The Terror of Telling

When I knew Confessions of a Trauma Therapist, my story of suffering from incest, was about to be published, I had to alert my family members.

Most of them had no idea I’d been sexually abused as a child by my father and grandfather.

It’s always hard to tell these terrible secrets, and it’s hardest to tell your own family because you’re telling them about their family too. I screwed up my courage and wrote them all a letter.

Waiting to hear from them after I mailed the letter was agony.

First to respond was my sister who had known – and dismissed – my questionable memories of child sexual abuse. She was kind and expressed sadness for my suffering. (which I interpreted as feeling sorry for my suffering, whether or not anything had actually happened.)

Next came a really loving response from a nephew and his wife. Their concern was for me. Of course it had never occurred to them that I had spent much of my life fearful and depressed as a result of childhood trauma. Survivors are so good at looking good!

The next nephew also expressed his surprise that his strong, competent aunt could ever have suffered. He promised to get back to me when he had time to absorb this new view of Aunt Mary. I’ve not heard from him since.

One of his two daughters sent me a loving and compassionate email. I was touched by her sincerity and caring for her great aunt.

Another nephew can’t bear to talk with me about it. It’s too painful. Maybe it touches on some of his own childhood wounds.

My own son has known about my history of incest for over twenty years. He’s been a sympathetic, intelligent companion in my healing.

I wonder – can anyone but a person who suffered the betrayal of child abuse – ever understand how scary it is to tell?

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