Silence Is Deadly

Posted on November 18, 2011 by


By: Rachael Cleavenger
I play through the scenarios in my mind on how he did it, why he did it. What kind of path could lead a grown man, a father to rape his own daughter? How can one justify preying on a child, their own child? When I think of the word “father” I think of protector, provider, and my safety net. Thirty one years ago my grandmother was found in her garage dead. Cause of death – suicide.

I had grown up my whole life being told my grandmother committed suicide because she was suffering from a rare painful form of cancer that she could no longer bare. She was a loving wife and mother of three children; four if you count the son she never knew. When my grandmother was 12 years old, she gave birth to a son. The father of this child was her very own father. When she became pregnant, she was sent away to a special home for girls who are promiscuous and are forced to give their children up for adoption. After she gave birth to her baby, she was sent back to live in the very home her rapist resided in. He was her guardian and because no one in her family spoke out against her father, this was her only option. My grandmother came from a very large family, which lead me to believe for certain that what was going on inside her home did not go unnoticed. After some time, my grandmother was finally taken in by her uncle at the age of 16. She was taken in under the conditions that she would never have to see her father again as long as she never discussed the matter or disgraced the family’s name.

My grandmother held onto her rape, she held onto losing her childhood, her father, and her son. She had no sense of protection or safety with family. My grandmother confided in one person and that was my grandfather, but he too encouraged her silence. My mother and her siblings were lied to. They were fed a false story about my grandmother being sick with cancer and in her unbearable pain took her own life. After doing a little bit of research, my mom found this story to be untrue. My mom found no medical records of my grandmother ever being sick or in the hospital for cancer treatment.

The spiral of silence is deadly. Rape and incest cannot be ignored or kicked under the rug. Perhaps if my grandmother could have dealt with her depression or even spoke to another survivor or rape and realized she wasn’t the only one, she could have found comfort in the support.

My great grandfather raped my grandma; he took away a mother, a wife, a friend, and a grandmother. I was never fortunate enough to meet my grandmother, but through her struggle in life she has inspired me, and I will not silence her story.
“As long as male domination exists, rape will exist. Only women revolting and men made conscious of their responsibility to fight sexism can collectively stop rape” –Audre Lorde

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex.” Sister Outsider. Berkeley: Crossing, 2007. Print.