I am no longer invisible. For 23 years, I was. Until the mask began to suffocate me and I could no longer carry the load in secrecy and in silence. The obligation to help protect children from childhood sexual abuse and help survivors heal, drives me to be No Longer Invisible.
For years, the memories haunted me like a horror flick playing over and over in my mind. But the nightmare had once been my life. It started when I was 5.
The first time it happened, I was wearing my white cotton “little house on the prairie” nightgown. The one that was finished off with a dainty pink satin rose at the center of the neckline. My first-cousin, a teenager, probably around age 17 or so, carefully placed me on top of a chair in his bedroom. I remember the deep blue walls. His little brother, aged 12, stood watching. Suddenly, he slid my little panties down and his head disappeared under my gown.
The only thing I could think to do was pretend like nothing was happening. That was the start of my personal hell.
It was the one time the elder brother sexually violated me. But, his 12-year-old brother had absorbed all he needed to become a sexual predator. The X-rated scene that had played out before his eyes made a connection between his young, impressionable mind, feeding his curiosity and raging hormones.
I became his victim for the next 8 years.
I suffered silently and tried to shoulder the weight of the terror.
At age 13, I finally stood up to him. I had planned to never tell a soul. I never did for over 2 decades. My biggest fear was that I would destroy the family.
For many years, it didn’t consciously bother me. Furthermore, I couldn’t understand why the guests on the ever-popular Oprah Winfrey show were bawling their eyes out about it. Well, my day finally came. I was ambushed with emotions so deep and so raw that my eyes were swollen shut from the tsunami of tears. At the age of 22, it finally hit me.
I thought about the times he’d corner me in my own house, and put his hand in my shorts, or in my panties.
I thought about I’d try to avoid him. Try to avoid being alone with him. But he’d always find a way to leave the room and hunt me down.
I thought about the times he’d mouth the code word “weenie” to me, quietly, secretly when we were all watching tv in the family room. That’s when I knew his penis was hard and he wanted me to touch it.
I thought about the countless times he’d slip a mirror under the bathroom door to sneak a peak when I was getting in our out of the shower.
I thought about the time he penetrated me digitally in the kitchen one night. I was 10 years old, standing there drinking a class of Tang. It took everything inside of me not to scream from the piercing pain. But, I still didn’t tell a soul.
It took another 6 years of silent internal torture, before I finally got help. I was 28 years old. In counseling, I learned that the power was in the secret. Reluctantly, but out of obedience to the counselor, I revealed my secret to my mother. She was devastated, but completely supportive, never doubting a single word.
Years later, in October 2010, when the story broke about a prominent Atlanta pastor accused of sexual molestation, my Aha! moment occurred. It became so clear to me that sexual abuse – as well as all forms of abuse – is a secretive, sensitive offense. And the reason it continues to happen is because survivors are invisible.
The statistics are astounding, but when you look around you, wherever you may be, you never know who’s a survivor. Indeed, we are invisible.
God revealed to me in that moment that we – survivors – need to become No Longer Invisible and a movement was borne. NLI is a provocative line of conscious clothing, an empowerment tool designed to put the issue of abuse “in your face” with powerful words that, when worn, will reveal the humanity behind the staggering statistics.
No Longer Invisible is intended to spark public and private dialogue, and give survivors and opponents of abuse a voice. I know how hard it is to talk about this issue. In fact, it was only last year that I told my dad, my 2 brothers and 2 sisters (including my twin) about the abuse. & I only told them because of my intention to be a force in the movement to eradicate abuse. Fortunately, they all believed me and are extremely proud of me and No Longer Invisible.
For over 20 years, I felt so alone. I processed the abuse I endured in the confines of my my mind. As a victim, I felt different. Powerless. Angry. Misunderstood. I felt like I was the only one. NLI was birthed because I’m not the only one.
Today, I come as one, but I stand as 39 million.
No Longer Invisible shifts the consciousness of the masses and helps shed the shame of survivors. In becoming visible – physically and verbally – every survivor will know for sure that they are not the only one. They will begin to feel empowered to remove the mask and in so doing, give others the courage to do the same.
My horror will forever drive me to help people of all ages destroy the mask, and begin healing.
It happened to me then, it is happening to children worldwide, and in our very own homes. I am grateful to stand with Kristi House, as they serve as angels, protecting and restoring our most vulnerable, and most precious assets – our children. Your support enables this incredible team of change agents to uproot the trauma, one child at a time. So they can grow and thrive into the person they were destined to be, in spite of what they’ve been through. Kristi House is a lifeline. Helping our children to see that the days ahead are filled with promise and possibility, despite the darkness they’ve lived through. Kristi House helps to restore faith in people and in life.
I’ve gone from the position of “I’m taking this secret to my grave,” to “I’m telling the world my story.” Why? Because it’s not about me. People say I’m brave. They say I’m courageous. I feel like I’m called to do this. I know for sure that I’m in good company! Thank you Kristi House.
–Survivor Lavinia Freeman