Within my loyal tribe of book supporters, a few have wondered why I wrote this part of my journey. Truthfully, having written under a pen name, I don’t get asked that often but when I am, typically people first want to know how our family is. We are doing well. We are not without our issues but by all accounts, we are laughing, learning and thriving.
When we first found out about the abuse we were in complete shock. Utter literal shock. Everything you would think shock would entail, speechlessness, being frozen, a mindset of disbelief, and not being sure of anything anymore. While we were in this trance, life carried on, which is the sickening truth about a tragedy. I had little to no time to catch my breath before authorities, experts and therapists were in our life.
Then there was school, all three children had to be in it. We were not able to just stop – breathe and think maybe even regroup. Life just kept going and the expectations people had of us were still laying out there because they didn’t know what happened. I hated that life kept happening. I needed a moment—just a little breather. I was resentful that the sun came up and the carpools, social invites, holidays you name it didn’t stop when our life had hit an engine-dropping speed bump.
While shrouded in shame and embarrassment, almost immediately we knew we had to let some key people in our life know what had happened. Yes, family but moreover, doctors’ appointments had to be made, teachers needed to know what was happening and school administrators needed a warning. Telling doctors was quite easy, they almost didn’t want to hear the details because they jumped right in to” fix it” mode and became quickly concerned with physical health especially knowing that there were multiple therapists already helping.
Telling the school was more personal. We had elected to tell them actually. We were all feeling pretty traumatized and I’m sure wide eyes and blank faces from otherwise connected people would set off alarms that we didn’t want. The only way to contain these “private matters” was a controlled release of them. Which sounds like we were proactively stopping forest fires – rather than protecting children but that is often times what it felt like.
When I could, I managed a meeting with our minister. He had heard a lot but even this shocked him. Worry was all over his face and even he suggested that faith alone wouldn’t sustain us. So he joined in as a part of our small and mighty supportive tribe.
As the days initially kept coming, each day presented us with hard choice including choices which friends could know and which couldn’t. All our friendships were tested and not all survived. But then, new and deep friendships were created through the reveal of our horror. It was one of the blessings that continued to sustain me. In fact, we were, as the judge coined us, unique but not uncommon. As we disclosed the story without fail, we watched grown adults brought to tears. Men and woman would then say, “you just told me my story but I never told, or worse, my parents didn’t believe me.” In the pain, bonds were solidified.
Over time these moments became a call to action for me. Each sit down revealed the naked truth of the statistics that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys not theoretically would be but truly have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18. And in our efforts to heal our daughters we were led to adults who longed to heal their inner child and began doing so through us. I have been told many times actually – “I’m learning to love myself through watching you heal your girls.”
Less than 10% of those assaults are caught during the timeframe of their occurrence making for a lifetime of higher risks for addiction, self-harm, anxiety, depression and more. Most adults suffer for years before they are able to pinpoint the root of their struggles. Our kids, having told and been believed, would benefit from immediate care, hopefully saving them a lifetime of hurt and further harm. As the days and weeks passed, on more than one occasion, I was stopped by someone in our inner circle and reminded that my girls had a chance because “we believed”.
Extraordinarily awful events happen in life, and because we don’t always talk about them, we never know who they happen to. When they happen to you, there is no way to escape them. You can’t buy your way out of them as a long-term solution. They come with you if you run. At first, this awful event defined me—then it redefined me. And they redefined everything I believe and how I act every day.
One day my daughters will look the someone they love in the eyes and say, “honey I have something to tell you”… I want them to be proud of who they are and feel confident that no matter how that person responds they did nothing wrong. They are beautiful inside and out. I want to own the beauty in the tragedy. I own it in honor of “believing”. I own it in honor of healing. I own it because there is no need to be ashamed anymore – it is through the pain that we find (we found) connection, healing, and love.
Taking what we know, helping others, giving back to communities in need, helps us make our hurt matter. Collectively and without judgment, we can own our scars knowing they are the fuel to a more fulfilling life.
Do you need to release a story and set it free? Join the #IamBrin movement. #IamBrin is a statement of commitment to living your life without shame. When we own and share our stories we realize others have had similar experiences. I am Brin is to say we all can live openly, educate our kids early and often, help friends in crisis and not be alone. Share a photo for our wall or use #IamBrin on social media. Join the growing community or resilient, strong, real and reflective people.