My best friend who was like a brother to me was also sexually abused as a child. Reading this memoire reminded me of him and brought back all kinds of memories. I will always miss my friend because he passed away about 7 years ago and I will never have the opportunity to explain to him how much he meant to me. Click here to learn more about this man’s experience who I applaud for coming forward and speaking out.
I still have rage inside.
But now it comes when I see attempts to silence or censor sexual education in our public schools. Much of the debate about Ontario’s new sexual education curriculum is rooted in ignorance and an irrational fear that arming children with more information about sex will lead them to wild promiscuity.
I’m a living example that we need more dialogue around sexual health, not less. We need to encourage boys and girls to ask questions, or risk that they’ll bury them, like I did.
I believe that if I were exposed to this dialogue, to this curriculum, that I would have had a chance at identifying, addressing and confronting my abuse much earlier than I did. Perhaps it would have helped my abuser as well.
Parents also have a role to play. I grew up in a Catholic household where sex was never discussed. This was a mistake. But obviously our family is not alone. Talking frankly about sex can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to begin the dialogue from a place of knowledge and love. Kids should learn about sex in a safe and positive environment.
We also need to teach our boys there are emotions other than anger; that it isn’t a sign of weakness to tell your friends or family when you’re hurting; that reaching out to your parents, a teacher, or friends, isn’t weak; that it’s brave to ask for help.
We need to teach boys to see bravery as the ability to stand up and face their deepest fears. We need to teach them that “real men” don’t hide.
The worst version of myself was also the most cowardly. I did not tell my truth. I hid it from the most important people in my life. I lied to the most important person in my life. It is a mistake I will live with forever.
My abuse taught me to feel the shame of complicity. My shame taught me to keep silent. My silence taught me to hide away my pain. Hiding that pain caused me to believe I deserved that pain. This cycle caused me to live the worst version of myself, and to profoundly hurt the person I love the most in the world.
We have to begin rethinking how we educate and socialize our boys and young men, so that they understand and believe what true strength is:
To ask for help.
To take the power of silence away from those who have snatched away our voice.
To be tough enough to talk.