Out of the SILENCE…

“If you tell, everyone will know what a bad girl you are, and no one will love you anymore, except me.” And so, with these words from the mouth of a respectable middle-aged family friend, began my forty-five year silence, a silence so profound that I buried the reality of my sexual abuse deep within my three-year-old heart and never uttered a word. Looking back, old photos showed a change in me for a time, the cheerful, laughing child become a somber wraith- but no one seemed to notice. And why should they? The adults all around me were concerned with the War, with the family members and friends serving in far-away places, daily in harm’s way. They were concerned with the myriad tasks of everyday life in our three-generation, six-person household sharing a five-room, one-bath row house in a small town dominated by the sprawling steel plant along the river.

Silence prevailed, accompanied by deep feelings of inadequacy, of never being good enough, of having to prove my worth in every way I could- though I could never really grasp why. And as I became a teen, love and sex became intertwined in such a way that a mere kiss from a boy became, for me, a sign of his love. I was unable to “read” the opposite sex, though I was paradoxically prudish when it came to the sex act itself, since my parents had very effectively instilled the fear of pregnancy in me- and I had plans, wishes, desires to fulfill.

Sex- even as an adult, even within marriage- was always a guilty pleasure, always tinged by the sense that “nice girls” were not supposed to enjoy it. And then, one February day in 1991- forty-five years after the abuse- I was attending a conference dealing with sexual abuse in the parish, designed especially for pastors, and conducted by two friends of mine, a married team of therapists, when I began experiencing flashbacks. Scenes began appearing like frames of a film on the screen of my mind…scenes of this man I had not thought of in years doing things to a little girl- to ME. I was horrified, thought I was losing my mind, that I must be mistaken, must be getting it wrong- but the images were so strong, so real, so powerful. And going to Jane, my good and caring and trusted friend, with tears staining my face, I stammered out the words, “I was sexually abused.” And the silence was broken. 

                                                                                                    -- Linny

Linny is pictured above holding a little girl's dress from the era when she was abused. She told me she wanted to dance with it, while wearing black and a hopeful smile, to show that although she had forever been changed by this event, she had survived and overcome.

From the Silence Is a Language Series, 2015, digital photo


selected exhibitions 


University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC


Remote Sites of War: Todd Drake, Skip Rhohde, Christopher Sims, at Fine Art Museum,  April 10-May 30, 2014, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 

Double Vision - Perspectives from Palestine, March 3-28, Curtis Harley Gallery, University of South Carolina Upstate

Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain


"The Stories We Tell" Workshops and exhibition,

International Academy of Art-Palestine, Ramallah

American House, Jerusalem

Immigration and Refugee Day Exhibition

UNCG, Greensboro, NC 

Reorienting The Veil Exhibition and Conference, 

UNC, Chapel Hill, NC 

Elon University

Elon, NC 

Zones of Contention

Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC 


Mathers Museum

Bloomington, ID

Heart Mountain (Site of WWII Japanese Interment Camp)

Powell, WY


Group Exhibition

Dhahran, Saudia Arabia

Bahrain Center of Art, Manama, Bahrain

Sanford School of Public Policy

Duke University, Durham, NC

New York University

New York, NY

Rhode Island School of Art and Design

Providence, RI


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