What I Want to Say to My Younger Self After Sexual Abuse
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I remember the exact way it felt when my father called from work and spoke to me. I had just admitted to my mother in the middle of the prior night that my half-brother, my father’s son, had sexually molested me for a period of time over my childhood, in our home. I remember the phone call, because even though I was in my early 20s, the little girl hidden deep in me still desperately needed to be Daddy’s little princess and pride. She was the one who never came back out after her first realization that what was happening was wrong. She had decided it was something to be ashamed of. She needed his approval and love.
The tough girl in me had taken over by now. She was the outer shell that everyone had gotten used to seeing when they looked at me. But that little girl was still in me. Why did I tell my mom what had happened at all? Telling only risked losing love. At least, that’s how it felt in the moment. But my father’s words came through the line cheerfully, kind, silly and loving. I remember the joy I felt, thinking, “Good, my mom hasn’t told him yet.”
But it wasn’t true. He had already known. And he still sounded as though I was still his “prettyface,” as he always affectionately called me. I could never quite make sense out of that moment. I had spent my life fearing someone, particularly my parents, finding out anything about what had happened. I was sure anyone who found out would be disgusted with me. I couldn’t bare the shame of someone whose love I felt I needed seeing me in that light. So, I kept it in for many years. Until I couldn’t anymore. And, now I have some things to say to you.
I have seen. I have seen what you have gone through. I have seen you hiding. I have seen you scared. I have seen you pretending. I have seen you confused. I have seen you alone. I have seen what no one else has. I have seen the tears. I have seen the fear. I have seen you with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. I have seen you suppressing your innocence because someone you trusted took unfair advantage of just that. I have seen you denying who you are because you felt unlovable. I have seen you feel unsafe. I have seen you wondering when it will be safe to come out. I have seen the years pass and you never got the chance.
You had to stay inside while I grew up into bigger responsibilities. I had no use for you. As I got more and more bitter — as I started to understand what had really transpired — I shoved you down further. There was no use for you. Childhood had passed without you able to come back. What purpose would you have now? But yet, here you are. I have to address you so that I can move on.
I’m sorry I shoved you down. I was fighting to keep any love I could. I was fighting to hide the secret of my body’s impure violations. I was fighting for things you deserved but were stolen. In the fight, I forgot to love you.
You deserved love. You deserved freedom. You deserved a safe home. You are a child. You deserved happiness. You deserved attention. You deserved healthy physical affection. You are only a child. I am sorry I stuffed you down, that you couldn’t come out and enjoy things appropriate for your age.
I am sorry you couldn’t have these things, but please know it is safe to come out now. I am giving you a chance now. I choose to see you. I choose to let you out. I choose to love you. I accept you. I free you. I thank you for holding on as long as you did, for helping me to reconcile what I needed to move forward. I will never have been wholly healed without you. Alone, neither of us will really make it, but together, hand in hand, we do. You take my hand, and I’ll take God’s. Together we will step into our full healing.
Lead photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash. Baby photo via contributor.