I’ve often tried to write letters to my younger self, or communicate with my younger self, in therapy.
Now, I want to write to my abusers. I want to empower myself this way. So here goes…
Dear my abusers,
I don’t even know if you’ll all remember me. Was I just another face to some of you? Another commodity? Another job? Even to those of you who will remember me, was I a person or an object? Just another day, or evening, spent doing what you love and I hate?
I’ll tell you what I was. I was a girl, a child, a toddler, a teenager, a young woman. But throughout all of that, I was innocent. You placed all of your guilt onto me so that you could live without a painful conscience. Whereas I felt guilty to smile, you felt nothing at all. Whereas I believed it was all my fault, and attempted suicide or self-harm many times to rid myself of the guilt and ‘make it better,’ – it was you who was to blame. If I took my life, it was because of guilt that was actually belonging to you. If I’d succeeded, you would have been the killer, not depression. Not mental health. You. Each time I drank washing up liquid in the hope of being ‘clean’ and a ‘good girl’, and it never happened. I took this to mean I was endlessly bad and dirty. In reality, I was just endlessly abused, and you were the sick ones.
I was a child. This hit me in full force yesterday, when a memory about an eleven year old girl surfaced. I am going to train to be a teacher next year, teaching girls her age. Suddenly I realised I’m not eleven anymore, I’m no longer that girl’s peer. I’m an adult. And this time, an adult because it’s right to be an adult, because physically and emotionally I’m supposed to be an adult. I’m not an adult trapped in a child’s body. I’m not a child who had to grow up too fast.
I was a child. You were adults. You had the responsibilty, not me. If you couldn’t cope with whatever it was that possessed you to harm us, that’s your problem. I have every compassion for your own trauma, but refuse to accept that as an excuse. You traumatised me. But I will never willingly harm a child, never feel a kick from seeing a child hurt or afraid. I made the choice years ago to do what it took to keep my heart, my values. That choice is a fundamental part of who I am. So for all you like to think you made me powerless and without any choices, or led me to believe I had choices (but were false ones), for all you like to convince yourself you had the power…you didn’t. You never did. Not all of it. Because whilst you tortured a child, you strengthened my heart. For every second you made me scream, you only increased the power of my values. You gave me a stronger, more compassionate, deeper heart than I believe I could have had if you’d never abused me. So thank you for that. Thank you for inadvertently creating your worst enemy 🙂
You had that choice too.
I wish I knew then what I did now. Because do you know how I’d have responded? I’d have responded by refusing to take your guilt, and forcing you to take it instead. Not that I’d wish this agony on anybody, but maybe if you felt it, you’d stop. Maybe you’d look into a frightened child’s eyes as they wept and begged you to stop, and you’d have felt something. Maybe when I screamed as you took my baby, you’d have felt my pain. Maybe none of it would have happened if you just took what is rightly yours – your guilt. I beg you to take it back, not to harm yourself, but to free yourself. To free yourself so that this doesn’t carry on. Yes feel the pain, feel the overwhelming guilt you put onto children. It’s hell, I promise you that. It makes you want to die, to dream of death, to look into your friend’s eyes and wonder how they can bear the sight of you. It poisons your body and chokes you in nightmares. But you deserve that. You deserve to feel all of that, and you’re the cowards for not taking it. You called us all weak but in fact it is you running away from pain you absolutely deserve to feel, not me. Not only are you running away from what you deserve to feel, you’re running away from your freedom, you’re running away from the very thing that can set you and your victims free. Go and get help. Now. You will never be able to put right what you have done, but you could stop making things wrong.
I’d have told you that to go through extreme torture and never lose sight of my values is the most liberating experience. Not that I am glad it all happened, but even so…I would never have felt the empowerment you accidentally provided me. You were determined to break me, weaken me, disempower me. But to survive so much pain and still have my heart intact, could there be anything more empowering? You idiots.
I was never your object/toy/plaything/number/pleasure/punchbag to have. I was a child. That means that regardless of who you were personally to me, you still had a duty of care. Don’t try and shrug off your responsibility. Whether you were related or not, or someone I saw for an hour, I was a child and you were an adult. It was your legal and moral responsibility to protect me. You clearly didn’t.
That I learned what sex was before I could speak properly is hideous. That I called my genitals my ‘hurty place’ for years, before I learned that it actually had a name and a purpose beyond causing me agony, is tragic. That I didn’t understand sexual abuse games where someone didn’t shove their dick inside me, but just made me touch it, that this bewildered me because I thought the sole purpose of the men’s “things” was to be stuck inside me, is heartbreaking. I was 3 the first time I consciously remember feeling that bewilderment. Three. Three years old and puzzled as to why he wanted me to just touch it, rather than be raped. You *sick* monsters. At five I remember begging for ‘just the rapey’, not the use of objects – at the age of 5 being raped by a fully grown man was preferable to the alternative. You have no idea how furious this makes me.
Fury? Yes. Because yesterday I realised I was a child, and as you well know, I get fiercely protective over children. You built that trait within me – it was you who turned me into a maternal lioness. I hadn’t emotionally connected to the fact I was a child. Yesterday I did. Yesterday I saw a little girl with her mum and I felt the sharp stab in my chest as I realised I was that small. She looked maybe 4 or 5. She looked the same age I was when I begged for ‘just the rapey’. She looked tiny, vulnerable, in need of her mother’s protection and love. The idea of a fully grown man raping her made me feel sick. She was so small.
You did that to me. Whereas she looked carefree, I would have been looking over my shoulder. Where she (hopefully) has zero concept of sex, never mind ‘rapey’, I had preferable methods of being tortured.
I was a child, and I get angry when children are being harmed. I am therefore, now, finally, angry at what you did to me. I’m so angry I sobbed in the shower today, and shook. I’m so angry that I want to destroy my entire house, just throw and smash everything in front of me and keep smashing things until I feel like I’ve broken an equal amount of stuff to how broken I feel. But I won’t. Because unlike you, I can control my emotions, and understand how to process and express them in reasonable and healthy ways. So whereas you would have caused someone harm when feeling this angry, I am writing a blog post. See the difference there? Whereas you would be angry and beat the living daylights out of me, I will speak to my therapist and cry my eyes out. You had a choice. Don’t use me as your scapegoat. You’re just a coward, that’s all.
I would like you to know these things about me now, so you can shatter any sick dreams or fantasies you have of me being broken beyond repair and permanently an unfunctioning wreck because of what you did:
- I am engaged, in a healthy loving beautiful relationship. You did not annihilate my capacity to form safe attachments. I have a circle of extraordinary friends. They all know about you.
- I am gaining 2:1s and 1sts in my University assignments. You did not destroy my capacity to learn, to focus, or to succeed.
- I cry, I laugh, I scream, I giggle, I smile, I get upset and I feel joy. I feel nerves and excitement. I feel stress and relief. I feel love. I feel hate. In other words, you did not steal my capacity to feel emotions. And I embrace them all, because emotions in their spectrum and various kinds are what makes me human. You, my friend, are not human.
- I speak out and give advice to abuse survivors. You did not kidnap my voice. In fact, you so far from kidnapped my voice – I even sing about the crap you put me through. With a microphone.
- I can have suicidal feelings and know I don’t want to die. I can feel the pain and still get 1sts in assignments and plan my wedding. You did not break my will to live. Actually I appreciate the small things that I might have taken for granted; like the varying colours of the sky, the taste of the breeze, the look on my friend’s faces when they laugh, the way everyone’s eyes are so uniquely and beautifully different, that I now have a safe home, that I can say ‘no.’ You actually provide me with endless incentives to discover, learn, see, live.
- I am a mother (you took them from me and they’re in the sky but I am still their mother), a song-writer, a student, a fiancee, a friend, a survivor. I am not your victim. I was never yours to have.
I will not allow you either to believe you didn’t harm me. I will not grant you the concept that you didn’t hurt me enough.
You harmed me alright. Just a couple of nights ago I had a flashback and have bruises on my head and legs. I have visual flashbacks most days. I have nightmares every night. I struggle with my eating and struggle with feelings of depression. I cry, a lot. I am in endless physical pain, and have tortured emotional damage. My body is scarred. My mind is overloaded with memories and emotions. I still have your guilt. And unbearable grief.
But for all that, you didn’t win. Just re-read the list of who I currently am. Your damage does not define who I am. It’s what I make of myself through the damage that does.
You lost, so spectacularly. I live, I live fully, I am succeeding and loving and I’m loved and I have plans for my life and get on with my life even when it hurts. I own myself.
And that, is my revenge. That your 20 years of effort came to nothing, and in fact created someone inherently stronger and more powerful than you. My power is my voice. And you, you fools, gave me that.
My revenge is that I live, and I want to live. My revenge is that you heard my screams and spilt my blood, and tried your utmost hardest to turn me into one of you, and failed. I love people, I love being with people, and I gain something from seeing people around me empowered, not broken.
My revenge is that I can finally feel anger, the one emotion you made me so frightened of.
I win. Game over, f*ckers. 🙂