Trigger Warning – Childhood sexual assault and abuse.
I don’t have to address you by your name because you know who you are. Not that it really matters because I’m sure you’re never going to read this. I would love to have the courage to send this to you, but the truth is I don’t. I am a confident, strong and determined woman, in spite of you. Yet somehow, I still carry a six-year old’s fear with me every day.
I want to start with this: I have a great life. In fact, I have a really fucking amazing life. I have an incredible husband, two beautiful children, a wonderful home, a good career, and a bright future ahead of me. I have worked hard to beat every stereotype you signed me up for. I make conscious decisions every day to fight the statistics of girls like me.
Girls like me.
Physical and sexual abuse survivors. I belong to that group because you put me there. I identify with those girls because of you. I relate to those girls because of what you put me through.
Other people label me in that group. They rationalize my behaviours and problems based on the statistics of that group. Therapists, counsellors, friends and family are all quick to excuse away my flaws and struggles because of your choices. I hoard childhood belongings because of my past. I have insomnia because of my past. I have anxiety because of my past.
It has been over 17 years, and yet what you did to me is still deeply ingrained in so much of my daily life.
There is no doubt in my mind you are blissfully ignorant of all of this. I am sure you are as selfish and self-centered as you always were. I’m sure you told yourself that you were happy to be rid of us. Rid of that woman and her brats. I’m sure you imagined that we were happy to be rid of you. And we were. I’m sure you thought that was the end of it.
But it wasn’t the end.
As we walked away from you and closed the door on the nine years of living in hell, we realized it was the beginning. It was the beginning of the aftermath. It was a beginning of coping. It was the beginning of figuring out how to live the rest of our lives with the memories of our past. It was the beginning of wondering if we would all be ok.
And we are. But we’re not. I’m not.
I have spent nearly 2 decades trying to move past you and I have faced hurdles continuously. Our time in that house with you maybe just distant memories on your end, but they have impacted so much of my life since then.
And I think it’s time you learn that.
You spent most of the nine years we lived with you being a mean and violent bastard. Everything was our fault and you never let us forget it. I spent years cowering at the sound of your voice, while simultaneously trying to figure out how I could make you happier.
But you found your own way to be happier in the final three years. After you had started to touch me and to asked me to kiss you like I kissed my boyfriends. Only then were you kinder to me. At the tender age of 12 years old, you instilled in me the notion that men will treat you better when you let them do what they want sexually. You made me believe that your happiness and perverted desires mattered more than me. They don’t, but it would take me until my early 20s to fully understand that.
Someone ran away with her innocence. A memory she can’t get out of her head. I can only imagine what she’s feeling when she’s praying. Kneeling at the edge of her bed. – Holy Water, Big & Rich
Every so often I worry that I making too big of a deal of all of this. That I am playing up the part of the broken girl. Or worse, that I actually enjoy being the broken girl. In these times, I have to remind myself that what you did is a big deal. There is no playing the part of a victim here. I am a victim. You terrorized us. You victimized me. You tampered with my innocence.
Look what he’s done to you. It isn’t fair. Your light was bright and new, but he didn’t care. He took the heart of a little girl and made it grow up too fast. – Broken Girl, Matthew West
I don’t want to be a broken girl. You turned me into one when you, at age 40, decided to molest your 12-year-old step-daughter. When you, a middle-aged man, looked at me with sexual thoughts when I had only ever had one kiss from an actual boy. You sexualized me in your mind before I had even begun to understand what sexuality was.
Do you remember the day that I told you I had tried to kill myself? I was 13 years old. You stood in front of me as I screamed at you in the middle of a fight and outlined exactly what I had tried to do. You had a look of shock on your face as you asked me why. My answer was simple. You. You are the reason. I wanted to escape you. You had literally trampled my soul and ruined my life. Standing in the doorway of my bedroom, you wept. You openly cried and apologized repeatedly.
And then less than a month later, you molested me again. Because you are nothing but a fucking monster and you couldn’t help yourself.
There’s a part of me I can’t get back. A little girl grew up too fast. All it took was once, I’ll never be the same. Now I’m taking back my life today. Nothing left that you can say. Cause you are never gonna take the blame anyway. – Warrior, Demi Lavato
I live with the memory of trying to hurt myself every day. I carry the guilt of what I almost did and how badly I would have broken the hearts of the people I love.
Like mom, who was beyond devastated when I admitted my attempted suicide more than a decade after the fact. She endured so much pain, guilt and heartbreak when we each finally admitted the things you had done to us kids. The worst part is, you had been hurting her too. You used fear and threats to divide us for years, leading each side to believe the other was happy, when in reality, you controlled a living nightmare for everyone in our home.
Oh mother, we’re stronger from all of the tears you have shed. Oh mother, don’t look back ’cause he’ll never hurt us again. – Oh Mother, Christina Aguilera
I don’t know if you’re aware, or even if you would care, but she died last year. I was 31 years old at the time. I only got three decades with my mom. That’s it. And just over nine years of that, nearly 1 decade, was spent living in terror with you. Nearly 1/3 of the total time I had my mom is overshadowed and painted by the horrible memories that you caused our family. I’ll never get that time back. I don’t have the chance to spend few more decades erasing bad memories with great ones.
Three decades is all mom and I got together and you destroyed 1/3 of it.
These are just a few of the ways that you have completely and utterly fucked with my psyche. Leaving me with emotional scars that I will forever be repairing. See to you, I am likely just one of your ex-fiancé’s brats, who you have distant memories of. But you are the monster who will haunt my mind for the rest of my life.
What I didn’t expect, when we called the cops all those years ago, was to have lasting physical ramifications of your choices.
First, it was learning about how my body didn’t develop right because of you:
At age 24, we were preparing to start a family. I’ve always had a lot of joint and muscle pain and decided to start seeing a chiropractor to help with my alignment before pregnancy. After a few visits, she wanted to talk about some of the issues she noticed with me. There were lots of areas where my joints don’t line up right or things don’t quite connect as they should. She asked if I had suffered physical damage during my developmental years, maybe from sports.
I took a deep breath and started explaining how I did have a piece of shit ex-step-father who was cruel and abusive. I had to describe how you regularly tossed me into walls and dragged me aggressively by the arm. How you hit us and left bruises everywhere. We both had tears in our eyes as she explained that trauma like that can cause a growing body to set incorrectly and that I may always have some chronic pain.
Then it was learning about how the scar tissue you caused gave me early arthritis:
At age 28, I had a terrible pain in my left hip. It felt like something had exploded. I spent the next several weeks seeing a physiotherapist, to determine out what was happening. Within a few visits, the doctor discovered that I had arthritis in my left hip. I thought this was a little unusual for 28. Just as the chiropractor before him had, the physiotherapist asked me if I had ever played aggressive sports as a kid or if I had ever been in a car accident. He explained how scar tissue can cause early arthritis. I said no.
Again, I had to explain you. I told him about the time you ripped me off the top landing of our stairs and pulled me down to the bottom by my hair. How my left hip and shoulder had banged off each step as I tried to loosen your grip on my head. The doc looked, shock on his face and muttered, “yeah, that will do it.”
When I was thrown against cold stairs. And every day I’m afraid to come home in fear of what I might see there…And I still remember how you kept me so afraid…Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday. And I’m Ok. – I’m Ok, Christina Aguilera
And scariest of all, discovering that at the tender age of 10, you caused me to have a stroke:
Fast forward a few years, I am 32 years old and experiencing some mild stroke-like symptoms. This time it is several months in and out of labs and offices, while they try to figure out what is wrong. Luckily, all of the results come back clear and the doctor tells me I’m healthy. So I ask him about my symptoms and the fact I had failed a very specific motor skill test, which is almost always a clear indication of a stroke. The doc replied by telling me he is certain I had a small stroke at some point in my life.
Then he proceeds to ask if I played aggressive sports as a kid or had ever been in a car accident. Once again, I had to lay out my sorted life story, in the middle of a doctor’s office. I explain the kind of man you were; How you once smacked me across the head with a wet leather baseball glove so hard, blood pooled in my left ear. Once again I had to watch a look of horror flash across the face of a medical professional, as he realized any damage done to me was not caused by something as innocent as sports, but rather by the horrific actions of a grown man.
I feel like every few years they find some sort of physical challenge for me to face and so much of it is the fallout that came from living with you.
I know you might be thinking that I need to get over it. All of it. Maybe I need to move on and leave the past in the past. Every once in a while, someone in my life today will tell me just that. That I need to leave all of this behind me and just be happy.
I am happy. I am very happy.
But I will not forget and quite frankly, I will never forgive. Not you. You don’t deserve it. Just as you don’t deserve the grace of my silence for even one single day.
I want to hold on to some of those memories because they give me strength. They fuel my hate fire. I don’t want to let go of that little bit of anger that motivates me to speak up and lend my voice to a conversation that nobody likes having. Because without this conversation, monsters like you exist in silence.
In an ideal world, people like you wouldn’t exist at all. You would have never gotten to a point of hurting other people. But you did, and I wish you could feel even a fraction of the pain I am left with for the rest of my life. Sadly, you never will.
For my fellow survivors, all of the songs highlighted above are ones that I listen to when I am feeling weighed down by my past. I created an Apple Music playlist with these songs, along with others, titled I’m Ok. You can listen to it here. I hope it helps you find strength.