Balancing the Fear & Shame After Incest Abuse
Updated: May 6, 2021
Imagine a teeter-totter… You know the type on the old playgrounds where one person sits on one side and you sit on the other side and when one person is up in the air the other person is down on the ground. Fun right?
Now imagine that same teeter-totter empty and you standing in the middle of it trying to balance your weight to keep it straight with both sides up. You have to constantly shift your weight to keep both sides balanced; one side goes lower so you shift. The other side goes lower so you shift again. That’s what being a survivor of incest abuse used to feel like to me.
On one side: speaking out, being an advocate, sharing my story. On the other side: the fear and the shame. The shame whispered in my ear “no one wants to hear your story; your voice doesn’t matter”. The fear whispered “no one will believe you” and “no one will love you if they know your secret”. In the middle of the teeter-totter was freedom. The freedom of me standing straight, balanced in the strength of my own story. It was a constant shifting of weight to get past that fear and shame that was keeping me from that freedom. But moving past that fear was the only option.
I couldn’t allow the fear and shame to win. There are too many children out there, right now, going through the same abuse I experienced. For them, I needed to keep balancing. I needed to speak out. I am always going to be a survivor of incest abuse. I can’t change that. It is part of my story (and I stress part, not a whole). I can, however, change how I carry that part of my story and I can be part of changing the world's perception of survivors.
Once I made the decision to start this path, to choose the freedom of speaking the truth, there was really no turning back. From the first Instagram post to the very first time I recorded my podcast, I began to feel like I was being unchained. The fear and the shame began to dissipate. I thought I would be afraid, want to isolate. Stay in my shell until I knew how people would react and who would believe me; but I didn’t. I pressed the button to publish and I was free. It was out there and there was no taking it back.
I don’t have words for the feeling of that weight being lifted at that moment. That feeling came from bringing to light what I was always taught to hideaway. Once I cast light on my story the shame began to diminish. I began to realize the shame placed upon me by my abusers didn’t belong to me. That shame belonged to them. The abuse was THEIR secret. Not mine. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am a fierce human being. I have survived the abuse and shame of others and I am standing in the light. The teeter-totter leans more toward the advocacy side now. I don’t have to balance the shame and fear anymore. The shame and fear continue to fall away with each conversation, podcast, and even this article. I encourage you to do the same. Someone needs to hear your story. You won’t regret it, #BeBraveWithMe.
– Pamela Clark, BCBA, LBA
Pamela Clark is the founder of DeShaming; a global movement and podcast dedicated to raising awareness and eradicating incest abuse and sexual assault. She is a survivor of incest abuse, sexual assault, and childhood family trauma. Pamela works as a licensed behavior therapist, podcaster, and writer. She is a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau. She is also the founder of Swinging on the Spectrum, a volunteer organization providing camps for special needs children of military families in the San Antonio area. Pamela is available to travel for speaking engagements. For bookings email firstname.lastname@example.org.