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.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
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
Zones of Contention
Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC
Heart Mountain (Site of WWII Japanese Interment Camp)
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
Copyright © 2005 - 2015 Todd Drake . All rights reserved. Do not use or reproduce without permission.