A lot of times we do things – unconsciously or consciously – but may never be fully aware of the impact our actions actually have on others. Here is an example of one of those times that powerfully impacted my life.
At 10:30 PM on April 27th – the night before The Clean Slate Diaries – I received a telephone call. I was busy preparing for the event and missed the call, so before I went to bed, I listened to the message. A very frail voice spoke feebly and hesitantly. It was a woman who had read a promotional piece on the event called “Dan’s Story” – an adult male survivor of child sex abuse by his football coach. She wondered if the event would be something that women could also attend if they had a similar experience? I could tell in her voice that she needed to be at this event so I called her back – it was 11:30 PM.
She answered the phone and we spoke for about a half hour. She told me that at 10 years old she was abducted and victimized by an older man she didn’t know. She managed to escape his grasp and ran into a nearby field and hid for what seemed like hours. When she could no longer hear his boots circling the brush around her, she walked out into the road and was picked up by a loving couple who could see something very violent had happened. They brought her home and explained to her parents how they found her. She also told her parents what happened, but they didn’t believe her. They never called the police. They knew what happened, but did nothing. So for the next 55 YEARS she kept this secret. She didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t tell her husband when she got married. She didn’t tell her children why she was so protective of them while they were young. And she didn’t seek counseling or support or healing for this vicious crime against an innocent child. She didn’t tell anyone … until April 27th, 2012 at 11:30 PM.
She told me. And she told me because of the courage of Dan who shared his story in the newspaper. She told me because Sean Kirst from The Post Standard thought it was important enough to do a feature story on The Clean Slate Diaries event. She told me because I, too, was silent for over 20 years before I started speaking out about my own rape, about the extremely high incidence and silencing effects of sexual abuse, and because I started The Clean Slate Diaries.
Five minutes into the conversation, I begged her to come to the event. I said I would come pick her up if she needed a ride. I asked her to tell the first person she saw to find me the minute she got there. I prayed that night she would come and that this event and the people there would help her find the healing she so importantly deserved. She came and I recognized her immediately. She was less than 5 feet tall and seeing her frail frame – I instinctively wrapped my arms around her, wanting to hug her forever. She brought her daughter with her who seemed to be in shock from trying to process this information that had just been revealed to her. They both went into our Resource/Advocacy Room, and there, were lovingly allowed to begin the release of some of the pain and emotions of the last 55 years.
Everyone who comes to The Clean Slate Diaries receives an index card that they can write something on they want to release or let go of from their past – to help formulate a new perspective for the future. It’s a way to wipe the slate clean and begin again. At the closing ceremony, we burn these cards in the fireplace to symbolize this release and beginning anew. This almost 70-year old, frail little woman wrote these words on her card:
“I’m Gonna Make It”
As I observed her process of tossing the card gently into the fireplace, waiting for it to catch fire and then watching deliberately as it burned to ash, the tears streamed down my face. This woman – by almost all accounts – was going to her grave with this incredibly dark secret. The courage of those who spoke out transformed her to a place where she actually believed she deserved healing….an opportunity to release the weight of a lifetime of guilt and shame and possibly find a way to let it go. To somehow right this wrong that had been done…..to heal her life and regain a sense of freedom and purity….even at almost 70 years old she fought for a sense of wholeness and restoration in her life!!
THIS is the reason why I created The Clean Slate Diaries. THIS illustrates the importance of our mission to bring healing light to those who wait in the darkness. Some people can’t find the words themselves to seek the healing they deserve and desperately need. But when they see others who are visible examples of overcoming this type of trauma – even if they are complete strangers – they somehow find the power to reach. And in doing so, the healing begins.
I am so grateful I was chosen to participate in the beginning of the healing transformation process for this gentle soul – a healing that continues through the compassionate work of our local women’s shelter, Vera House. Her courage and bravery at almost 70-years old will be forever etched into my heart and soul.
Through this process, I meet so many individuals who inspire me beyond words, along with the insight into how far-reaching speaking out about my story truly extends.
And because of her courage, my new inspirational friend and I are having lemonade and cookies at her home this weekend … and I can’t wait to see her!
In solidarity, love & peace ~