Incest and the awful silence

Risking controversy, I’m going to be brutally honest and admit that I often wish I’d been abused by a celebrity. Or a teacher. Or at least a stranger.

I’m not belittling anyone else’s experience. Really I’m not. It’s horrific to be sexually abused by anyone. Full stop. It isn’t easier or harder because you do or don’t know the perpetrator. It is always devastating.

But I loathe the word ‘incest’ and everything it means to me. It’s like that word is infused with its own heavy, cringing shame. Extra shame. On top of the shame of being assaulted, groomed, used, helpless, there’s the added shame of having had sexual relations with someone in my own family. I can’t shake that disgust.

And the worst thing about that is the fact that I can’t stop myself protecting my family. I hear people on the radio and on the podcasts I listen to speaking candidly about their experiences of abuse and I envy them. I wish I could break out of the shame enough to tell my story. While I can sometimes find the courage to say I was sexually abused, I can never explain it any further. And even then, I get scared that somehow people will guess that my abuser was my brother. It feels like that is too vile for anyone to want to hear.

I also get scared of sharing my story because I don’t want my family to be impacted. That sounds so crazy, when their actions or lack of them are what’s led me to this place. The impact they’ve had on me is immense and destructive – as well as being positive and full of love. That’s my dilemma. If I hated them, I could maybe be open about my past. But I don’t. I love them and I want them to accept me.

When I consider what it would be like to say my truth out loud to someone other then my therapist or my wife, I think of relief. The pressure of the secrecy easing. The shame of the secret dissipating slightly. Because it isn’t my shame. Of course it’s not. The shame belongs to my brother. I’d so love for the whole world to know what he is, what he did to me, how he wrecked my life.

Aside from the shame, there’s a massive and non-negotiable obstacle to me ever being able to expose my brother. He’s got a child now. How could I do that to his little one? He was born into this horrible situation, but he doesn’t deserve to live the shame of his father or be tarnished by what he did. I want him to be safe. I want him to be happy. And I can’t cause him suffering. That just isn’t fair.

I had the chance to tell my story a few years ago. It was when I found out my brother’s wife was pregnant. That same day, I called the police to make a historic report of the abuse. I couldn’t bear the thought of their child being at risk. The police took me seriously. They interviewed my brother, my wife and my parents. They took a statement from my therapist. I gave them a video statement detailing everything I could remember about what he’d done to me. It was brutal, but I’m glad I did it.

Due to a technicality of the law, my case didn’t go to court. I was devastated. Not because I wanted my brother to be sentenced, although that would have gone some way to making me feel like I’d had some justice. I was devastated because I wanted him to have to stand up in front of everyone in that courtroom and answer for what he did. I wanted that chance to have my story heard. Really heard. I especially wanted my family to have to confront it, instead of burying themselves in their denial as they’ve always done.

There were some positive outcomes in the end. I received criminal injuries compensation from the government, and that replaced some of the money I’ve spent on therapy in the past few years. And I know that the authorities are aware of my brother’s child. He’s being monitored by social services. When he goes to nursery or school, people will be made aware that they should keep a close eye on him for any signs something isn’t right. I have helped protect him as much as I can.

But that doesn’t help me. I’m still left with the burden of the silence. I’m still carrying the colossal weight of shame. I still crave validation, being heard, being seen, being understood. I’ve only ever met one person who was open about having been abused by her brother. She attended a meeting I was at. I cried with relief when I heard her say those words. It felt incredible to know someone who could truly empathise with my experience. I didn’t see her again after that meeting, but she had a big impact on me.

I know I am not alone. I know there are other people who’ve experienced this. But I don’t feel it, because I don’t have any real connection with them. And I don’t hear my story when I listen to the media discussing abuse. I hear about institutions, schools, celebrities, politicians. It feels like what happened to me is just too dark and disgusting to be part of the discussion.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh darling, I’m so sorry that it feels so bad. I can understand why you feel this way. It’s so hard to not see where your trauma fits in the conversation that seems to be happening at the moment in the media etc. And yet it is massive. This kind of abuse is widespread but underreported. Sending you so much love – always- you know where I am x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ashleyleia says:

    Shame is so silencing and isolating. But you are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you. I know that really, it’s just knowing and feeling aren’t always the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. laura… we hear you. and i know that sharing anonymously isn’t the same as sharing publicly but you did a GREAT thing protecting your nephew.
    and call him what he is, a pedophile. he stopped being your brother the second he broke your trust.
    sending you love and lots of courage,
    i know it is not easy
    i was abused by an electrician that came to fix my grandfathers cable. i think i was hardly 7 or 8. i am 29. i dont remember anything but i do remember what he wanted me to do. i have never told this to anyone. in 20 odd years. i always used to think if i repress it the memory will go. but mind works the opposite.
    we all carry our burdens –doesnt make it easy. but yes, sharing helps.


    1. Laura says:

      I’m so sorry you had that experience, and so very young too. I’m.sorry you haven’t been able to speak about it either. You’re right, I shouldn’t call him my brother anymore. I don’t tell people I have a brother. I like to imagine he’s not a.part of my life, but all the while I’m involved with the rest of the family, he will be a presence. It would be so good to be able to totally cut off from anything related to him.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m sorry too.
        I can’t imagine what it must be to hear his name being mentioned let alone see him.
        Cut off all ties. You did great reporting him. My first thought was your nephew too. If his wife knows now maybe she will see the signs. Let’s hope they’re both safe from him and anyone else too.
        And it’s all because you spoke up. Your courage is so admirable and motivating.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Laura says:

        I did cut ties with him and his wife a few years ago. But nobody else in my family did. So I don’t see him, but I hear about him and I know they spend time with him. It makes it impossible to ever be properly free of him. I hope that the baby is safe I really do.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think people are afraid to speak out about within family abuse – physical, mental, sexual, whatever – because they have been conditioned for years not to. They know the family will do just as yours did, and really around the perpetrator, not the victim, because the victim broke the family code of silence. The code of enforced silence at the expense of shunning is often almost worse than the abuse itself within famies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura says:

      You’re right, the fallout within the family does frequently feel worse than the abuse. Even 20 years later.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. skinnyhobbit says:

    I was abused by my brother once that I can remember .There wasn’t an age difference but he used force. The family member who knows protects him because “he was physically abused worse than you by our parents.” I hope your brother drops dead. As for mine, since there wasn’t an age difference, I don’t even know if what he did was criminal and I still live with him so sometimes I hope he drops dead.


    1. Laura says:

      I am so sorry to hear that, it’s awful what happened to you. I don’t think age makes any difference, the experience of being forced and scared and ashamed is the same. It’s terrible that you still have to have contact with him.

      Liked by 1 person

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