To the Family Member Who Sexually Abused Me as a Child
To you who stole my childhood and innocence…
I can’t give a specific age for when it all started or when it ended. I never told anyone what was going on because as a child, I never thought that someone living with me would ever hurt or harm me in any way. It didn’t seem wrong at that time. You made it seem so normal but I wonder if somewhere deep down, I must have known that what you were doing was wrong. It always felt like a secret I had to keep. I never wanted to get you into trouble because you were family. Telling someone about what was going on seemed like a betrayal so I kept it all inside. There was a part of me that wondered if you hated me as a child. You would take every chance you got to make my life a living hell. I remember the times I spent in a dark, small room, waiting for you to let me out. At first, I fought and struggled with every ounce of strength in my body, banging and pounding on the door to be let out. After a while, I just accepted that it was a fight I would never win. I gave up trying to protect myself from you and I’d sit there quietly in the darkness until you unlocked the door. I’d hum a tune or remember lines from a story that I read. It was all a child could do to protect herself from an inescapable reality.
I never said “no” when you started to sexually abuse me. It never seemed like abuse because it was during those times when you were actually nicer to me. Nobody ever told me that what we were doing was wrong. All I wanted to do was to make you like me. It wasn’t so bad in the beginning and I went along with it. When things started going too far, I started to detach from the experience by tracing the outlines of the tiles on the floor. I remember counting each shape and tracing out the lines in between the tiles. As long as I focused on something else, it wouldn’t be real. It was the only way I could cope with what was happening to me.
You made it so I would never feel safe. I learned that people could not be trusted because the words that come out of their mouths were often lies to deceive me. I promised myself I would never let myself be hurt again in this way. I hated myself for being so trusting. I blamed myself for everything that happened and yet, I struggled to place any blame on you. Until today, I struggle to say that you were my abuser. I don’t hate you but I want you to know that whatever you did to me is something that you can’t take back. I’ve spent six years seeking treatment for PTSD and anxiety. I continue going for therapy sessions, hoping I will be able to regain some control back over my life. I’ve been on different medications to keep me stable. I live constantly with anxiety and depression. I still have problems feeling safe or trusting people. I’ve gotten a lot better but I still have a long way to go in my recovery.
To my parents who are still struggling to come to terms with all that has happened…
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I know I’ve only spoken briefly about what has happened to me but I hope that one day, I can be completely honest with you about this. I’ve always been afraid to tell you about it because I didn’t want to hurt you with the truth. I don’t know if you’ll react in shock or disbelief but there will come a time when I have to stop hiding this from you. I am doing everything I can to get better so please just be patient with me. Please don’t ask me why I’m still affected by something that happened so long ago. Please don’t ask me why I’ve been in treatment for such a long time. Please don’t ask me why I have to take my medications every day. I never asked for any of this but it’s what I have to deal with as a result of my PTSD. Please be patient with me as I try to heal and get better.
Unsplash photo via Timothy Paul Smith