Growing up, Family photos lined the wall of my “Parents” house. Photos from when I was born. Photos from when my siblings were born. Photos of me growing up. Primary School, Middle School and finally Secondary School. Similar photos of my younger siblings through their similar stages of life. Photo’s of us together as a “Family” doing normal family things. Everyone smiling. If only people looked closer and had seen the truth.
You see my smile was different. My smile wasn’t the same as my siblings or my “Mothers” or anyone else’s in those photos. My smile was fake. Put there to hide the truth.
Oh, maybe for the first few years of my life, in those very early pictures, my smile beaming from ear to ear, that was a true baby smile. But over the years that smile changed. You only have to look closely at the photos hanging on the wall to see it. My smile is thinner, a fake line drawn upon my face to stop questions and judgement. If you could look closely at those photos you would see my eyes, empty and hollow. No happiness. Just emptiness. A blackness that nobody wanted to see.
The photos in the albums were even worse. People rarely saw those, for they would be a dead giveaway. People would see the nothingness I was becoming. The emptiness inside me. They would see no more smiles and just straight lines. An outgoing, bubbly child becoming an introvert, shying away from the camera whenever possible. For the photo’s in the albums, if you had looked closely enough, would have shown you the truth.
One picture stands out for me. The one photo I will never forget. I was sat on the sofa with some of my siblings. Except I am not smiling in this photo. If you look closely you can see the truth. My siblings are hugging one another looking happy. Then there is me. I am sat at the end, my arms twisted in a way to hide the cut upon my wrist. My hand pulling up one side of the skirt I have on so that it rises up, just enough for him to see what he wants to see but not enough to show anything in the picture. You see, he is taking that photo and he had already told me how to sit and what to do. This is how a lot of photos went. I can still remember the colour of my skirt, the tartan pattern it had on it, the colour of my top. I remember all of it. It never goes away.
This photo isn’t hanging upon the walls of my “Parents” house. This photo is hidden in an album somewhere. Somewhere where people cannot see. Somewhere where the secret can be kept. Somewhere where the truth is hidden.
Another photo that will always be implanted in my memory is one of me sat on a wall nearby my “Parents” house. That photo shows a girl, no more than 12 years old. Her face is sullen. Her body scared and alone. Her eyes crying out for help. She is silently screaming, begging, willing anybody to see her. But nobody does. Nobody sees.
That photo, that photo shows the truth. If only people had been willing to see. Instead she was hidden from the world. That photo is put in an album where nobody could see it, see her, see me. A dirty little secret that my “family” wanted to hide.
I did not have a happy family. Some children don’t. For some children, just like me, their “family” is the thing hurting them the most. Betraying them. Killing them. Family should be a child’s safehaven, but for me and many others like me, it was the thing that was most dangerous, the thing that caused the most heartache. It left me heartbroken, scared, worried and weak. Unsure who I could trust. My childhood no longer innocent but instead stolen, taken in the most heinous of ways.
I was invisible. The true me was there somewhere. The truth, my pain, my fear, my sadness. It was there for people to see. But nobody was willing to see. Refusing to look close enough at the photos to see me. To see the abuse I went through daily.
So you see, some family photo’s aren’t all sunshine and happiness.
Some family photo’s cover hidden scars and shattered innocence. Those are the photo’s that we should pay attention to. If only one person would stop and look closely enough, these are the photo’s that could save a child’s life.
If someone had just looked closely enough, I wouldn’t have been invisible. I wouldn’t have been alone, fighting for survival every single day. I could have been saved.
Some family photos tell a story, just not the story you want see.
Don’t stop looking. Please.
Thanks for reading.
** Images are my own **