Speech – 4/15/09

This is the speech that I gave on April 4th, 2009 at a Shout Out Against Sexual Assault on my college campus. My words are culled almost entirely from the words I have spoken here. It will be shared once more on April 23rd at a Take Back the Night rally by request of the organizers.

My name is [Onion Girl]. I’m twenty-seven years old, and I am afraid of the dark.

I grew up afraid of the dark, without ever really knowing what I was afraid of. Before I went to bed I would do my rounds like some very short and ineffective night watchman. First, I would check under the bed, and then, I would check the shadow behind my desk, and then, finally, I would open the closet and be sure that nothing was hiding under the mountain of mess I had piled in there to pass the last room inspection. Then I would check again, lying on the floor and kicking things around under my bed to make certain that nothing awaited me behind the board games or the stuffed animals. Finally, I would rest.

Then he came into my life, and something changed for me. I was still young, still afraid of the dark, but the shadows and dark places of my room no longer seemed forbidding. In fact, they seemed like havens to me. The dangers that I knew then came not from some hazy gorilla-like beast, but from a smiling gentle face who reassured me that it was our secret. I was no longer afraid of strange and forbidding shadows. I had a real monster to fear.

Andrew Vachss, a prominent figure in the fight against childhood sexual abuse, coined the term Children of the Secret, which refers to abused children, of whatever age, who were victimized without ever experiencing justice, much less love and protection

We Children of the Secret have grown up knowing better than most that monsters do exist in the dark. We see them in our homes, our schools, our churches, and in the faces of strangers that we are taught to fear. To us, they are not vague and shadowy figures lurking in a darkened bedroom and keeping us awake with some childish, irrational fear. Nothing about our fear is irrational. Our monsters scare us instead with the click of a doorknob, the promise of candy, and the back of their fist. We are writ small by our very real monsters, and suddenly we know there is evil in the world.

I am afraid of the dark because I know there are monsters out there. But with my voice, I speak my secret, and I bring light to that darkness.

My speech was supposed to end there. But it doesn’t. The night before I was to share this speech, as I prepared, shaking in fear, I shared it with an acquaintance that swiftly crossed the gap into good friend. In one solitary moment, we had an epiphany of our shared history. I realized that in our solidarity we are strong, and in our purpose to heal one another we are united.

We are here.

We come from all walks of life. We are doctors, students, drive through attendants, IT specialists and engineers. We are Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, and any other stripe of religion you can think of. We are women. We are men. We are children as young as you can imagine and adults taking our last breaths remembering the crimes perpetrated against us, hopefully with some closure and peace. We are fat and thin, sane and insane, wild and cautious, but most of all, we are everywhere.

We are here.

Wherever you look, we are here. We are in your schools, your homes, your classrooms, and your places of worship. Our faces are written with a common sadness, but also with a common strength. We are in your reflection and in the window looking out at you, seeing you look in at us.

We are here.

Together we are unstoppable. We are a wave of force that could tear the earth apart and instead we choose to build it back up, taking all the hate and anger that we feel and turning it into green things growing. All the pain and anger in the world would never erase what we have been through, so it is our greatest gift to rebuild from those ashes and bring our purpose together for a common good.

We are here.

We are stronger together than we would be apart. Together we are one voice, one chorus that calls out for peace, for justice, for tranquility and most of all that no one else be hurt. Our voices demand amelioration for our suffering, but first and foremost, they demand that no other voice be forced by circumstance to join our choir. Our voices demand a time when we will no longer have to cry out. But until that day, we are here.


2 Responses to “Speech – 4/15/09”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Charles de Lint, Angelina Bennett. Angelina Bennett said: RT @cdelint: I hate that people have to go through this (http://ping.fm/hi7bl) but I'm so proud of this woman for speaking up & being heard. […]

  2. With courage you share this so that others can not only survive but learn to live with their past. I say this having known and loved dearly a child of the secret. Peace be with you.

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