Breaking the Cycle by Antonio Brown
- Every 13 seconds a child is abused.
- It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have experienced an episode of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
- Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, to anyone in any neighborhood, in every religion, across all racial and ethnic boundaries, and across all economic sectors.
- Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family.
Statistics can just be words on a page until they become your reality. I am one of these statistics – and this is my reality. I was a victim of child abuse and decided to break my silence and help others by writing my memoir, Muted.Dreams.
I made the decision to write my story three years ago with two goals in mind: to inspire a generation to break the silence that plagues our society and to help others who may have been (or currently are) victims of abuse.
It took me three years to write my memoir because for so long I was afraid to speak out about what I had lived through. I was embarrassed and scared and I wasn’t sure how my family would react. At the end of the day, I had to do it for myself. I knew it was an important way to help me move forward and face the experiences of my past.
When my abuse was discovered by my father, instead of speaking to me about what had happened and explaining to me that my abuser was wrong, he beat me as if it was my fault, thus re-victimizing me. We must stop re-victimizing those who have suffered abuse because they faced their fear and spoke out against their attacker(s). I don’t allow anyone to re-victimize me anymore. I have empowered myself to speak out about my abuse and hope to bring attention to the abuse that occurs in our very own homes, in our houses of worship, in our schools, and in the locker rooms – everyday. We cannot afford to sweep the pain under the rug any longer. With silence we empower the abuser and re-victimize the abused.
My memoir is not only about what I endured growing up but about the effect it had on my life as an adult – the intricately dark webbing that penetrated so many aspects of my life. Being forced to suffer sexual and physical abuse as a child – and being too afraid to speak out about it – left deep emotional scars. I found it difficult to cope with every aspect of my life.
The fact is – I had been traumatized. This trauma prevented me from being able to progressively move forward with my life. I cut myself off from the world because I felt like no one understood me. I was too afraid to tell anyone what I’d lived through. Relationships were impossible. I didn’t understand love or what it meant to truly be happy with someone. I had misconstrued the concept of happiness with what I had endured as a child.
I am hoping that my story will be the tool that inspires a younger generation to change the perception, the stigma, against speaking out. I worked hard to realize – and to truly accept and believe – that I had nothing to do with what happened to me. As a parent you have the power to do this for your children before it’s too late. The work starts now. Keep an open, trusting dialogue with your children. Know the people in their lives from family members to teachers, clergy, coaches, even other kids. If your child withdraws from you, from friends, from the world, something significant is going on. Don’t ignore it. It’s not a phase.
How can we fight what we do not know or refuse to see what is hiding in plain sight? The sooner we are able to talk openly, the sooner we can break the chain and save so many kids from abuse. If your child is abused, he/she needs to be assured that a crime was committed against him/her; that it is not his/her fault; that your love is unconditional and the blame rests solely on the head of the abuser.
And by all means, seek professional help as soon as possible.