Borrowing Voices

I’m not sure I could say I had lost my voice. I never remember having one.

As a small child I remember having to play in a kiddy pool, but wasn’t allowed to have a bathing suit. I had to strip down to only my panties. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was old enough to be completely humiliated.

But we don’t talk it. We act like this is normal. Since it doesn’t feel normal, I feel something must be wrong with me.

Again, sometime as a small child, probably kindergarten, I was molested by a neighbor’s child. And even though we were caught, reprimanded, and I was sent home; it happened again the next day, only this time I was forced to molest her. I don’t know if she ever got in trouble. But I sure felt like I did.

But we don’t talk about this. We act like it never happened. I feel guilt.

My brother and a neighbor kid run across some extremely inappropriate magazines for any child, any adult. He gets in trouble. He thinks it’s funny. I think, those are somebody’s little girls.

But it’s never talked about. I don’t know whatever happened to those girls. I feel shame.

I’m probably twelve. My brother and I have the chickenpox. He is covered head to toe. I have two spots in the middle of my back. He’s only put off by the fact that he’s stuck indoors for the next two weeks during his summer, while I’m laid up on the sofa, not too far from the bathroom for the greater part of those same two weeks, lifting my nightgown to anyone who comes to our house and has already been exposed to the chickenpox, but doesn’t believe that I have them too.

I’m not allowed to disagree. Just do what I’m told. At least I don’t have to face them as they stare at my body. I feel degraded.

I’m in high school and I’ve developed a cyst on my breast, only I don’t know what it is. No one does. People are invited to come over to inspect.

“Show her. She’s a nurse.” Only, I know her as the neighbor. I close my eyes. I feel irrelevant.

On public streets I am grabbed at.

I am frozen in terror as to what just happened. I say nothing. I do nothing. I tell no one. I feel like I’m just a thing.

“She’s only seventeen? She doesn’t look seventeen!”

“She’s eighteen! She doesn’t look old enough to be eighteen! ”

“You have beautiful eyes.”

I look away. I don’t want to be seen anymore. I don’t want to be touched, anymore.

No, I don’t believe I ever had a voice. In fact I believe I was taught I wasn’t allowed one.

Instead, I learned how to shut down. I learned how to disassociate. I learned how to separate my mind from what was going on with my body. I could get “lost” inside my head so I could get through the moment.

It was a gift from God. He taught me how to survive through it when I felt powerless to do anything. It kept me from acting out. It kept me from going insane. It kept me from hurting myself.

But as an adult, I hung onto it. I clung to it, even though I wasn’t powerless anymore. This gift was never meant for me to use forever. I would have to learn I have a voice and how to use it. No longer could I play a victim. I no longer was.

God helped me with that. You see, this gift he gave to free me to be somewhere else, also freed me to be someone else.

I fell into ASL, American Sign Language by God’s divine plan. Having always felt just getting through this moment was my only objective in life, I’d never entertained any ideas of what I would like to actually do in my life.

Never, ever would I have believed I would one day become an interpreter. I was too quiet, too shy, and I didn’t want the attention.

However, I quickly discovered the gift God gave me to be somewhere else, allowed me to be pretty good with being someone else.

Things I couldn’t do as Kim, I was able to do as my client. I was complaining to doctors, and yelling at coworkers. I could ask questions without feeling stupid. I could be bold when something was unjust. And I couldn’t apologize for getting upset, or disagreeing with someone. I was allowed to get angry because my client was angry.

(For the record, they do a whole lot more than bucking the system. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. In my opinion, they are expert communicators. They do more than try to be heard, they want to be understood.)

While becoming an interpreter, I found I was borrowing their voice. I had the privilege of being someone else. I was learning what it meant to have a voice and developing my own.

Working with the Deaf has taught me how to stop being a victim. It has shown me that I can exercise my power to say no, and nothing bad is going to happen. I can disagree. I can speak up. I can be…me!

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Deaf. As a community, they have had to fight to be heard. What more appropriate group to teach me something I should have learned a long time ago.

They have taught me, even though they may not speak, they can still be heard.

I am not weird. I do not carry that guilt. I do not feel any shame. I no longer feel degraded. I am relevant. I am me, not a thing.

But still, God had one more gift to give. During a prayer where you go back in time to where you longed to know where Jesus was, I asked him why he wasn’t there for me.

As I was reliving these memories of losing my innocence, I felt as if Jesus himself, had stepped over and around me as if I was encased inside of him. It felt like a warm blanket was wrapped about my shoulders to cover me while he took my place and was choosing to be exposed instead.

Do I believe Jesus was with me during all those childhood times? Absolutely. I believe, because I have been freed from all the false messages I heard. I have a voice now and I want to be seen.

You see, I have a story to tell and it starts and ends with a man name Jesus Christ.

He has redeemed me.

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