I’ve given over to calling it “The Yoke of Shame” – the burden that victims of sexual child abuse bear – and it was handed down to them by their abusers. It was placed firmly around their neck the moment they were ‘touched’ and exposed to that very adult thing we all call ‘human sexual behavior’ – which ranges from ‘making love’ to gang rape and more . . .
That yoke of shame we were never meant to bear. That’s something for our abusers to wear, not us, never again. For we are firmly against wearing that thing any more. It has gotten wearisome, tiresome, and it is not ours. It is our abusers. I’m definitely and firmly against that thing: wearing that yoke again. I simply refuse to be bearing it anymore. And if you’ve got a problem with me talking about my abuse, then you are the one with the problem, not I. It is ‘you’ I am talking about.
For there are those – and you know who they are, all you bearers of the yoke of shame – and I’m talking about you children here – who gape at you and look wide eyed at you until their eyes glaze with a refusal and unacceptance to hear any more; they draw away from you like you have a disease; they guard their speech; they control their mannerisms – they let you know: you aren’t normal anymore, you aren’t someone they wish to be around . . .
and that reinforces the shame; that presses down on the yoke – another burden to bear . . .
They sit around talking about their childhoods . . . you try to join, lightly adding to the fare . . .
and then you say the wrong thing – for how were you to know? To you it was a normal thing; a normal part of speech; like living, the abuse has become a part of you; like the past, it colors your emotions, thoughts, outlooks, feelings, opinions, perceptions, and ideas . . .
and it brings you shame . . . for suddenly the conversation halts – and they look at you in wide eyed horror; or incomprehension
You’ve said the wrong thing again. You mentioned something from your past.
Imagine: You are in seventh grade and you hear them whispering – the girls, the boys, the guys. They are all talking about sex and things – things you’ve already done (you did them all already, and at such a tender age!) – and while they are a mystery to you, these girls these boys these guys – what is a mystery to them is something you cannot discuss, for it is forbidden and it is taboo, and you dare not say it’s name.
The girls talk and giggle; the boys plot and conspire – all to get a date – “someone’s gonna get lucky” and “who’s screwing who” – it doesn’t matter. You’ve all been there before. We were five years old when we began playing that game. Do you want to keep it up when you are ten? Or twenty? No . . . those kinds of things; that teenage game: it was over for us before it ever began . . .
That is the yoke of pain added to the yoke of shame that our abusers gave us. That and the inability to talk about our childhood with joy; the inability (perhaps) to mention our parents without feeling some anger and some pain, and that yoke of shame. That one. That single one: hardest one to bear.
Hell, you can’t even tell anyone you’ve got it. Society has seen to that by restricting our ability to talk about sex – and that’s okay. ‘Normal’ people don’t go around talking about the in’s and out’s (excusing the pun) of their sexual lives; they don’t give you a blow-by-blow (yeah, I know. Pun again. sigh …) description of their sex last night, if they mention it at all! Well, maybe teenagers do, but we always kinda fell into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of category – for obvious reasons. We couldn’t mention when our peers would ask whether or not we were still a virgin that “yeah, in a way – never ‘done’ it with a girl – but got screwed in the ass a lot as a little kid!” – just wouldn’t be quite acceptable. Plus it could lead to embarrassment. Again with that yoke of shame; shutting us up all through our childhood, teenage days and beyond.
And I get kinda ‘torn up’ when I mention that I ‘asked for it’ as a kid. Every time I remember that night in the tent it burns down deep inside, ‘inside’ that part of myself I call my little one, Mikie. His was the burden to bear – for all of us – and we attacked him for so long for it. After all: he asked. He not only asked: he begged for it, over and over again. And finally the teenager gave it to him. But it was not love, which was what little Mikie was actually asking for – it was something else (though some love may have been included) – it was that yoke of shame, coupled with society’s demands that “we” stay quiet about it: the threat of punishments from our parents and the punishments meted out by the world we we attempt to tell: that tells us something. It says “shut up, don’t mention this thing: it’s too awful to comtemplate – we don’t wanna know this kind of thing goes on; we don’t wanna know it happened to you – let it be someone else. Someone we don’t know.” By “them” (society) always keeping ‘it’ at a distance – they make us put a distance between us and the world. Always and forever, it seems, always and forever (sighing . . . gets lonely in here sometimes).
And now . . . remembering . . . there is no shame; not anymore. Only a sadness which can never end; a sadness for ‘him’, our inner boy, our inner child, the ‘children’ we once were. A sadness for what happened, and what he did in his quest for love – ‘our’ quest for that emotion. But in that pain is not shame; not anymore; now we bear a yoke of sadness for ‘him’, and that part of our childhood; a singing pain; like a sword run through steel, permanently melting, stuck in there for all time – but it rings with high note that hurts our heart and head . . . for we did it because we loved him, and we wanted love ourselves . . . and in knowing that is pain but no more that yoke of shame. And I’m good with that.
Because it’s just one less burden that I’ve got to bear.