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Friday, June 15, 2012


I hold a lot of secrets – other people’s secrets.  I must look trustworthy or something, and I don’t spill what someone tells me in confidence.  The only time I screw up is if I don’t realize it’s supposed to be secret.  For instance, friend A got laid off.  I told mutual friend B, who spread the news to other mutual friends.  Friend A told me a month later that she still hadn’t told anyone about her work situation.  Huh?!  How do you expect to find another job if nobody knows you need one?  Don’t you trust your friends enough to support you through difficult times?  Aren’t you lying to friends when you meet for dinner when you can’t afford to eat out?

In my opinion, Friend A put me in an awkward situation by not telling me her work status was a state secret.  I had to retrace the trail of well-meaning friends and say “act surprised when she tells you”, which makes me feel like I was forced into a type of lie.  Friend A didn’t tell anyone for about 6 months.  That level of secret keeping about job status would’ve never occurred to me.  I absolve myself for that faux pas.

A note of caution here, explicit language follows…

Friend A’s secret was important to her, but for secret keeping, it’s mere comic relief.  Sure, being out of a job is important, but keeping it secret isn’t.  The majority of real secrets often fall under sexual violence, and victims are frequently the ones who hold those secrets most closely to their chests.  The statistics for rape are incredible.   http://www.rainn.org/statistics  Of course it’s hard to know whether these figures are accurate because many people never report the crime.  Of all the people who have told me about getting molested, none have reported it to the police.  In addition, it isn’t just a woman problem.  Lots of boys are raped too, and it’s even harder for men to admit that they were victimized.

Part of the problem with this kind of crime is that the victims often feel they deserved it.  They were in the wrong place, or wearing the wrong thing, or didn’t say no good enough, or even enjoyed the attention, or in the case of men, might’ve gotten a hard-on.  It doesn’t matter that fear and/or contact can give a guy an erection, the victim feels even more tainted and wrong.  So victims keep the secret, which leaves criminals free to mess up more people’s lives.  Society reinforces this silence by saying we should only talk about pleasant things, or how can you ruin the life of Uncle, Dad, Brother, Cousin, Neighbor, Friend with your unprovable allegations.

If it has happened to you, get help.  Tell someone.  We tell children to tell someone if it happens to them, and it’s true for grown-ups too.  Holding those kinds of secrets can corrode you from the inside out.  And remember, the only one at fault for this is the criminal.  Nothing you did can justify what they did.  It’s not your fault.

So, I hold other people’s secrets, and I’m not about to share them here, but it is my deepest wish that more victims talk and more people listen.  When enough people are secret keepers, maybe we can take another step towards ending this kind of violence?

This art was a logo I did for Women Against Rape (Columbus, OH), oh maybe a lifetime ago.  It was a project that just landed on my desk, but working with that group I learned so much about the prevalence and violence of this despicable crime I became a life-long advocate for victims.  I dug this out of my archives and decided to mess around with it in PhotoShop for Illustration Friday.


  1. An important topic. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Interesting art--done well, very unsettling.
    Tough subject, but a good write up.

  3. Oh my. A wonderful visual and commentary Linda and a pleasure to read. It's true, we learn so much from the good efforts of our clientele and sometimes even become a better person because of it. :)

  4. Its not your place to judge whether or not a person's reason for having a secret, or what their secret may be, is valid. Whether its rape or losing a job, its all relative to the person experiencing it. Its not your place to talk about it.

  5. Thanks everybody!

    Anonymous, I was sympathetic to my friend who lost her job. I had been laid off shortly before her, and I know the miseries that go with that loss, but I disagree with keeping things secret. Bad things grow in the dark, and help is available when other people know what's going on.

  6. ....and if she was so worried about people knowing she should have let you know not to tell anyone. Just piping in. I hate secrets and understand the ending up feeling like you have been inadvertently pulled into a kind of lie. As usual, I love reading your posts Linda. You always have interesting things to say. Love the logo.

  7. Thanks Karen!

    Another person wrote me privately to say that getting laid off is like rape in that it's something done to us, but we feel at fault for it even if the act had nothing to do with us in reality. Good point.

  8. Secrets can definitely be terrible and cancerous things. Sadly I think there are a lot of people with no one to tell their secrets to, though maybe they don't know what resources are available. It's a great logo, stark and graphic.

  9. I do think it is Linda's place to talk about it. It shows what a good friend Linda is. It show how Linda is willing to listen and then talk about how important the secret part of a secret is. Is it needed, fruitful or wise? Or does it prevent support, and a cure from done harm.
    I have at least 5 women in my circle of friends who carry a secret like Linda describes. That is an awful lot, because for 5 willing to tell the truth, how many still hold a secret? And how many aggressors go free with keeping things secret? Not only is the harm done and the tension of carrying a secret seriously bad, it is also really bad aggressors carry on knowing only one out of many women will have the strength and support system to prosecute them. I hope this post of Linda will help women to trust other women and find support.
    Linda, another great post that is relevant and professional.

  10. So so true about victims not telling anyone--or feeling that somehow it's their fault (their fault solely because it happened to them). That's like Germans not saying anything when their Jewish neighbors were being hauled off, "because they must have done SOMETHING or they wouldn't be being arrested."

    I really really like your illustration at the top. It's very powerful and moving.

    I would say that your telling other people about Friend A was even the RIGHT thing to do. It seems to me that unless someone is telling you to keep a secret, they usually WANT the person they're telling to spread the word--it keeps them from having to tell their embarrassing news to so many people themselves.

  11. Thanks! Good point Coreopsis about people telling a secret in order for someone else to spread news around for them. I think that was probably what I was thinking when I told about my friend losing her job. On the other hand, I won't tell about someone getting raped because that is so personal on so many levels that the victim has the choice whether to share it or not. I just hope that they will share it so they can get support.

    Excellent thoughts Paula! You said it better than me, and I feel for your friends who have to deal with these kinds of issues. And for me, it's gratifying to have the validation about speaking about taboo subjects. Thanks!

  12. I had mixed emotions on reading this...which for me means it was an excellent read.

    Secrets was once a sweet childhood pastime, when I was a little girl...whispering about what gift, I was taking to a birthday party, or who I had a crush on when I was 14 and waiting for my husband and I to share our engagement with families together...as the years went by, I learned that "secret(s)" became a dirty word.

    I know from other friends, that secrets were an awful thing for them, in reality those secrets were crimes against their minds, bodies and spirits! Those secrets saddened me, outraged me, call me to action and many nights caused grief that could never be denied at the loss of innocence and love.

    I lost my job (2) years ago, I didn't want to keep it a secret, but I had a friend who thought she had my best interest in mind, when she told people at a networking session, that I was desperate for a job...while that may have been true, I felt embarrassed and humiliated that she shared this with strangers and talked about it amongst our mutual friends. I didn't think it was helpful and I got very tired of people, pitying me, instead of offering advice and/or emotional support. I was angry for weeks at what she did and it put a rift in our relationship. To this day, she doesn't feel she did anything wrong, even after I spoke to her about it in a calm and non-confrontational way!

    I'm don't know how your friend felt, nor do I question your reason/s for sharing her job status. I do know, that I learned a long time ago, to ask when people are divulging facts about themselves, "Is this private?" If I haven't asked that question and gotten their answer, then I don't share their information with anyone. It's just what I've learned.

    I guess the bottom line is I understand both sides of what happened with Friend A; this is not a judgement response, just a "this got me to thinking about..." response.

    As usual you always present good food for thought! :)

  13. I didn't get busted for telling Friend B about Friend A's job status, so I didn't get any fallout about it. She has a new job, so unless she's reading this blog now I'm in the clear :) I can imagine saying something to strangers could be more sensitive.

    I guess we all make assumptions. I assume talking about being violated is private and not to be shared by a confidante. Until Friend A said she wasn't telling people about getting laid off, I assumed that was open for discussion. In the end, I suppose it's all in the hands of the person doing the divulging, but then they should say what's secret and what isn't, right?

    I'm glad I made you think Indigene. Now you've got me thinking too.

  14. The logo is simple but powerful. I can happily say that me nor my friends have been a victim. Or at least they haven't told me so.

  15. I'm glad for you and your friends Sharon. Maybe some day everyone will be able to say the same? We can hope. Thanks for the comment!

  16. I agree - very powerful logo. And interesting topic. I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts....

  17. I wouldn't have thought that losing a job was secret-worthy either, even though it can be embarassing.
    Now that I've read a few of the comments your readers added, I will be more sensitive on the issue.
    Kudos to you for your work with rape and sexually assaulted victims on any scale. I HATE that people feel entitled to take someone else's body by means as quick as a touch, or as violent as a rape; or even with words.
    May less people keep those kind of secrets.

    Very affective illustration.

    Will click over to the link you mentioned now.