Secrets eat away at the very essence of a person. They devour you from the inside out, leaving just a hollow shell.
I don’t know why today was the day I chose to finally break my silence about a secret that’s been eating away at me for over two years. Maybe it was all of the current media. Maybe it was all the brave women coming forward with their stories. I will never know. I don’t feel brave. I feel raw and numb after my confession of what happened to me, but I also feel a small glimmer of relief that I hope will blossom into healing.
When I wrote my memoir, I wanted to give the reader a happy ending. I wanted them to feel at peace with the emotional roller coaster ride I had just taken them on—but it is a true story, so obviously my story didn’t end there.
So here is the secret I have been holding on to…
On September 26, 2016—not quite two months after I married my amazing husband—the truly horrific happened. I believed I was safe, but my belief was a false sense of security. My monster walked free. He never paid for his sins, and I blamed myself. My silence was the reason he continued to be free. The guilt from that will always be with me, especially after the events that took place two years ago.
On that date, the monster solidified three important pieces of the reality I live in: The first being that silence and shame go hand in hand. The second that my guilt, fear and anxiety were justified. And lastly, that as long as he walks this earth, he will think he owns me.
I live hours away from him—he was in my rearview and I was trying to heal very deep wounds. Wounds that he cut open and dug the proverbial knife even deeper. He made new wounds. Wounds that I am never sure will heal. Wounds that I have buried deep, and for some reason on this day, I have decided to reveal and leave gaping open for all to see.
On September 26, 2016, the monster I thought I had escaped caught me one last time. In a parking lot, he got into my unlocked vehicle, held a knife to my throat and instructed me to drive down a back road. I believe this is the moment that I began to check out. I had faced near death by his hand so many times that some inner defense mechanism kicked in. I did as I was told. I remember briefly thinking, “This is how I die. I have been here before.” He instructed me to pull behind some abandoned houses and get out of the car. I did as I was told.
And there, among the mud, grass wet from recent rain, and towering trees just starting to show the signs of fall, he raped me.
I went somewhere else in my mind during the actual act. I remember focusing on a single leaf beside my face pressed into the mud. Silent tears slipped from my eyes as he found his pleasure from my pain. I thought, “Surely this is the day I die,” but when he was done, he didn’t kill me. Instead he said something to me that has haunted my nightmares ever since:
“I told you that you would always be mine. I will come for you whenever I want.”
Then, he instructed me to pull up my pants and get back into the car. As I followed his instructions and drove back to the parking lot where he had gotten into my car, I felt nothing. I was in shock. This very surreal state of being. Before the monster got out of the car, he grabbed my hair and pulled me in for a kiss. His kiss of death. His kiss of a promise made of ownership.
I was devoid of emotion. I drove away, and there was just nothing. Like a walking zombie, I went home and peeled the grass and mud-stained clothes from my body. I showered and found myself crying those silent tears. I told no one. The outfit I wore that day was washed, folded and placed in the back of a drawer where it still is to this day. I don’t know why I haven’t burned it or thrown it away.
On that day, the shame of what had happened burrowed deep into my soul, and I kept my secret. I didn’t want my husband to look at me differently…like I was something dirty. I didn’t want to see the disgust I felt reflected back at me in his beautiful blue eyes. I didn’t want my mom to look at me with pity or disappointment. So, I let the shame eat away at me and manifest in other ways.
I didn’t want to be touched. Every time my husband, loved one, or even my own child touched me, I had to force down the dread inside and pretend I was okay. I became paranoid about leaving the house and found I could no longer do simple things like picking my child up from school or going to the grocery store. I began withdrawing more and more into myself and started having horrific night terrors—the kind that when my husband would wake me, I would recoil in fear, inconsolable. I tried therapy, but even then I couldn’t bring myself to tell the therapist what had happened. I was prescribed sleep medication for the terrors and anxiety medications for the PTSD. All of which, I told people, stemmed from years of trauma I hadn’t fully dealt with.
The therapist suggested I keep a journal. So I started to write. I wrote it all down in my memoir. I wrote down everything but that day in September. That horrible day that will haunt me forever. The day I feel I will never escape. But the writing helped, even if I did keep that one shameful secret to myself. I started to feel some semblance of healing, and I found my voice again. I had been filled with this silence that would sometimes make me go deaf. So when I say my silence was deafening, I truly mean it. There are times when I feel myself screaming inside. Those screams turn into a ringing, and then my entire mind just goes quiet. I can hear nothing, and I have to concentrate on the silence, breathe evenly and imagine myself pushing the fog out of my brain. Only then does my hearing return.
For the past few weeks, I have watched the media, and have felt myself spiraling into the abyss I thought I was keeping at bay. This morning, something broke inside me, and the horrible truth came tumbling from my mouth. It started calmly, but ended in uncontrollable sobs, as I released the truth of my secret. My husband didn’t look at me in disgust or pity. He didn’t make me feel like less of a person. Instead, he held me and told me the one thing I didn’t know I needed to hear: “It’s not your fault. You are going to be okay. He can’t hurt you anymore.” Something miraculous happened…I felt relieved and safe. I had been running on a false sense of safety and didn’t even realize it. I have been healing every day, but today feels different.
Today feels like I took a huge step away from the darkness that comes with being a survivor. Today, I could’ve let that darkness consume me, but instead, I made a choice to tell my whole truth. Instead of it costing me everything I loved and overwhelming me with the shame I have feared, it gave me a sense of freedom I had not realized I needed. The truth really will set you free…sometimes in ways you’d never expect.