Promise Not to Tell

The extraordinary events on that hot summer’s day only transpired because my carth (7) was in the repair shop. Instead of driving to the seaside, I wander through our local park.

He appears out of nowhere, our eyes meet for the first time in twenty years. I had only just been talking to a colleague about him days earlier. She works in Child Protection. “But, Cat,” She said, “that is sexual abuse.”

I offer him a couple of clues to who I am and within seconds, Simon utters my name in disbelief. He laughs, “You’re the image of your Dad.” We shake hands and hug with incredible warmth, but our happiness soon merges with memories of something quite different… the secret.

We grew up around deprivation in the 1960’s, the freedom to play and roam made up for everyday hardships. Parents presumed their children were safe outdoors, but their trust only established the ground for predatory paedophiles. Back then, sex was still a dirty word and sex with children, unthinkable… the unspeakable.

The last time we played together, I was nine and Simon was twelve. We were next-door neighbours but more like inseparable brothers and he forms part of my earliest and happiest memories. When both our parents relocated in the early 70’s, his absence left a gaping hole. Those secret encounters with our abuser, are not the kind you easily forget and I often wondered if he felt the same.

We walk and talk in a timeless bubble. Simon finally breaks the seal silence, “Do you remember what happened to us?” He makes a sign we used as children, only him or I would understand. I assumed our perception would be similar. How wrong could I be?

My Colleague was right, it is sexual abuse, but I had difficulty articulating the words. It all started when I was five and Simon was eight and ended four years later… for him, anyway. I didn’t feel worthy of being the “abused,” everything was my fault. I wholeheartedly believed in my own willingness. How could it be abuse? The answer to a twenty-year-old question was standing right in front of me.

I watch the pain slowly etch across Simon’s face as he recounts his own devastating memories, the guilt, the shame, and the everlasting, self-destructive trauma… all the things I should be feeling. Our memories seem worlds apart, as if we’re talking about different lives. While I recall eagerly waiting for the abuser to summon the children indoors, Simon remembers, “Having to go in… to play those dirty games.”

Simon shares his life of failed relationships, drug, and alcohol addiction and while he’s clean five years, there was never a time when he could unravel and admit the true source of his demons.

I feel the bottom fall out of our sinking pit as I recount the conversation with my colleague from Child Protection. Simon’s face turns ashen. It is highly probable that our abuser still abuses children today, maybe even his own. My colleague said, “It’s your duty to report this, it could save another child from enduring the same.”

thQWLRVKA1“Please, Cat, please promise me one thing…” He waits for my assurances. “If you ever decide to report this to the authorities, promise never to tell them I was there.”

I lay awake all night, ruminating over Simon’s words, wondering if I was blocking out my own memories of the past. How can two  children process the same experiences entirely differently? “Promise never to tell,” the fear in Simon’s eyes, the desperation in his voice, were devastating to witness.

To be continued….

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47 thoughts on “Promise Not to Tell

  1. The Professionally Depressed Professional

    I agree with Kat. Your developmental ages were much different as well, and you both processed the events in very different ways. Although your journeys collided for a brief moment, you are on very different paths.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Cat Post author

      I would tend to agree, the age difference would mean processing it differently. I dunno why I didn’t think of this myself! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 😉

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  2. cardamone5

    This post is so vivid, I couldn’t tell if it was fiction or non fiction. Based on the above comments, I am assuming it happened to you. I am so sorry, and applaud your efforts to process your pain and speak out, for yourself and for others. You are very brave.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth… it is non-fiction, unfortunately! This is really the first time in years I have given this much thought, but that’s therapy for you. Thank you, Elizabeth… so good to hear from you 😉

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  3. mincs1

    Your willingness to share your experience has to be commended. May it lead to protection for other children. May you continue on your road of recovery and achieve peace.
    Sincerely, Mary

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Send Sunshine

    I wonder how many of us out there have been saved from abusers during our youth? I wish there were more. My tears are for all of us who had a sacred part of our youth stolen and for those who suffer today. I will be honest with you, I spoke out, only to not be believed, and the worst part was that, this abuser had a younger cousin of mine who lived in the household. After being ignored, I ,in kind, turned my back on my innocent relative, and the horrors they must have lived through. This is my shame. Always <3, Always light. Be well.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I have heard a lot recently about people not being believed, that must have been so difficult to deal with and I imagine it has left its scar. Maybe there is absolutely nothing you could do for your relative.

      Thank you for commenting

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      1. Send Sunshine

        I should have never turned my back, but in some ways I believe I blamed my cousin. It has taken a haunted time to forgive myself for deserting my relative, but then I too, was a child. I pray you find your light to heal.

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        1. Cat Post author

          I understand that, but what would have been your alternative? As you say, you were both children and we are quite powerless to change something like this. So much easier in hindsight to think we could’ve did this or that. I hope you find peace

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  5. Fumbling Through Therapy

    My cousin and I were abused together. There is a 3 year age gape. I’m older. Her memories and understanding of what happened are much different than mine. And the choices she has made to deal with it are also dramatically different. We are just different people, I suppose. But it does bother me sometimes.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That’s interesting what you said. I don’t know why I had never considered much about our age difference and how we process it differently. I’m sorry you endured the same… it robs us of our innocence as children. I hope you too find peace. Thank you for commenting, appreciated 😉

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  6. janetcate

    It is really interesting how people can live through the same experience and have opposite reactions to the same situation. I see that in my life every day. The trauma that affected me in my household definitely had a different affect on other siblings. It is amazing to see and hear about it.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Janet… it’s pretty mind blowing, really. I wasn’t as traumatised as my friend, but it did have major impacts on my trust and connections, although it took me a while before I realised this.
      My sister and I didn’t have a great home life, which affected me badly, but she didn’t seem to respond in the same way. However, she does have some hidden ghosts in the closet. Perhaps your siblings were affected in different ways that aren’t so obvious.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment 😉

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  7. Lucky Wreck

    I am so sorry to hear you had to experience something like that. The different perceptions of boys being abused and how it affects them later in life reminded me of the movie “Mysterious Skin”.

    I really admire the way you are writing about this. It is very powerful, and I think one of the best ways to shed light on the subject matter that will hopefully help people to stop hiding child abuse.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I had not heard of this movie, but just looked through a preview, very intriguing… I will watch sometime.

      It is always a tricky topic to write about, but the honesty of other people’s blogs helped my own ‘recovery’ and I hope other people can take something from mine.

      Thank you for your very encouraging comment 😉

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  8. Glynis Jolly

    How does a person deal with suppressed memories? Is one way really better than another? It could be that in order for one person to heal, the gate has to be opened. Yet for another, it’s better to keep it closed.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Glynis… that’s a very good question, or two. I’m no expert, but imagine there are different kinds of suppressed memories – ones we choose not to think about and those we forget, completely. If psychotherapy is about unlocking the unconscious, then it suggests that the root to some of our deepest problems lurk behind the unconscious. For healing to begin, yes, we do need to open the gate, but is it better to keep it closed? I suppose that depends on whether we are able to deal with whatever lurks behind that gate. If we are not open to unlocking the gate, my fear (for myself, that is) is that we never resolve the things that cause so many personal issues. In this situation, I was prepared to unlock the gate, while Simon preferred to keep his closed. I worry that he is never able to find inner peace. Sorry, gone on a bit, but your questions made me think, thank you 😉

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  9. Ellen

    I was struck by the fact that Simon wanted to talk about the abuse – it seems here at least, that he brought up the topic himself, which was very brave of him. Before I tackled trauma in therapy, I would never have brought the subject up to anyone, and even now, I’m unlikely to talk about it. Simon may actually be getting ready to start dealing with that chapter of both of your lives, despite what he said.

    Anyway. Sorry this happened to you Cat. I hope writing about it helps a bit. I’ve found SA to be the most devastating topic I’ve ever had to deal with myself.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s quite odd, Ellen, but if he hadn’t brought it up, I’m not sure I would have. Even though I talked about it openly to other people. he was different. I can relate to devastating trauma in childhood via my parents and I struggle to discuss it with anyone, but this experience was not visibly traumatic, so I was always able to talk about it. However, the impact (behind the scenes, if you like) was enormous, which I will write about some other time.

      Thank you for commenting, Ellen 😉

      Oh and yes, I do agree with your observations about Simon, although doubt he ever talks about it to anyone

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  10. Sharon Alison Butt

    Reblogged this on Light-bites For Your Heart and commented:
    …and here’s another one. Cat is another survivor/overcomer who I admire greatly. It seems apt to re-blog this as I have just posted my re-blog from Phoenix. Different people, different years, different towns different circumstances. Same pain, same trauma, same evil. Like my previous request, please, please pray for Cat too. Cat is such a lovely, warm, person who has to live with these terrible memories. Child abuse must be exposed, not hidden or ignored. It has to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. mandy smith

    It’s the same for everyone isn’t it? The shame. The need to keep the secret. Some to the death. I’ve been there. The odd thing is Simon’s asking you about it. I wonder if you would have said you didn’t remember–what would he have said? There is something that feels like he wanted/needed to find out if you remembered–maybe hoping you didn’t, and then the secret could be kept forever? It could be many reasons. As scary as it is, it is so much less burdensome when you start telling. I’m glad we’ve started telling…

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    1. Cat Post author

      Odd you should say that about Simon testing the waters because that very thought crossed my mind today. I don’t know why something about his request troubled me so much because I do understand the guilt and shame, but all these years, something hasn’t felt right about it. Thankfully the actual memories are not traumatic, which help with being able t be so open about it, however, it did have a huge impact on trust and connections, which I’m just starting to look at in therapy

      Thank you, Mandy

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  12. K. Davison

    Your words resonate within me. I find your writing very raw and real. Your journey in your healing process is all your own and you should be so proud of where you are in it. Thank you for speaking out…and thank you for all you share!

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  13. Catnip

    You are so fortunate to have survived the ability to cope with such traumatic Sexual encounter at such young age. Even though he was your friend, and of course you trusted him. Did he take advantage of you? Yes he did. You were just too young to know it at the time. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Cat Post author

      It is so strange you should bring this up because it is something that came into my own mind after I wrote this post. He was also a child and I don’t feel I can hold him responsible for keeping me safe. However, I think he might have felt responsible and maybe this was one reason why he didn’t want people to know of his presence.

      Thank you for commenting, much appreciated 😉

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            1. Catnip

              Every one of us needs love and affection. Maybe it was something you needed when it happened. I don’t know, all I’m saying is that I’m not judging. Who am I to say if it was right or wrong. I don’t know. That’s all I’m saying.

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            2. Cat Post author

              Your comments are so spookily accurate. I was just saying to the Therapist on Frid that maybe I kept going back because it was the closest to affection I was getting, I certainly didn’t get hugged or anything like that at home. The only time we were touched was to get a smack! Thank you

              Liked by 1 person

  14. sensuousamberville

    How was Simons home life in comparison to yours Cat? Perhaps what the nine year old has been conditioned to view as normal adult behaviour was different than the boy of twelve years old, not so much because of age, but because of how “normal” was corrupted in his home life. But so many things will come into play, to make how we contend with trauma, different in each person. Do you know if Simon has had any help?

    Did you remove a a post? yes nosy I am.

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    1. Cat Post author

      His parents were in their early forties when he came along and all three sisters already married. I did wonder if it traumatised me less because I had more trauma at home and traumatised him more because he had less trauma at home. He wasn’t able to keep in touch, I reminded him of too much of the guilt and pain.

      I did remove a post, I’m trying to repost something similar today. TBH I’ve been in bits. I only just started talking to the Therapists about this and for the first time in my life, I feel they are doubtful because I have never mentioned it before. I also think I’m connecting with my feelings again and it’s a bit like hearing for the first time in many many years.
      Thank you, Amber, always nice and helpful to hear your thoughts

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      1. sensuousamberville

        Don’t allow possible splitting to cloud your views on the therapist “doubting” you Cat. A therapist will expect to see things emerge that have been hidden or not been mentioned. Often connections to self awareness, awakening will bring along other memories that the person may have not felt relevant,

        I was wondering about the post as I can still read it on my phone, but not not on my pc, which is odd.

        How trauma is hmmmm, there is no simple word for encompassing this, effected, dealt with, affected, traumatized…. by each person is very different. The same trauma will have different results in each person. The ability to brush it off, or to suffer with it, will also vary. Some minds are also wired so that, for example, as this really is what it is, P.T.S.D. will effect some but not others, for many reasons. We are all different, so expect different results.

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        1. Cat Post author

          I think the group was mirroring my world as a child, unable to speak because I felt so insignificant. The good thing is I connected with real feelings for the first time in decades but I still want to feel pissed with the Therapist for a little while longer 😉

          Yes, I understand what you are saying about the processing of trauma. I did do a little more reading after I wrote that post and can appreciate the individuality
          Thanks Amber, you’re a gem

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  15. summerstommy2

    I found this very brave Cat, speaking out must be so very difficult though I like others above, wonder about Simon and his request to maintain his ‘secret’. I hope writing does help you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Only through writing this did I also question his requests, although I did always find it odd that his memories were so opposite to my own. Writing does help and it’s really the first time I have written about this particular situation. Thank you for commenting, Michael.

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