Updated: Aug 22
"Secrets rot the soul." -Chris Rock
I had a conversation with a family member (a cousin) this past weekend and I shared my story with him. What struck me was that he didn’t know. I have talked about my story with individuals, and with groups. I have talked about my story on over a dozen podcasts, I even wrote about it in my book The InnerGround Railroad. I have talked about my story in lots of different places with lots of different people over the last four decades.
At 15 years old when I went to court to press charges against my step-father for sexual abuse I thought everybody in the family knew. When my step-father pled guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 90 days to be served on weekend, when I had to live with him during the week and he went to jail on the weekends they had to know, right? When I was suicidal and in the psych ward of a local hospital, twice, surely I thought everyone in the family knew then and that I was what they were all talking about.
What struck me in this conversation with my cousin is how secrets rot the soul, mine and theirs. How secrets breed spaces where abuses can and do continue to happen. I know now there were others in my family that were in their own isolation with their abuse stories. Secrets kept us isolated from each other. I know there are still people in my family holding on to secrets. I thought they knew and just didn’t care enough to come to me. I thought I was alone, not out of ignorance but out of choice.
Talking to my cousin this weekend freed something in me, healed something in me. There was deep communion in sharing are journeys. There was deep healing in sharing without shame who we are and what are some of the things that have shaped us. It was deeply soulful. It was church.
I come from a very religious family one that wants us to pray everything away. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe as Sobonfu Somé said, “Our wounds happen in community so the healing has to happen in community as well. Prayer helped me move forward but community was then and continues to be what is needed for healing.