free the pen, a blog for writers

June 15, 2017

Breaking Silence

Filed under: memoir — freethepen @ 3:30 pm

writetoheal I believe writing heals. Is there something you need to say? Often we hold onto an event or dialogue that haunts us from time to time, unrelentingly refusing to be put to peace. Break the silence – speak up – write it out in every detail!

Anyone who knows me knows that I write daily. I write about everything – well – almost. In the early 80s I was raped. I called the police department, Family Services, Planned Parenthood. Each of them told me it was date rape. I was horrified. It wasn’t a date just because I knew him. My boyfriend slept in the other room as I whispered my situation to these professionals. I couldn’t let it out. I couldn’t tell him. Like everything else he didn’t like or want to happen, he blamed me for it. I went about my busyness working and going to school full time. I laid the rape somewhere away in my mind.

In the late 90s while in a writing group at my home with Ellen Bass, the poet, I was writing stream-of-consciousness to a prompt she had given. I was writing furiously trying not to edit or censor my words in any way when suddenly I realized I was writing about the rape. As I read it the room quieted in a group gasp. I sobbed. Writing freed me up to finally deal with the matter.

Later that week I went through my old journals to see if I had at least written about it. There was no mention of the rape, nor my college graduation, nor the grief after my mother died, nor the bouts of unemployment I suffered. All these  events took place within the relationship I had with one man. What did I write then, you ask? I wrote letters to God to show me a way out of the relationship because I needed help. I had no money, yet. I wrote about my pain. I documented dialogues between us. I documented our vacations. I documented the pain with my mother. But I did not document the events that had taken over my internal life, traumatic or celebratory, or the struggles to build the new life I was in the throes of planning. He didn’t like change. He didn’t like himself. He tried to keep me on that treadmill too. I was terrified he would find my journal and blame me for my situations. I had to preserve my strength for all that I faced, including his demoralizing and demeaning statements.

What are you not writing? Now is the time. Now! Break the internal silence.

Keep the pen moving,

Jan and


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