When I was a young boy and being molested on a regular basis I sometimes fell into an emotional paralysis. I would be physically unable to move and unable to speak. Essentially I couldn’t function in any kind of way at all. It carried into adulthood and during times when I felt threatened, either physically or emotionally, the same thing would happen. My mind would be bombarded by thoughts and I couldn’t figure out what to say or how to say it and I would pretty much be mute, unable to utter a word or even a sound. It has been several years since the last time, but today it happened again.
I recently finished writing a book on my survivor story and I have been struggling with what will happen when I find a publisher. Several years ago I found forgiveness in my heart for the person who did those things to me. The abuse severely impacted my life and led me into hell and back, but the only way I could move past it on my healing journey was to come to a place of forgiveness. That doesn’t mean I think that what he did was okay; just that I was letting it go. I wrote a play that shared those experiences and forgiveness, but I have not been able to talk with him about the abuse and how it affected me. I figured I did not need to do that. I don’t need apologies or explanations. I have arrived at my healing without needing anything from him.
With the book, though, I feel a responsibility. In all fairness, even though I know intellectually that I don’t owe him anything, I feel I owe it to him to let him know that I have written the book, am looking for a publisher, and that in the book he is named. With the play I made the perpetrator a masked character because it was important to the play that the character was a universal everyman, so that audience members could project whomever they needed to upon the character. In the memoir it is essential that I name him and the relationship because I need readers to understand that child molesters are rarely strangers in vans or creepy old men lurking around school grounds. In most cases they are family members or close trusted adults and we need to talk about that and understand that as a society.
Despite the things that happened to me I don’t believe it would be fair to publish the book without giving him some advance warning as it could (and very likely will) affect his life. While I know that what he did affected my life in an extremely negative way I want to believe that I have a better sense of right and wrong than he did all those years ago. I am not doing the book to get even with him. I am doing it to help others. The only way to do that is to be completely honest in the telling of my truth, and I understand that the sharing of my story could hurt him. He lives in a small town, people know us both, and word could travel fast. He could be shunned by the community or worse. My moral code tells me that I must talk to him before it is published.
I have been struggling with this for a long time. How do I bring it up? What words do I use? How can I make it so that he allows me to say what I have to say without interruption? What do I do if he denies it or puts it back on me? We have only talked about the molestation once–about thirty or so years ago–and that time he did not take responsibility but engaged in victim blaming. What if he does that again? What if he threatens me as he did when I was a child? I thought about making sure that he would know that other people have access to the manuscript and that it would get published even if something happened to me. How could I make that clear without letting him know that on some level I was scared that he might do something to me?
Today I had the opportunity to take this step, and I froze again. We were alone and in conversation. We talked about many things and every time I had a notion to say, “I need to talk to you about something” I could not get it out. My tongue was like a stranger to my mouth and I could not make it work. When I left I almost cried because I was so disappointed in myself. I think I was scared in several ways. I was afraid of where the conversation might go. I was afraid of hearing him deny it all. I was afraid in the deep recesses of my mind that there could be a violent reaction–either physically or emotionally. As I was driving away, even ten or twenty miles down the road, I kept thinking about turning around and going back to get it done but my foot stayed on the gas pedal and I kept moving away from the possibility of that conversation.
Maybe it just wasn’t the right time for it. Maybe I need to be better prepared for many different responses. I don’t know. I know that I will have this conversation at some point, and I know that I need a reservoir of courage to do it. Today wasn’t it. I need to look deeper at why I couldn’t and prepare myself better for the next opportunity.