Earlier this week, I found out my friend was sexually assaulted. I blogged about it.
I didn’t know what kind of discussion would follow.
See, the thing is, most people don’t talk about sexual abuse.
But one of my friends has. He decided that it was time to stop keeping secrets and went public with his story of sexual abuse. The Washington Post picked it up and the world listened. I would encourage you to read it as well.
Right after his column ran in The Washington Post, he wrote a piece for my Keeper or Creeper series. It’s so good that I decided to republish it.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, please read it and take heart.
You are loved.
You have worth.
And you don’t have to keep secrets any longer.
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Talking relationships has always been one of my favorite subjects, so when Caitlin asked me to be a guest blogger on her Creeper/Keeper series, I was excited about the opportunity.
Little did I know my life would take a dramatic turn the following week.
The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State hit close to home for me because I was also sexually abused as child. After watching many misinformed people write and speak about a subject they clearly didn’t understand, I decided to speak out publicly for the first time. I wrote a column that was printed in The Washington Post, and later at other newspapers around the country.
As a journalist, you might think this made me feel great – and it did to a certain extent. But more than anything else I felt uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. Child sex abuse isn’t a topic that gives you the warm fuzzies, so most people avoid it.
I did for more than 15 years.
It wasn’t until I was on the cusp of my first serious relationship at the age of 23 that my own memories boiled to the surface.
Suddenly a thought hit me: Maybe I should tell someone about this baggage I’ve been carrying around.
“Nahhh,” I thought to myself. It doesn’t matter. That was a long time ago. It doesn’t affect me.
But deep in my mind I knew – somehow – it was still affecting me. Now that I’m on the other side of counseling, I better understand that it was having an impact on me in ways I can’t fully explain to you. I just know that it’s part of what makes me who I am. It’s one of the “unchangeables” about me.
That’s why people should know. As I thought about that in the context of a relationship, I realized that if the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t want a potential spouse keeping that kind of secret from me. Yet that’s what many people do.
Since my column was printed, I’ve talked or emailed with many people who have never told anyone they are a victim of child sex abuse. Many have been married, some for decades, and still never told spouses about the abuse.
Huge mistake. These kinds of secrets can be deadly to a relationship, and they only get more toxic the longer you keep the secret.
As things died down after my column was printed, my mind drifted back to what I would write for this blog. Only one topic filled my mind: keepers don’t hold secret baggage.
One my favorite quotes says “Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and kindles the great.” I look at emotional scars the same way. If unpleasant information coming out causes a relationship to splinter, it was doomed to failure anyway.
Just get it out there.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know it’s hard. I know it’s uncomfortable. I know you’d like to do anything to avoid that conversation.
But if you’ve found the right person, often the disclosure will only pull you closer together.
It’s actually a very important test. Yes, I know it usually can’t and shouldn’t be a conversation that happens at the beginning of a relationship. But when the time comes, gather your courage and do it. Don’t put it off like that root canal that you’ve needed for the last 10 years.
Ask God to show you the right timing and the right way to bring it up, then off the fear and go for it. Remember, “God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Being a keeper involves being honest and transparent – always.
You’ll find it better for you, and better for your significant other….And you just might be surprised to find that sharing your deepest scars will turn out to be one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to build trust in your relationship.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, tell someone. Don’t keep the secret any longer.
You can contact the police or talk to someone at National Sexual Assault Hotline.
What keeps you from telling your secrets? Have you ever shared a huge secret with your significant other?