The Death of Innocence
How old were you when you realized that sometimes it was better to lie than tell the truth?
How young were you when you realized that people don’t always want to hear the truth?
I was nine years old. I don’t believe I had ever lied prior to that tender age. I didn’t have a reason to lie. I was born with an over active conscience and genuinely always wanted to do the “right” thing. I never acted out, I was respectful and orderly. Til this day my Mom will say I was such an easy child.
But at nine years of age I learned that adults don’t always want to hear the truth because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s messy and not always pretty. They want everything in their plastic-coated 1960’s world to be like a Doris Day movie.
So the day I came home from school terrified and told my Dad I had been lured into an apartment gang way trying to help an older man who said he couldn’t find his key..,that he tried to molest me but I kicked him in the groin and ran all the way to school and my father chastised me for talking to strangers..,well, I knew that I shouldn’t have said anything at all. I learned that honesty is not always the best policy.
At the tender age of nine, the man who should have protected me from all the monsters under the bed, all of the boogie men, had just left me stranded on the edge of sexual awareness with no one to protect my innocence. That was the day I learned to lie. I learned that no one wanted me to speak MY truth. I was silenced.
I was silent at 11 when the “friend-of-the-family” doctor molested me. I was silent at 16 when the 36 year old single neighbor forced me to perform oral sex on him. I was silent at 21 when the man I married, the beloved military officer, the man I believed would finally protect me…raped me and beat me in ways I can’t even speak of.
At 25 I realized the silence was killing me. I learned to bury my fears and my emotions and live behind a constant facade of “I’m-Fine-Ness.” I divorced the beloved officer and fought hard to find my voice. When I found the courage to tell my dad about the physical and emotional abuse I endured for 5 years, he was certain I had done “something to deserve it.” And so the facade continued…silenced again because the truth isn’t pretty.
I would like to say that I’ve learned to conquer this silence, but I know I haven’t. There is something comfortable in that silence; a familiar hiding place where my nine year old self likes to hide. Some might say that by writing this post and the post about abortion it appears that I’m doing a damn good job of talking about the “dirty” truth. Interestingly, those have been birthed from a place of light, a place of healing and there is no fear or shame in me for outing them.
This post isn’t meant to be an expose’ on all of the ugly stuff I’ve had to endure, but a cautionary tale about allowing our children to speak their truth and not allow their experiences, whether good OR bad to be a reflection on us or our parenting.
So many families choose to sweep the “dirty” truth under a rug because they don’t want people to judge them. This cycle only leads to countless ways to hide the shame and the pain with drugs, promiscuity, and physical abuse to name a few. Once we silence a child, or someone else is ALLOWED to silence a child, we have just taught them that adults cannot be trusted, that self-protection is more important than honesty and that life isn’t what we live, but what we hide behind.
Innocence will always die as life digs it’s gnarly claws into a child’s gentle, loving soul. But if we can allow children to have a voice; allow them to own their truth; embrace the good, the bad and the ugly then at least we create a space where silence isn’t a hiding place, but a place where they can enter willingly to hear the “still, small voice” of God.