|Letters to My Abusers|
As I stood waiting for a table, at a small cramped Spanish restaurant in the Bronx, I saw the familiar face of a man sitting at the bar. Upon first glance I was seized by a strong surge of fear and panic. Although he didn’t look like one of my abusers, something about the way he sat at the bar, the rasp in his voice, triggered something within me. I had little time to tell myself, how silly I was being and how perhaps I was just being paranoid. Instead I stood heart pounding, feet frozen in place; staring at him, trying to place him, before it was too late, before he could look my way. What if he was one of them? What if he looked right at me and started to talk to me? As I studied his features, I realized with relief that he was not one of the men that molested me.
I was shaken for days and weeks afterward. This involuntary response disturbed me and I became angry that even the possibility of encountering one of them could affect me so. I didn’t know they still had so much power over me and instead of making me want to run, it made me want to confront them head on.
As a result of a childhood full of unpredictability, I didn't like surprises. I was driven by a strong need to be in control which gave me the illusion of safety. If I ever did bump into one of them, I wanted to be prepared and be able to confront them. That opportunity would probably never come since with the exception of my grandfather, who by this time was dead, my abusers were strangers to me; known only to me by their first names. Still the need persisted. The need to know what to say to them, to release the voice inside of me, stifled by the degradation of abuse.
I turned to the only way I truly knew how to express myself and deal. I decided to write. Since writing letters had always been my most comfortable mode of communication, I chose this form to confront my abusers, even if only in my mind. Letters allowed me to do what I believed I could never do with the spoken word. It allowed me to to rage, to appear strong, to not mince words. As an adult, it enabled me to tell people I loved precisely how much they meant to me without stumbling into unwanted tears. When angry, it allowed me to rip someone up who offended me without falling apart. At first, I believed I would write the letters and be done with it; purging and casting out the poison within me. Then I could finally live a life full of happiness and freedom. It wasn't that simple.
For years the idea of a book, with letters to my abusers, floated in and out of my consciousness. The pressures of life and my own internal turmoil kept me from truly pursuing it. Just finding the courage to sit down and deal with the pain of what was done to me was a task unto itself. Each passing day and year, was wrought with new personal struggles to overcome and eventually each attempt at working on the letters, remained unfinished. There was always something I needed to work on; being a mother, a wife, a stepmother, a teacher, losing weight, becoming more spiritual, becoming more of anything. All took precedence over working on a childhood that I considered was long gone.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long gone. In fact it was right there with me, in every struggle and every attempt at bettering myself, its voice loud and clear, criticizing and berating every move I made. The effects of living with an abusive mother and being molested repeatedly were the eyes through which I saw the world, the legs I used to walk in that world and the prison I held my heart in.
Eventually the letters became a way to save myself and radically change what I believed. The idea of confronting my abusers became the project you see here. Being able to articulate what was done to me, recovering parts of my memory and reclaiming what was taken from me empowered me. My sincere hope is to share that sense of empowerment with all of you.
I am inviting those of you who feel you may benefit, to take another step in your healing. For some of you this is just a stepping stone in the process, for others it just might be the first step you take in healing your childhood wounds. (Either way, I urge you to gather support for your journey if you decide to participate). Most of you will never send these letters and the truth is they are not for your abusers, they are really for you. They are meant to allow you to put your pain and your determination to survive into words.
Selected letters will be edited and posted on this site. Eventually we would like to publish an anthology of selected letters in a book called, Letters to My Abusers: What I Couldn’t Say Then. It may take some time for the publishing world to be ready for a book such as this but when it is time, the doors will open.
We hope that both men and women will participate and we are open to accepting letters from teens with parental permission.
Time and connecting with my voice of truth, has taught me never to dream small and so my vision for this work is that it will reach millions of men and women over time. I believe that it will be a powerful force which will move others to break the silence, to crack open the phrase; “sexual abuse” which means so little to so many and so much to all of us. I believe it will change the images people have in their minds when they hear the phrase. I hope that in reading this work, it will cease to be something vague that people can simply walk away from. I hope that it will create a more concrete understanding of what it really means to a life and to a soul; to be sexually violated. I believe it is necessary to get to the ugliness in a way that is powerful before we can get to the beauty of healing and enlightenment.
My vision is that this site will create a movement of voices standing up and reclaiming their power.
Each day I choose to do battle with the voices that say I can’t; please join me me in believing that change can happen.