What do you think of when you hear someone say “childhood sexual abuse”? If you’re like most people, just hearing those words likely stirs up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings, even if sexual abuse hasn’t touched your life in any way. There’s a stigma and a taboo surrounding sexual abuse, but there shouldn’t be. If we have any hope of bringing light into the darkness of abuse, we have to be able to put aside our discomfort and talk about it.
Let me speak first to survivors. Shame thrives in the darkness of secrecy, but it can’t survive without the secret. The first and vital step toward healing is to speak. As impossible as it sounds, freedom from shame only happens by shining a light on the very thing you feel compelled to hide. All of the things you imagine happening if someone were to know your secret are just that—imaginings. I let those imaginings keep me silent for a lifetime. Please don’t let that happen to you. Freedom is found in speaking your truth. People who love you will still love you when they know. I promise. And it won’t change how they think about you either. To the people who know and love you, you are so much more than anything—even this—that happened to you.
So what if you’re not an abuse survivor? How can you bring light into the darkness of abuse? Well, you are the very people survivors need to be able to tell. One of the fears that kept me from sharing my story was the fear of how people would react. It’s a valid fear. Hearing those words come from the mouth of someone you know can be shocking and can stir up that discomfort I mentioned earlier. But it doesn’t have to.
I’ve come to know a young man who is a childhood sexual abuse survivor. Matt Pipkin is the founder of Speak Your Silence (www.speakyoursilence.org). Speak Your Silence is all about helping survivors find their voice and share their secret. But Matt has gone about his mission in a unique way. He’s reaching out to the people who will hear the stories! He wants to create an environment where survivors know they’re supported before they speak their first word, and he has a tangible way to do it—The Stitch. The Stitch is an orange zigzag sewn onto any piece of clothing or accessory that represents the voice frequency of survivors. I recently interviewed Matt and here is how he explained The Stitch.
“The Stitch is not simply to be worn by those directly affected by child sexual abuse, but by all of us. Imagine you’re in room surrounded by people you love and you have a story you’ve never shared before, due to fear, shame, and guilt. How much safer would you feel sharing your story if every single person in that room was wearing The Stitch?”
How cool is that? The other thing Matt told me in his interview was how he felt when he first shared his story with his mom and dad. They overwhelmed him with love. When he told me that, it brought me to tears. That is the reaction every childhood sexual abuse survivor deserves.
So…survivors, speak! And listeners, love overwhelmingly!
Speak Your Silence has other unique ways you can directly help abuse survivors. Check them out when you have a chance.
Niki Krauss is a Yankee by birth, a Southerner by choice, and a joy-filled lover of Jesus by grace. After twenty-four years of moving around the country as the wife of a Marine Corps aviator, she and her husband of forty years have settled in Charleston, South Carolina. Niki is the former assistant editor for the Marine Corps Gazette, the professional journal of the United States Marine Corps, where she wielded her red pen for fifteen years. As a sexual abuse survivor herself, her most recent passion is leading faith-based support groups for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
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Little Girl Mended, Niki's powerful story of abuse and redemption, is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.