinstein’s abuse has been an open secret for a long time, there’s a growing number of people who are unwilling for it to continue.
We share our stories publicly because we are no longer willing to stay hidden, invisible, and ignored. We do not want these abusers to keep abusing victim after victim, not when we can speak up and say something that can protect potential future victims. What people who try to silence us do not realize is that we have been silenced. We have been told to shut up. And we’re tired of it. We’re not going to stand by any longer. We are breaking free and sharing our truth, and no matter how hard you try to keep us from opening our mouths, this is what we must do to heal and we will do it. No matter who listens to us, no matter what happens to us.
This is the least we can do for ourselves on our journey of healing. This is what we can do for the future. It is our right to share what happened to us and to speak against it. It is our right to unmask abusers and it is our right to use public forums to do so.
Those who seek to silence us are either abusers themselves, or enablers of such abuse. If it makes you uncomfortable to hear these stories, dig deep and figure out why. Perhaps there’s something you need to address in yourself before you tell others to remain silent.