You won’t know how I feel… Couldn’t be more of a powerful statement and for anyone who’s been at the end of victim shaming it really rings true. It’s common to hear things like it gets better in time or pull yourself together when you’re falling apart. We live in a society that interrogates the victim rather than the abuser. If you grow up in that world how else would someone feel if they’ve endured the abuse and are faced with coming forward.
From the start of Lady Gaga’s performance of Til It Happens To You my eyes began to leak to the point where I thought my eyeballs were about to burst from the sockets. I could hear my voice in her vibrato, it was loud and clear.
I went years of being silent, afraid what would happen if anyone found out. The silence ate away at my soul, it forever altered me. To this day, I still remember that first night going to my parents bedroom door and stopping myself from knocking. I was afraid that they wouldn’t believe me. I mean who would believe that my cousin was sexually abusing me, him being male as well. So I wiped away my tears and fell asleep on the couch. When morning appeared I tip toed back into the lion pit (the bed where I was abused) in order to not alarm anyone.
I woke up like nothing had happened and continued to do so for a week until our supposed vacation had ended… but the hell had just began for me. While most boys were going through puberty naturally I was forced into submission of it all. My innocence stolen in a matter of minutes. That was my first interaction with sex and it was more damaging than a lightning bolt to the brain.
For years, I hide it all… I grew up believing that I deserved it, that it was my fault. Why else would it happen to me? My body turned into a piece of meat, property for whoever wanted it. I gave away my soul like a stack of newspapers. I burrowed myself into that black abyss for the next seven years. I watched life pass me by. I desperately wanted to scream bloody murder by my lips were paralyzed. I had to put on a brave face and act like everything was okay but it wasn’t.
I was groomed into believing that was what love meant, to have it all taken from you. You’re not worth the salvation. So you suffer on, cry into your pillow and go on. No one even noticed that I cried myself to sleep almost every night. It was like my tears were attached to a silencer.
For SEVEN years I watched him raised up by my family. They all adored and loved him. I was the chunky, overly sensitive black sheep. I actually grew up believing my parents didn’t love me, that’s how damaging abuse is. If I didn’t speak up how else would they have known. They had no idea that I was dying inside every time they did something for him or praised him. My cousin was the star quarterback, the captain of his basketball team. The girls all wanted to be with him, the boys all wanted to be his friend.
I grew up believing that NO ONE wanted me…
To the point where one day I just exploded. One too many cracks in the dam to support any more tears. I was proven right. I had reason to doubt other’s believing me, as it came true. A father is suppose to protect his children, instead he went hunting with my abuser the next day. I was told to forgive and forget. How can you forget something like that, not the abuse but your Dad telling you that your feelings didn’t matter. It’s not something you ever get over. Another boulder piled on my grave.
Boys will be boys, others in my family said. Just get over it. He would never do that. I was shunned and exiled. How dare I speak up? My place was to stay silent, take the abuse. That’s how courage was repaid.
More times than not survivors pay the price of coming forward. Rather than lifted up others tear us further down. They’d rather add to the pain than face the reality and truth that something like this could happen. Sweep it under the rug.
“Until your world burns and crosses, until you’re at the end of your rope… til your standing in my shoes I don’t want to hear nothing from you… because you don’t know… til it happens to you… you won’t know how I feel…”
That’s what I’ve been yelling for so long. I’ve screamed so loud that my vocal cords are scorched. You do whatever you have to survive and I have. I won’t ever hear the words I need to hear from the people who’ve done me wrong and even then it would be too late. I’d rather have Lady Gaga sing to me any day. Her words are like kisses upon my pillow. That’s the power of coming forward, other’s hear the ballads of your bravery. Those who are struggling and so desperate to for some comfort. Someone to believe them, and not tell them it’s their fault. Most people don’t come out and say it’s your fault but it’s in the reflection of their words and actions.
For the last two hours I have listened to the song on repeat. Each time the melody is just as loud and clear as the moment before. I’ve cried so much I’ve ran out of tissue. The song is the anthem of the unbelieved, the castaways… There will be others who just won’t get the message, who will say things like what a mediocre song. This song isn’t for them. It’s for you and me. It’s for any survivor of sexual abuse/assault.
There’s great power and taking a stand. Just like when the survivors joined Lady Gaga on stage holding hands with messages like not your fault and survivor written on their forearms. Having a voice is such an important tool for a survivor something so many take for granted, the ability to speak up and be believed. While NO might only have two letters in it, it’s one of the most powerful words ever spoken. We’ve had that right taken away for too long. This song is saying NO… to being silent… to speaking up…
Often times I feel my voice disappear. I can sing it loud and clear when it’s standing up for someone else. I’m a great champion for others… myself not so much. I’ve tolerated less for so long that I’ve forgotten there is any other way. That’s what is so great when others stand up it gives you the strength and courage to do the same. Whether it’s reporting it for the first time or the hundredth time. Healing is a lifelong battle for a survivor. There will times that your sea is calm. All it takes is one big wave and you relive those moments all over again.
You can’t control flashbacks (of the event) anymore you can control whether or not it’s going to rain. Your brain is the camera and that negative is forever polarized into your consciousness. Often times it won’t take much. It could be a smell or a sound and instantly you’re back where it all began. I still can clearly picture the house where the abuse happened. There are a lot of things that I’ve forgotten as I’ve gotten older, that isn’t one of them. I remember the shower where I tried the filth off. Soap doesn’t reach your soul. I can close my eyes and see every part of that cabin. Anything to not see the act in that bed. Focus on the wall, on the curtains just don’t look down. Hide beneath your pillow and pretend you’re sleeping.
Until it happens to you, you’ll never know just how damaging sexual abuse is… and how prevalent it is. If we don’t speak up, nothing will change. That’s why the message of this song is so very important. To say to society it’s not okay to be marginalized.
It gets better in time we are told. I’m almost forty and it hasn’t got better but damn it all I’m determined to be happy. I fight daily, more than anyone will know. I shouldn’t have to fight so hard but that is the reality of life. I’m tired but I will keep on moving forward. My life has to mean something. If I can give comfort to another brother and sister who’s hiding from the same kind of demons then that will be my purpose.
I’m tired of feeling damaged, broken… unlovable… Currently I’m in the fuck it attitude. I’m done trying to convince others to believe me. I’ve spent most of my life desperately trying to plead my case with people who are both blind and deaf to my tears. I’ve done just about everything to drown out the pain to the point where I just want it all to end.
In the end, no matter why, I’m still here. There is great strength in that statement. I could be homeless tomorrow but I’m still here. I can’t let those who’ve hurt me win. I just can’t. I don’t want my life to have been in vain. I see Lady Gaga living her dreams (and her fears) and that gives me courage that one day I can do the same. Turn my pain, the hell into art in order to help others. I’m learning to embrace the light one day at a time.
I don’t know how I’m going to obtain it or when but I’m going to hold on until I achieve it. The future is unknown and I’m not confident about most things lately but there is one thing I’m certain about… My future is going to be better than my past. I will keep walking until I find my home.
If you’re reading this and have felt the same know that we walk the same path. I know how it feels to be alone, to feel so desperate it drives you mad. Hang in there. You’re worth it, as I am. I know how you feel…