I Have a Voice

Just like King George VI in “The King’s Speech,” I have a voice. And like George VI, it took me many years, and many false starts, to find it.

Finding one’s voice, in the face of almost insurmountable odds, is the key to healing for an incest survivor.  We are told to be silent.  We are threatened with more abuse, with violence, sometimes with death.  (Or maybe death feels like the survivor’s friend; someone she can always turn to when things get overwhelming, unbearable.) We are told that if we talk, nobody will believe us.  We are told we will be responsible for breaking our families apart. We are told we are to blame; that our behaviors sparked the perpetrators’.

I was told by my father to stop crying, or he would give me something to cry about. I knew what that meant. It shut me up. I, who never backed down, who never cowered, who never gave in, was silenced. I, the rebel, backed down, cowered, gave in. I so hated myself for it. For years. Decades. Even when I didn’t know why I hated myself, I was filled with enmity. The enemy. My father filled me with fear, and gave me, as a lasting present, self-loathing.

We are ugly. We are bad. We deserve all the negative things that life offers us.  When good things happen, we turn them into bad. Ferron, my favorite songwriter, speaks to this in “Cactus:”

When I was young I was in service to my pain. On sunny days you’d find me walking miles to look for rain. And as many times I swapped it all just to hop a moving train. Looking back, it was a most expensive way to get around.

(Listen to the rest of “Cactus.” Listen to all of Ferron, if you haven’t. If you have, listen again. She’s worth it. She speaks our lives, in my very humble opinion.)

We aren’t ugly. We aren’t bad. We never were. We didn’t deserve the pain that our perpetrators, whoever they were, meted out. Their acts were bad acts, performed for who knows what reason. I suspect many of them don’t know. I’m virtually certain that my father never knew why he did what he did. I know in my heart that it overwhelmed him, caused him unbearable guilt, and that he laid his guilt at my door in order to go on with his life. Until it ate him alive, until the cancer that was in his soul overtook his body.

We have our voices, even if we don’t always know we do. We need George VI’s teacher, our own Lionels, to help us find our path to speaking out. Maybe our therapists, our significant others, our children, our friends’ children. Maybe, like King George, we need to feel our rage, our outrage, in order to free up our voices.  Maybe we need to write, or draw, or paint, or sing. Maybe we need to start with a whisper, or a whimper, and build it into a scream. A crescendo worthy of Beethoven at his most powerful.

Whatever your path, find your voice. It’s beautiful. It’s pure. It’s innocent. It’s your most powerful tool against the silence and the silencing. Let the toxicity out.

Find your voice.

Let yourself speak. I’ll be listening. I promise.

About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife and and our two moose-cats, Samson and Hercules. My daughter used to live with me part-time, but she's all grown up now and in her junior year of college, which I can't quite fathom, since she was born about five minutes ago...
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7 Responses to I Have a Voice

  1. DebS says:

    Best one yet imho! You clearly have found your voice in writing!


  2. Audrey, this is beautiful and spot on. Thank you. The connection between sexual abuse and feeling ugly is one that doesn’t get discussed very often. The research shows that eating disorders and body dissatisfaction are direct results of sexual abuse. If more people could use their voices as their means of expression perhaps their bodies wouldn’t become battlegrounds for years to come. The UGLY in the equation is the behavior of the perpetrator…It doesn’t get UGLIER than that.


    • Thanks so much, Deah. So much of the work I’m doing now is on acceptance of my body. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve done, and so triggering. You’re so right about the UGLY in the equation. I love that, and will keep it in my thoughts as I continue the struggle.


  3. Taan says:

    My Aud, this is beautiful. Finding thoughts and feelings, putting a context of visual, kinesthetic or verbal language and communicating is a larger than life task we all take on all the time. Finding, exploring and deepening our sense of self is powerful and healing work. Thank you for sharing your journey My Aud!


  4. What a powerful and empowering post! Yes…writing is so helpful in the healing process….I love that you said we all have a voice! Yes…and we need to allow ourselves to have this voice say its truth….to stop perpetuating messages from the past and re-creating the messages that we want (and deserve) to hear. I work with people going through transitions and/or losses and will direct them to this blog. Beautiful!

    Have a beautiful day,

    Ligia M. Houben


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