Keeping Up Appearances

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Warning: this post deals with sexual abuse and contains information which some may find disturbing or triggering, so please proceed with caution. My goal is to address an issue stemming from abuse, not to harm anyone emotionally. In the popular British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’) is a middle class matron whose daily attempts to appear more regale and refined than her middle class lifestyle allows has the opposite result of making her the laughingstock (and terror) of the neighborhood. You gotta hand it to Hyacinth, though: she never stops trying to escape the shame of her upbringing in the projects.

Shame: it’s the horrific monster in the closet which controls our actions as we try to appear normal, and, considering the statistics of sexual abuse against women, there are millions, maybe billions, of us “Walking Wounded” whose desperate attempts to keep up appearances of normalcy helps perpetuate the lie that things are better than they really are.

Statistics vary on sexual abuse against females but one thing is for sure: the statistics are alarming:

1 in 6 females are survivors of attempted or completed rape

15% of survivors are under the age of 12

38% of girls are abused before the age of 18

10-14% of wives experience forced, battering or sadistic (involving porn) rape

One survey revealed 25% of female college students survived attempted/completed rape

60% of rapes in the U.S.are never reported

61% of child molesters in the U.S. are fathers/father figures

The effects of rape and molestation are as devastating as the acts themselves. Depression, PTSD, addiction and suicide plague survivors of sexual assault. Despite stereotypes which say females are more emotional than males, girls tend to internalize their feelings, burying those emotions until they surface through destructive behaviors. Adult women do the same thing: it’s like there’s this unspoken rule that women must appear cool, confident and in control. We’re looked down upon if we break down from the emotional pressure of the hard knocks of life.

Why is that? Why are we expected to endure the worst trauma imaginable and then keep it under wraps? Is it because people don’t like dealing with volatile emotions? If we can’t control it, then don’t mess with it? Is that what’s going on? Millions of women are in the throes of depression, PTSD and addiction, tossed to and fro by the emotional pain of assault and abuse, and we aren’t supposed to talk about it?

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

As a survivor of rape, I know it’s not a simple matter to admit I was raped. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or viewing me as a victim, because I know I’m a strong woman. I know my abilities. I don’t want to be defined by a single moment in my life. I don’t want to be a statistic.

But I am.

And I no longer want to be part of the Silent Majority. I want to speak up so that changes are made in how we raise girls. Let’s teach our daughters (and our sons) that it’s okay to hit someone if they are trying to assault or abuse you. Let’s teach them that if a friend of family member does something which makes them feel uncomfortable, that they should run away SCREAMING. That anyone who threatens them with, “If you tell anyone, I’m going to kill/do the same thing to them,” that THAT is a lie.

Let’s educate females of all ages that we should NEVER give into or endure abuse simply because we want to be accepted by a man. No man is worth having at the expense of our self-respect and our conscience.

And if we are assaulted and abused, instead of pretending it didn’t happen, let’s admit it to others, because that will give them the courage to speak up and say, “I was abused.” Then that admission will encourage someone else to speak up and admit, “I was abused.” Before long, more women will take their first steps toward recovery, healing and wholeness – all because one person decided to stop keeping up appearances.

If you’re reading this and this describes you, I consider you my sister. We may come from different families, but we are sisters united by the bonds of tragedy – and of hope for a better tomorrow.

Be the One.

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