Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

November 12, 2011

The Sounds Of Silence

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:21 pm

Most of you know I am a HUGE Michigan Wolverines’ fan.   I love college football and, for me, there is nothing like Saturday afternoons in Autumn.    Love, love, love them!

Although Michigan isn’t scheduled until 3:30 today, I was up and interested to tune in to the Penn State/Nebraska kickoff at noon.   Most of the world knows what has happened at Penn State in the last week.   When news of a scandal involving a former assistant coach allegedly engaging in sexual acts with young boys broke last Saturday, it took less than a week to topple the career of one of the most beloved and successful coaches in the game, as well as ending the careers of several high-ranking officials deemed culpable in the scandal’s cover up.  The fallout is far-reaching and it promises to continue for months and, more likely, years to come.

I watched last night as ten thousand people from the Penn State community held a candle light vigil for the young victims, now in their early twenties.  I watched today, prior to kickoff, when an entire stadium fell silent as both teams kneeled at midfield in silent prayer.

I wept.

The images were touching, absolutely.   But I couldn’t help thinking to myself….

Stop the silence. 

Stop moments of silence and vigils of silence.  Stop bowing your heads and stop closing your eyes.  

I wish they would have had a moment of screaming.  Of noise.  Of punching their fists in the air and stomping.

I wish the band would have played a hundred different songs at the same time.  I wish the fans would have jumped up and down in the bleachers until it registered on the Richter Scale.

Because silence is what got us to this place to begin with.

It was silence along too many disturbing links up the chain of command that failed to save, not only the child in the shower with the sixty year old man, but every boy molested by that man afterward.

In disturbing and criminal moments of silence all over the world, people choose to turn the other way, to not make waves, to not create awkwardness, to mind their own business, to keep peace in the family, to keep their jobs, to keep things simpler, to pretend it didn’t happen…

And the sounds of silence, of all that screaming silence, has been the graveyard for countless dreams, for future healthy relationships, for wonderful self-esteem and all the other facets of life stolen from young victims everywhere.

I was seven when I was first molested.   Seven.

Seven is for snow pants and construction paper turkeys for Thanksgiving.   Seven is for flag football and dance recitals and patent leather shoes.    For swim lessons and cursive writing and licking the mixer of cake batter.  Seven is for dressing up and dancing around and singing freely and watching cartoons.

I was seven and enduring the sickness of a man, my uncle,  probably forty years my senior.   His words.   His whispers.  His mouth.  His hands.   His body.

It went on for five years.   And, in that time, there were some before me and some after me who suffered as well.    And the sounds of silence saved none of us.  

There were people who knew and people who suspected and none stepped in, stepped up or stepped across that line where doing right means more than anything.  

None barged in and threw him off me.   None grabbed those huge hands from the teeny nipples of a seven year old and beat the shit out of him for me.   No one called the police.   No one did anything.

And I found out about the sounds of silence.    Silence only pierced by the sound of young tears wondering why…..

I am a healthy 46-year-old who has put in the time and done the painstaking work of sexual abuse recovery.    In therapy.  In my heart.  In my body.  In my mind.   In my soul.    I know healthy love and I enjoy healthy love.  I have self-esteem and confidence and pride.   I will look you in the eye and I will shake your hand.   I will stand up for me.   I am not ashamed of what I experienced, nor do I feel complicit in it.  

I am well.  

But I weep for the little girl who knew what a French Kiss was by the second grade.   I weep for the teenager who, when other girls were all giggling about their first kisses and first touches, knew my first kiss was not one to be celebrated.  Knew that it was dark and secretive and there was nothing innocent or sweet about it.

The last thing those young boys from the Penn State sexual abuse scandal need are more moments of silence.   They’ve endured enough silence to last a lifetime.

If anything good comes out of the wreckage that, one week ago, appeared to be one of the finest institutions in America, let it be the determination of the countless who may one day have the chance to really make some noise.  To stop bowing their heads in silence and, instead, to raise up and scream their bloody heads off in order to stop child sexual abuse.

Make the waves.  Suffer the awkwardness.  Stand up to the pressure.  Be strong in the face of what is simply right.    Be determined and resolute in the mission to save our kids.   To keep them precious and innocent for as long as THEY choose. 

Save the sounds of silence for the dead.   Leave the bowed heads and the closed eyes for those whose futures are already lost.  

Let’s do something while we’re living that actually saves the living.  Celebrates, protects and cherishes the living.    Let’s give them the futures they deserve.    Let’s preserve them the innocence they were gifted. 

Make some noise.    They’re counting on us.


  1. Kara, I am so glad that you wrote this. Silence equals denial. I’ve wanted to talk to you about the Penn State abuse, now I feel like I have. Love from across the big water, Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Gribb — November 12, 2011 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

    • It delights me to see your comment. I miss you. xo

      Comment by karaswanson — November 12, 2011 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Sweetie and sister in too many ways…
    You beat me by 4 years… but we are only 5 years apart in age… so technically we were in tears at the same time. Kara, I too thought the same thing. WE NEED TO SCREAM!!


    I say we build a group from coast to coast–and COASTS TO COASTS (from all around the world) and go out on our streets, porches, stoops — where ever we are–and have a giant ‘flash mob’ of SCREAMS!!! As they do with the ‘take back the night’ program?

    Sending you pure and kind hugs.

    Comment by Barb — November 12, 2011 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

    • I love your idea. :))) Sorry you know this, too.

      Comment by karaswanson — November 14, 2011 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  3. Love your spirit! I hate silence! I will scream with you!

    Comment by Diane — November 13, 2011 @ 1:10 am | Reply

    • You make me smile. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — November 14, 2011 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

  4. Kara, you have looked the two-headed devil in the eye and called both faces out. Bravo and Bully for you, for us! Feeling healthy now too, thanks to past therapy, I will scream with you. Innocence cannot be regained. Let’s scream and preserve innocence, not silence and the repitition of evil.

    Comment by Lynn — November 13, 2011 @ 1:33 am | Reply

    • Yes, you are screaming, too. I know this. :))) Onward and upward. Perservere, soar. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — November 14, 2011 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  5. Very beautifully said Kara. So many childen suffer their entire lives in silence. Thinking we are the ones crazy as hazy memories or disturbing thoughts surface our minds that are so confusing that we just bury again and again. Never telling anyone for fear it’s not real. We are crazy. No one will believe us. My first recollection was when I was four. It ruined my relationships with my peers throughout my school years. I felt so alone and alienated in school. I felt I was different but didn’t know why, and to this day, I still have a fear of authority figures and I’m a 46 year old woman. It even contributed to the
    breakdown of my marriage. Perpetrator was
    confronted and I got the “your the one with problems to make up such stories” They are such sick minded and manipulative people! Now I am watching history repeat itself as I watch my daughter struggle with relationships herself. I believed I was crazy
    and that this wonderful person I will call Dad and Grandpa could ever do such a thing. I had some gut feelings but failed to listen to them. I failed as a parent. I still thought I was insane to think these memories really took place. Had I listened and dealt with them early on, I would of spared my daughter from being a victim. I feel so guilty. I have told her my stories and the few stories she said as a four year old. She has no memory or refuses to let them surface. I would often question her about her time with Grandpa and after the first comment from her mouth, I never left her alone with my dad again. I talk openly now to her telling her if she ever has bad thoughts to not ignore them…they are real and she is not crazy. I pray she can eventually confront her feelings and learn to be in a healthy relationship. I feel like I just had a therapy session….it’s always good to talk about it. Each time it’s like another brick from the wall around me falls. Thanks for sharing your story


    Comment by Xxxxx — November 13, 2011 @ 10:23 am | Reply

    • Thank YOU for sharing your story, your pain, your determination. You CAN still help your daughter. By validating her experience and giving her the support you didn’t get yourself, you will stop this cycle. I’m so sorry that this has happened to you and your family. My heart goes out to you. I hope you never feel crazy and alone again. Stopy by here. We’ll always be cheering for you. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — November 14, 2011 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  6. Kara, I have found so much solace from your blog in terms of brain injury and now I am sad (?) to hear I am receiving support for an issue I too have spent years coming to terms with.
    I was 6 and it ended when I was 12. I can’t tell you how much I can relate to your comments about “first kisses”. Finally, at the age of 42 and after all the work, I find myself in a loving, supportive marriage.

    Just as I wouldn’t wish a brain injury on my worst enemy, I also wouldn’t wish sexual abuse on anyone either. Both traumas take away huge pieces of who you are, and it is a fight to find yourself again, but it can be done. Especially if people don’t look the other way, think it is not their problem, or just plain deny it is happening.

    So we should all scream out for those Penn State victims as well as every other victim out there struggling with an unbearable load absolutely no one should have to carry.

    Comment by Christine — November 15, 2011 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

    • Oh, Christine….I was sorry to read your story but thankful you shared it and happy that you have found a happy marriage. Hats off to you on this wild, crazy journey. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — November 16, 2011 @ 2:44 am | Reply

  7. Amazing post – thanks for writing this. It’s true.

    Comment by brokenbrilliant — November 18, 2011 @ 10:23 am | Reply

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