It’s taken over 30 years for me to write this letter.
I didn’t have the words before, or the clarity, or the courage. But, today I do. Today, I can see how a few fleeting moments changed who I am all those years ago.
I bet you never thought that I would remember you. I was only three years old. I was just a baby. But, my first vivid childhood memory includes you. You were sitting at the kitchen table with my daddy playing a board game. The game looked like an old map. You and daddy spent hours moving little soldiers, tanks, and horses around that board. You extended your arm to me, and I accepted your invitation.
As I sat on your lap, with my daddy across the table, you put your hand under my dress. Your large hand rested on my thigh for a moment. Then, you pulled my panties aside, and you touched my little, tiny body. The sensation startled me. I jumped. My knees hit the table. The game pieces scattered around the table. Daddy yelled at me, and I went in the other room, believing that I had done something wrong.
That was not the only time you touched me. It happened many times after that, but you know that already. What you don’t know, is that I called my lady bits my “tickle” for years after that. It was the only word I knew for the way it felt to be touched there.
I’m sure my parents thought it was a cute thing that I came up with all on my own. And so, it became the official word for lady bits in our home.
I still cringe when I hear that word today.
Something else you probably don’t know is that I don’t remember much more about my childhood. My fragile young psyche worked so hard to conceal what you did to me back then, that I literally lost years from my memory. When I think of my early childhood, I think about being abused. I know there were Christmases and birthdays, and school, and friends, and all the wonderful things that little kids do. I’m certain I did all of those things—I learned to swim, and ride a bike, and lost my first tooth.
I know I did all the things normal little girls do, but I can’t remember any of them.
My childhood memories are not the only thing you took from me when you touched my little three year old body. Sadly, you took my relationship with my mother as well.
I told her once that you were touching me. She didn’t know what to do, so she did nothing. I could forgive you for what you did, because I knew it was a sickness that made you do it. It has taken my whole life to finally forgive my mother. I spent years punishing both of us for what you did. I realize now, that my mom did the best she could with what she had at that time. It was never her fault. It was only yours.
Included in the damage was my parents’ relationship with each other. Mother asked me to keep your terrible secret, because she was afraid my daddy would hurt you. We kept that secret from him for more than 10 years. I don’t know which was more painful for him, knowing that you betrayed his trust by hurting me, or knowing that we betrayed his trust by not telling him.
In addition to my innocence, my childhood memories, and my relationship with my parents, you took something else from me that I didn’t even realize I was missing until recent years.
When you touched my little bitty body, over 30 years ago, you took away part of me. It’s the part that connects the physical body to the emotional and spiritual bodies. It was the part of me that should have been in charge of self-worth, healthy boundaries, and self-awareness.
I have spent my whole life feeling disconnected from my body. I’ve battled with my weight, because I wasn’t able to see myself clearly. I’ve struggled to respect myself enough to demand respect from others. I didn’t even know that I could decline sexual advances from someone until a few years ago. I spent my whole life feeling damaged because of a few moments that you took from me for your own selfish gratification.
I’m certain you never knew how your actions would change who I was. I’m certain you lacked the foresight to know how you would damage my family.
Even with all the things you have taken from me, I am grateful. You gave me one of the greatest obstacles I have worked to overcome in my life. Certainly, I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I know that everything happens for a reason.
Standing on this side of things, I can see the gifts in this experience.
Because I had to fight for my relationship with my parents, because I lived without it for so many years, I know how valuable it is. I’m grateful. Because I know how difficult it has been to be at war with my own body my whole life, I am grateful, finally, to understand why. Feeling the disconnect for all those years makes the connection I have now so special to me. I see how valuable that connection is, and every positive change I make in my life is because I now see where the breakdown occurred.
I’m grateful. I’m strong, independent, resilient, and unstoppable, in part because of what you did to me when I was a little girl. I love the woman I am today, and I know that even the most unpleasant parts of my past have brought me to this moment.
I’m grateful to have this story to share, because I know there are so many more people just like me who are still struggling with the after effects of childhood abuse. The guilt, shame, and self-loathing from sexual abuse can literally last a lifetime if we are not able to confront it. If my story can help just one other person to know that they are worth the work it takes to heal from childhood sexual abuse, I’m happy to share it. If just one person can benefit from these words, I am grateful to have written them.
Yes, you took many things from me. But, you could never break my spirit.
I have faced every challenge, and overcome every obstacle. I am a stronger woman today for having been victorious in these battles. While I mean no ill intent with my words, I want you to know that your actions certainly did change me, and my family.
I have forgiven you a hundred times, and will continue to do so, but I will never forget what you did to me. I will continue to share my story, in hopes that it will help someone else who shares my struggle.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman