The Secret I Won’t Keep Anymore

**Trigger Warning: The following contains mentions of physical and sexual abuse, suicide, and mental illness. Be advised***

Me, the author, at 8 years old.

Every time I swallow his name without revealing his identity when I speak on my past, the poison becomes a little more potent and I kill myself to protect a person who violated me with impunity. What he did and the subsequent denial of it and suppression of my voice, has caused me NOTHING but heartbreak. I was not resilient. I was a roach that had been told they would survive and did just that. Survive. I had no choice but to survive. My suicide attempts were futile. I woke up time and time again and had to keep going until the next attempt. The trauma has carefully crafted my perception of the world. I have a deep-seated need to be right. I have to be right because the first time I was wrong, I lost all of myself. I was wrong about someone who I wanted to love and they took everything from me, including my will to live.

The thing is I don’t want to be a roach anymore. I don’t want to survive devastation and just continue. I want to live. I want to live, freely, without being anchored to a secret that has weighed me down for nearly 30 years.

When I was 8 years old, the same age my oldest child is now, I was molested by my older brother.

WHEN I WAS 8 YEARS OLD, the same age my oldest child is now, I WAS MOLESTED BY MY OLDER BROTHER.

This is the first time I have ever said that publicly. Only those closest to me know the identity of the person. I felt so ashamed through the years as I would share this little crooked, maimed piece of myself. I’d wait for people to look at me in disgust and to wonder what kind of sister was I, what kind of brother was he. V.C. Andrews had a way of romanticizing things that were truly nightmares.

For clarity, there were 6 of us. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters (chronologically, an older brother, sister, brother, myself, sister, and younger brother). My oldest brother was autistic (not was in the way that Jenny McCarthy said her son was but my older brother passed away. Although he is always in my spirit, he no longer is, he was). Next are my older sister and a brother right under her, they were born a year apart. This brother and I have the same mother but different fathers. In my family, we never used the term“half” so he was always my brother. He lived with his father until he was 14 and then he moved in with us. I adored him. Growing up apart had afforded him the kind of mystique and regard that celebrities hold in the eyes of children. He seemed cool and almost just out of reach. And then he wasn’t.

I won’t traumatize you or myself again with the details. He molested me and he physically abused me. I told my mom and she promptly tried to get him out of the house. Because of the fact that she had just gotten custody, people questioned the authenticity of her claims. Social workers interviewed me and asked, “Is mom too stressed and just asking you to say this?” He was charming and he denied the entire thing. He claimed I was seeking attention and people ate it up. Some days he would show up at my school to beat me up. No one stopped him because he was my brother and brothers beat up their sisters. He’d steal from people and blame me. He smiled through it all and I looked like a raving lunatic. My mom looked like a raving lunatic. She did what she was supposed to do but in many ways, she lost two children within six months. The little girl I was before the abuse was gone and my mother never looked at my brother as her child again. She wasn’t allowed to grieve. As a mother and a woman now, I cry for her. We don’t talk about it or much of anything. Our relationship is strained largely in part to this and what we could have had or been will never be known.

My relationships have been tumultuous because of this experience. In my early 20s, I sought wholeness in places that would only leave me more broken. Now, I have issues with boundaries. I often believe I am unloveable and that there is something inherently wrong with me. Because of this, I have accepted treatment and disrespect from friends, family, and lovers that I felt I was deserving of. Therapy and wanting to provide better examples for my children has pushed me to seek more for myself and be better about my standards. I’m still a work in progress.

I am damaged. Seriously.

I am always afraid for my children. I know that their dad and I would never hurt them but the world looks so suspicious to me.

I am constantly struggling to piece myself together. I was broken and the pieces never have been completely put back together. I don’t think they can.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD, the same age my oldest child is now, MY OLDER BROTHER MOLESTED ME.

I tried to forgive him but I have never even tried to forgive myself. I think that keeping this secret has made me feel complicit. I feel like I have hidden the monster instead of revealing them. To be fair, maybe he wasn’t a monster. Maybe he was a damaged kid who wanted to damage other people. I know that I reached out to him since we’ve been adults and he never attempted to apologize. I wasn’t really surprised but it revealed a lack of growth and it gave me peace to know that I wasn’t missing out on some wholly evolved person. He’s alive and has children of his own. None of that changes what he did to me. He’s my brother by definition, but I’ve made a choice to never associate with him.

This past September marked 25 years. I don’t want to keep another secret for 25 years. Not one like this. I’ve been spiraling since my kid started 3rd grade. I’ve been triggered, remembering how I felt at 8; to want to die, to feel worthless. It never dawned on me that the secret fed these feelings. I’ve been too marred to ever come back. No revelation is going to take away the trauma I experienced or reverse the poor decisions I made to self-medicate and numb the pain. The abuse I suffered early on created the framework for later abusive relationships and instances of sexual assault I would have later in life. The thing is though, even though I realize that this revelation won’t bring me an ounce of justice or unbreak my heart, I also can’t help but wonder what it could do. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow lighter, maybe I won’t. What I won’t do is protect someone who NEVER protected me. More importantly, I’ll be an example to my children that there is no shame in sharing your truth. Maybe I’ll start to feel my truth is not something to be ashamed of or maybe the shame of posting will push me over the edge. Whatever the case, today is the day. Time is up. No more secrets.

To the next 25 years of my life: May they be secret free and without shame.

***I dedicate this piece to all the survivors, known and unknown, who have been keeping secrets that poison them. I dedicate this to the families that have been torn apart. I dedicate this to my sons in hopes that they always know no secret is worth their peace. Lastly, I dedicate this to that little 8-year-old girl I was. I hope she can finally rest. It’s time for me to live for me, baby girl.***



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Anessah Barker

Anessah Barker


Both a keeper and a weeper. A writer, a wife, a mother, and a life long scholar. BA English Literature(2013), M.LIS(2018), current MSW student. She/Her/Hers