Believe it or not, I used to be a competitive swimmer. I did it for about 2 years. I got my picture in the paper which was cool. I swam a 2 hour, 200 length (5000m), swim-a-thon for some charity and then discovered that people who sponsor kids for events don’t like to pay said kids post event. But I peaked around 10 years of age and moved on to other things, like sleeping in because I didn’t have to go to the pool at 6am. It’s about priorities.
Anyway, one day after swim club, I was in the changing room and a man with a disability approached me. He was difficult to understand but he seemed friendly. He stuck out his hand for what I thought was a handshake. I went to shake his hand and he proceeded to grab my hand and then he started to undo his pants. I was frozen – shocked by what was happening – and then he put my hand on his crotch.
The incident ended in moments. I pulled my hand away, grabbed my stuff and headed for the door. My mom was waiting for me. I told her what happened. She told the staff who promptly took action. I’m grateful for my mom who I could talk to. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to keep it secret due to fear of that man or even fear or shame from my parents.
Even so, I don’t talk about it. This is the first time I’ve written about it. When I remember it, I still feel that sense of being trapped and powerless, I still feel my own shame. I decided to take this journey into my past and to share it here because it has become crystal clear to me that when we are hurt like this (and I recognize my experience was really minor compared to most), silence and shame are just as harmful as the initial abuse. They feed it, let the past hold us captive, prevent us from healing.
I would never say one who has been hurt must speak about it. Each person should be in charge of their own healing journey. I would say, don’t let silence hurt you more than already have been.
I also want you to know I’m listening and I believe you.