At the age of 19, I was raped.
For 17 years, I kept it a secret, only telling a select few, until last year when I decided to write about it in my autobiography. The details of the incident are discussed in my book, but to me are inconsequential. The bigger issue for me is why I remained silent. Why women continue to remain silent.
Over the years, I’ve experienced sexual harassment verbally, physically and digitally and only recently elected to openly discuss these issues. Why? Because, for years, I was filled with shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear of judgment and ridicule and more importantly, the belief that I would be considered “less than” by any man who wanted to be with me.
It’s a generational pathology to simply do what was always done. And for decades women have been taught to smile and be silent out of fear of judgment and shame. We live in a society that teaches women to shrink, and to be ashamed of telling the truth. But for me, the moment anyone invalidates someone else’s truth, they dehumanise them. I had to learn, that when people start the rumours, when they judge, when they re-tell my story disparagingly, when they mock or ridicule or try to shame me, it’s never ever about me.
Writing has become my solitary place where I’m paying the most attention. It’s a place where my heart is wide open and I am the purest version of myself. It’s also where I am told to be silent, because truth is very inconvenient. I’ve always known that my silence never served me, and since beginning this journey of truth telling, I accepted my life is the amalgam of brutal and beautiful and I needed to own that, unapologetically, if I was to make any difference in this world.
As women, we are taught that certain things are “unbecoming of a girl” and when we cross the line, there is a hefty price to pay. We weren’t allowed to speak about contentious issues like rape, abuse or sexual harassment, and we couldn’t be smart and draw attention to our intellect.
But silence either makes us too tender or too tough. This metastasizes into either ass-kissing and people pleasing, or conversely, aggression and anger. We become as sick as our secrets.
Fear of judgment, shame and guilt, is a nefarious act that holds us captive from speaking out. This tyranny of impoverished thinking has kept us prisoners in our own minds. We don’t speak out, because we want to be “normal” and accepted but we end up with the truth seeping out sideways through depression or addiction. We need to open our mouths more often to let the truth exist outside rather than allowing our bodies, minds and souls to rot by keeping it inside.
Offering my experience to the world was a form of truth-telling in a way that changed the trajectory of my life. My silence gave other people the power to decide my worth and plan my life for me. When you’re living in the echo chamber of your own mind, you cannot have discernment. When I chose to speak my truth, I did so for posterity’s sake, to change belief systems and give my daughter and the generations to come permission to do the same. No one will determine my story, only I will. My voice will change the world. If it makes you uncomfortable then it’s working. Truth sounds a lot like hate, for those who hate the truth.
In an era that promotes universal facades and pretence, telling the truth starts a revolution.
Insurgent women, it’s time to rise up. Be less concerned with judgment and more concerned with redemption. The time is up for remaining silent.