It’s the #16DaysofActivism. Violence against women and girls is something I think about every day, not just in the 16 Days, but this campaign does encourage me to be more proactive about tackling it.
This morning, I was thinking about survivors, and about not disclosing, and the reasons for their silence. I thought about one of my own experiences and my reasons for my silence. I say “reasons” because there is more than one. There usually is. Anyway, some of the well-known ones apply; I was young, I was scared, I was ashamed, I was alone and I was afraid of not being believed.
That was back then….. Now, I have another reason. The fear of gaslighting. Worse than being not believed, gaslighting is a direct attempt to deny one’s own reality. My mother has used this tactic for decades – her way of negating my complex, toxic childhood. And I have struggled with her gaslighting over many issues. But sexual violence is something we don’t imagine. It is real. It is devastating. It can create layers of trauma which solidify under the burning heat of shame, and take unquantifiable lengths of time to chip away at.
So, for now, I choose self-preservation. I choose silence to keep that part of my story from her. It is oddly empowering, allowing me to control what I am subject to and ensuring she has no opportunity to gaslight. No chance to try to tell me it was not possible, and it never happened, in order to protect her own long-held, sanctimonious beliefs around her parenting.
Silence can be corrosive, and I have selectively shared what happened to me, to start healing and chisel away at the trauma layered inside.
But my mother will remain unaware.
And that is just fine.