the sign

“if child sexual abuse left physical scars instead 
emotional ones, people would be horrified”

-darkness to light website


maybe it would be a round patch, warm brown background with a golden yellow border. smooth white iron-on material on back although it could also be sewn on with needle and thread. maybe it would have a flame or a cloud, signifying power and beauty and destruction in one.  maybe it would have a spiral made of a dashed line, depicting the twisting mind that freezes and stomach twirls interspersed with stomach drops. maybe it would have a single dot, a single mark isolated and fully exposed. maybe it would have a heart, orangey pink with a strong gray border, not letting anything get to the green core. it would be a sign.

it could mean i made it, i’m not ashamed, i’m a badass, i was so scared, i was hurt, i was violated, i’ll never forget, i’m healing, bent but not broken, i’m a rock thrown in the wheel, interrupting the cycle…

and if everyone knew the sign and if people wore them on their sleeves or their jackets or their hats or had black and white versions tattooed on their arms or their legs or the soft spots between their thumbs and fingers…if they did that then i could see them. or maybe even more,  they could see me.

the loneliness surprises me. a coffee date or rowdy party or singing with friends or cards or gifts or flowers or texts soothe me, remind me of the now, keep me grounded and i am grateful. when pleasure counters pain i am grateful. when settled calm replaces frantic thinking, i am grateful. when i understand some detail and feel a sense of letting go, i am grateful. when i’m walking and squint because the sun is so bright, i am grateful. when i immerse myself in a green leaf and notice lines i never did before, i am grateful. when i see a baby not yet hurt by the world, i am grateful. when i speak to my preschoolers with tenderness and fierce respect, i am grateful. and and yet, a quiet but heavy loneliness remains.

so then i fantasize that i could walk into the coffee shop or the party or the circle of friends and see the signs. i could go to the grocery store, see a woman choosing a green pepper and notice the sign on her sleeve. i could walk down main street and pass a man jogging, the sign on his tshirt. i could walk up to the liquor store and watch an old man carry his paper bag, the sign inked with old-school blue on his forearm. i could wait at a stoplight and glance over at the old woman driving her clean tan car, the sign swaying from her rear view mirror. but then this also means i could wait in the high school parking lot and see a former preschooler, the sign so small drawn with marker on the inside of her arm. or i could be at the state fair on dollar day and see bus loads of elementary students, the sign on backpacks and wristbands. i could see them, they could see me.

or then i imagine meeting up with my offenders…and i wonder if we’d all be wearing the sign.

the knowing. while every story is different, owned only by the person who lived it, there are threads that run through. the time warping. the lifetime of aftermath. the secrets. the triggers. the polarizing mind. the hidden shame. the lost self. the unanswered questions. the betrayal. the loss. the grief. the loneliness.

so in those moments when i am baffled by my loneliness, i fantasize about the signs and wish people were wearing them.

3 thoughts on “the sign

  1. Kristin, I am reading this with a lump in my throat. I am so angry and so, so sad. I don’t even know how to form a response except to say that the work you are doing is powerful and redemptive and I hate that you – or anyone – has this work to do.


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