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Never Tell: One Rule Made to be Broken

We don't wallow in the fact of incest, tortuous abuse that devastated some of the people we care about the most. But we do talk about it. It's no fun, but "don't tell," is the abuser's dictum, and that dictum must be violated.

Dave Sloan
The other night I was sitting in a booth at a diner with two of my best friends.
It was a weekend night, and there was a lot of activity around us—what we refer to as "strong social overtones,"—the very factor that had made us select that particular diner for our repast.

Anyway, pretty much out of the blue, one of my friends said, "I guess my grandfather was abused."

We know each other's stories well. We all know what his grandfather did to his mother and his sister, and so we agreed, "yes, that's how it works. It probably happened to him too."

"I guess I come from a long line of child abusers," he said. It was a weird thing to say on a hopping night at the diner, but nonetheless it was good that we were all close enough for him to bring it up if he needed to.

Then my other friend said, "I guess I do too." We all sort of shrugged and nodded, sharing that, because we do know each other's stories.

"Me too," I added. We just sat there with it for a moment. We are close friends, but none of us would say it's because of that particular shared history. It's more because of a shared love for art and exercise and the mysteries of the night. We were brought close together by these beautiful things long before we ever told each other about the incest in our families.

I didn't feel bad about it, and I don't believe they did either, sitting there in the diner and acknowledging that behind each of our individual struggles lurks probably the very same demon.

All three of us escaped the abuse that occurred to our family members. We are doing all right, and we are glad to have each other to do all right with.

We don't have kids. None of the three of us ever does too well with long term relationships. But we are basically three gentle men. We never have and never will abuse anyone's children. If any one of us is ever blessed with children, that child will be given plenty of love and protection.

And so we don't wallow in the fact of incest—tortuous abuse that devastated some of the people we care about the most. But we do talk about it. Our families don't particularly like for it to be talked about, but we think the demons like it even less. When the time comes, we talk about it.

When my friend (the one who broached the topic) was five years old, and his sister was four, their grandfather took them out into the woods. The old man stripped them and showered them with a hose and nothing much else happened. When my friend got home he blabbed about it to everyone who would listen and everyone who wouldn't listen as well. No one believed him. But still, he had done enough to be spared the rest. He had told.

His sister was more the quiet type. She was the recipient of the abuse. Those demons like silence.

We can't go back and undo what happened to the people we love. But we can talk about it. We believe in talking about it when the time comes, as sometimes it must. I know it's no fun, and there doesn't seem to be a "good," or a "right" way to tell it; but "don't tell," is the abuser's dictum, and that dictum must be violated.

My other friend writes about it. He calls it a weakness in his father. He doesn't call it an evil or a demon or a sin—he just calls it a very, very sad and pitiful weakness. It's strange to hear a man talk about his father in such pathetic terms. There is no love or hate either in what he writes about his father—but there is a lot of sadness, and love for his sister.

As for the story in my family—some of them are so afraid that I will tell it. And one way or another I must, because I have a debt to everyone who has ever had the courage to tell me their story. My payment of the debt is that I will never brook the silence.

The particulars of the story I only recently began to uncover. I spent a weekend with my grandmother and got her whole life story. It was a wonderful weekend and I learned so much about a splendid woman. She told me more than she realized she was telling. To her story I added all that I could glean from my mother and from my aunt and then I went through ten photo albums ranging from my college graduation all the way back to the last century. I know some of the details now. But that doesn't change much. Those details were already the scenery and the soundtrack to my formation. What has changed is the silence. I can't tell you what I've been specifically asked not to tell, but I can tell about three men in a diner dealing with it.

"What if you could trace it back to the man at the root of it," my friend said. "What if all three of those original abusers were sitting over there in that booth in their bearskins? What would you do? What would you say to them?"

That really gets to the root of it. Because the fact of the matter is those guys are our progenitors. If not for them and what they were then we wouldn't exist.

"Think of the abuse you could stop," my friend continued, pointing at the only empty booth in the place, "if you could negate those three guys—three men in bearskins sitting right there. And if you eliminate those three guys then generations of children would be spared from torture. But if you eliminate those three guys then we get negated too, and we don't get to sit here at the diner with all these funky weekend overtones."

It's hard to say what I would do. I don't hate those men for what they did, probably because it didn't happen to me. But I don't love them either, and I probably would eliminate them and myself and my two close friends if given the opportunity—because I have had a very close up look at the pain those abusers caused.

I can't be sure what I would do though, and it's a moot point anyway. What I do know is that I have a couple of good friends to talk about it with. And that we will do.
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November 19, 2003

DAVE SLOAN speaks and writes about dating, courtship, chastity and other topics. He is a Godspy Contributing Editor.

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READER COMMENTS
01.05.04   sem says:
If you have been wounded by the dysfunction in your family, I beseech you to reach out to God. Reach out to trusted friends, professional counselors, but most definitely-- to God. Being alone with your pain is letting the evil one win. Even if you can't say why-- let a trusted friend know that you're in pain. Let someone show concern for you. You are so worthy. Take your pain to God. He cries for you. The devil wants you to think that you are permanently stained by what happened to you. This is an evil lie designed to keep you afraid, angry, and to bring you to despair. Give your despair to God. He will carry it for you. All you need do is ask. The devil loves it when we aren't even able to look at what happened. We bury it, and our woundedness continues and becomes holes in our spiritual armor. Take the time you need, but do look at it. God will help you look at it. God is already planning your healing. He already knows what level of readiness you're at, and how to take you by the hand. Know that you are loved, beautiful, and sacred-- and that He is there anytime you turn to Him. Keep that faith. Give your trust to God. God heals. God makes us new again. Peace, Prayers, and Blessings, sem

12.28.03   sem says:
Get OutI stopped itby screaming at just the right decibel.You have to scream enough to prove that you willscream loud enough to bring down thunder from heaven. But you can’t scream so loudthat you end up proving Mother won’t hear. s.e.m.12/03Peace, Prayers, and Blessings

12.11.03   sem says:
Hear This You thought it was fun to stand together drenched on the metal fire escape during a raging thunderstorm tempting fate. You were a gentle soul in spite of your childhood. You rarely spoke of it, but we met your father. You told my sister you ran with a gang in South-Side Chicago. I heard you tell how the girls would carve their boyfriends’ names into their arms. You were so glad you were going with Ed. You never sang loud enough for anyone to hear. I sing out loud almost whenever I want. That’s for you.s.e.m. Spring 2002Peace, Prayers, and Blessings

11.20.03   Godspy says:
We don't wallow in the fact of incest, tortuous abuse that devastated some of the people we care about the most. But we do talk about it. It's no fun, but "don't tell," is the abuser's dictum, and that dictum must be violated.

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