We were a model family until my parents separated when I was in 5th grade.
It was hard. As a family we didn’t talk about it. We were very good at playing sports and working hard in our respective schools (my parents were teachers), but we were not very good at sharing our feelings. We were even worse at addressing anything that was painful.
I got by okay with this strategy of avoiding talking about pain for a long time. But then I was sexually assaulted.
When I realized that my default- not saying anything until the problem magically became less painful- wasn’t really an option anymore, I had no idea what to do.
I went to counseling for a few months before I told my sister, and then my mom, what happened. I was scared that they would be hurt by what I had to tell them. I was terrified that in telling them it would all become even more real. I didn’t want to do it.
I don’t even know if I had been fully convinced it was for the best to share the news with my family, but it kind of just spilled out one day when I was Facetiming my sister, Kristi, telling her how my week was going. And then I called my mom and told her too.
They were both shocked. I remember my mom asked me to repeat myself because she didn’t believe what she had just heard.
And then my family—the family that had absolutely no practice in talking about the hard things—did.
My mom hung up the phone and told everyone. She told my brothers and my dad. She told my grandma and my aunts.
At the time I was a little horrified everyone knew. But then I realized it meant I wouldn’t have to break the news to any of them. The telling had been done and now I didn’t have to hide and make up stupid lies about how happy I was when I talked to them on the phone.
In the coming weeks, they all called me. They called to check on me and to ask about how I was really doing. They wanted me to be honest and they were always there to listen.
My mom called me every day, and she did all she could to become a better supporter. She read countless books and blogs about sexual violence, trauma, and support in order to become the supporter I needed. She asked me how she could better support me almost every conversation. For the number of hours she’s spent on the phone listening to every little thought and worry I’ve had since my experience, and the amount she has sacrificed to get me through all of this- I will never be able thank her enough.
Without my family becoming the supporters they did, I wouldn’t have graduated from Bowdoin, I wouldn’t have made Together, and I wouldn’t be writing this today.
We might not have started as a family who could talk about hard things, but we certainly have become one. And because of this we can love each other more (and better) than we ever could before.