The Cost of Silence, Part 2

I want to be angry. I want to hate the teacher that gave me that bunny. I want to hate everyone that turned their backs on me and stayed silent.

But I can’t be angry, and I can’t hate. Because I, too, stayed silent.

When I was in Catholic elementary school, students were encouraged to serve the church as altar servers (basically, assistants to the priest). I didn’t do it because I enjoyed it or wanted to be a good Catholic; by then I had already turned away from God. I actually did it for the money (altar servers were paid to serve weddings and funerals).

One day after mass, the priest told the other server I was with to stay back (we were supposed to go back to class), and they went back into the rectory. I didn’t understand what was so important that he had to go back to his room, but I shrugged it off and went back to class.

And then it happened again. The same priest, the same boy. At first I was mad, thinking that I was missing out on something. My instinct led me to follow them to the back, but the priest turned around and stopped me. I told him I wanted to go, but he said it was a special thing for boys only.

In that moment, I knew. Those words he spoke were words I had heard before. But I didn’t say anything. I left them alone and went back to class as if nothing had happened. I never told anyone what was going on. I stayed silent, just as everyone else had stayed silent. That boy was much younger than me and I failed to protect him, just like others had failed to protect me.

But how could I have known? I grew up in a family that taught silence. I was raised in a religion that promoted secrecy through its own action (and inaction). I attended schools where the tuition not only paid for education, but for silence as well. Speaking up would be too much of a financial risk. One allegation and the student gets pulled out of school, along with the thousands of dollars per year in tuition. It’s much better to turn the other way and ignore it. Just pray about it. Jesus will help.

Jesus didn’t help me, and Jesus didn’t help that boy. Prayers don’t stop abuse. Plush bunnies don’t keep children safe. Silence isn’t the answer. Yet people keep choosing it. I keep choosing it.

And now I am left with unresolved emotions.

I am left with anger I’m not sure I deserve to feel. How can I be angry at others for doing the same thing to me that I did to that boy? Every time any inkling of anger rises to the surface, I can’t let it out, because being angry at them means I would have to be angry at me. I can’t put someone down for the same sins I have committed. That would make me a hypocrite. So what can I do? I want to be angry, but I can’t. It’s not that simple.

I am left with tremendous guilt. I think about that boy, about the other boys that could have been hurt. All because I chose to be silent. If I had just spoken up, it would all be different. No one else could have been hurt.

I think about the children my mother could have hurt. If I had just spoken up about her, she would have been stopped. I wouldn’t have been hurt anymore. Others wouldn’t have been hurt. My mother would be sitting in a prison cell, unable to hurt anyone ever again. But I didn’t speak up. Instead I let my mother continue to destroy me. I chose silence.

And now I am the one paying the price.

11 thoughts on “The Cost of Silence, Part 2

  1. The responsibility to speak up does not lie with the abused child. The child generally has the inclination to speak up beaten our of her. The responsibility lies with the surrounding adults, particularly with the professionals who routinely work with children. I think it’s rather harsh to judge the young you by standards that apply to adult professionals.

    You are a serious, hard-working and responsible person. I admire that a lot. But it doesn’t mean that you were in any way responsible for what happened to you or to other children.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I echo Q.

    There was a great deal of maturity and age difference between you and the teacher, not to mention that you were also actively taught silence.

    I think it is possible to be mad at the teacher and kind with yourself – they seem like the same action, but the circumstances are wildly different

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are right about the age difference. I just feel compelled to be hard on myself. I knew so much at the age, but yet not about the things I wish I had known.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. KJ, Dear KJ: Q and PD are both right. Please do not punish your little girl. She has already ,and very wrongly, been punished. Give her your (and our!) kindness. Kindness is what Crystalie truly deserves. Love – TS

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You were in elementary school, just a child. There were adults who were suspicious and did nothing. They are responsible. Anger can diverted towards the adults who ‘know’ these things in their gut but look away.
    Now as an adult you would do different. You are looking back with adult eyes… A child, especially a child going through what you were going through, would not know what to do, or who to tell. No child would know.
    We are harshest with ourselves. Time to give yourself a break with some love and compassion….some softness that you truly deserve.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, it’s very hard to think about something with the mind we were when that young. Look at another child about the same age and my bet is you wouldn’t hold her responsible at all, but instead feel great compassion for her.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes, you are right. My therapist throws those scenarios at me, what if it were another child. I never see those other children being at fault.


      3. It has taken me a very long time to develop those feelings for myself, the ones my own therapist also tried to point out.
        I remember seeing a girl my age when first attacked and she was so young. So it was a start.
        When treated so abusively as a child, the child takes it in as something about themselves. Those self judgments are melded into the personality because it’s still growing and forming.
        So it’s like chiseling granite to start again and reform. Must be doable though because I’m getting there. Sometimes this voice gently says, “Is that really true?” —countering that loud banging voice of criticism and put-downs constantly in my head.

        Liked by 1 person

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