The Ugly Secret

This week’s writing prompt was to:

Write about a secret without actually naming it. Describe how that secret makes you feel.

The scenario that follows is not a true story, though it could be based on the experiences of thousands of children. It may be difficult for some readers, and does contain potential triggers for trauma victims, so please, proceed accordingly.

I have a secret I keep close to my heart. I don’t tell. I can’t tell.

I sit in the back corner hoping no one will notice me. I hide my face behind my hair, letting it fall over my eyes to create my own private space. I doodle mindlessly in the margins of my notebook. A rosebud, dripping blood.

My stomach hurts, like I need to vomit, but I can’t go home again. The school nurse looks at me funny when I go see her. I can’t take her accusatory glare. I’m sure she thinks I’m drinking. Or on drugs. I pluck at my sleeve and contemplate cutting. But I can’t, not here. Instead I press on the half-healed line on the inside of my elbow. Somehow the pain makes me feel better.

I reach into my bag and pull out a few of the chocolate chips I took from the pantry at home. I nibble on them without letting anyone see. It’s all I have. And it will have to do for now.

I wear my shame like a mantle. Don’t they see? How do they not know?

Childhood sexual abuse is never an easy thing to talk about. But hiding it in secrecy only gives power to the abusers. My hope in sharing this scenario is not to bring more pain to anyone, but to shine a light on an ugly truth. Too many have suffered at the hands of their abusers, and only go on to suffer more throughout their lives. No one should have to suffer in the darkness, but all deserve to find healing.

Holding on to a dark secret such as the one described here does even more harm to a person who has already been victimized by keeping the individual locked in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and shame. If you, or someone you know, is battling this kind of darkness, I urge you to reach out for help. Here are a couple of websites that offer help and support:

avoicefortheinnocent.org
rainn.org

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