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by Susan Jensen

There is no shame in being incested, molested, raped, or beaten.

The shame belongs with the perpetrator, not the victim.


If we are too young or weak or scared or damaged or battered or seduced into complicity to defend ourselves, where is the shame in that?

The symbiotic dynamic of the shame game conspires to protect the abusers who hide in and behind our shame, protected by it, reveling in it.

As victims, we’re too ashamed to bring charges, too ashamed to tell the truth, too ashamed to confront.

And the perpetrators get away with it.

Abusers abuse because they can.

The only way to stop them is to stop them.

And the only way to stop them is by filing charges, taking them to court, prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law – and shaming them by shouting our truth in powerful, proud, unashamed voices:

I am a proud incest/rape/physical abuse survivor.

I’ve ripped the shame out of my soul and unashamedly told my story in my novel Cold Snap which traces how keeping the secrets through shame, informs, infuses and colors our choices throughout our lives, gradually eroding our very core.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Only until we confront our abusers and cover them with their own black cloak of lies and shame and walk away to live our lives happily and joyously and freely, do we exact revenge and become proud survivors, no longer victims.

The truth always rises.

At the One Billion Rising event at Hedgebrook on Eve Ensler’s V-Day, we did just that. We stopped playing the shame game and rose up to tell our truths. Embraced by the warmth and the grace of the rustic old barn and the flickering fire, we read our stories and poetry, sang and laughed and cried and hugged, shared our experiences and strength and power, and linked hands and shouted out the names of those who still suffer while tapping our hearts to beat as one with millions of others throughout the world to stop the violence against women.

And, for one brief moment, maybe we did.

Thank you, Hedgebrook, for hosting such power and love on the best Valentine’s Day ever.
Susan Jensen is a happy spirit on a creative rampage. After 26 years in media relations work in Seattle and 11 years as a high school English, speech, drama and journalism teacher, she is now living her dream of writing, painting and puttering. Since her retirement six years ago, she’s been a winner of several writing awards in many genres from PNWA, Writer’s Digest, the British Academy of Children’s Writers, the grand prize from WIWA, and a grant from Seattle’s Artist Trust, and she has just finished her first novel. In between, she paints and putters. You can email Susan at¬†sujensen (at) whidbey (dot) com


Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

Susan Jensen
About Susan Jensen