"Dear Buck" A Letter To The Man Who Abused Me
I've wanted to write this letter for a long time. Years, in fact, but the words were never quite there. Until now. Writing and publishing this letter is particularly intimate for me. I'm used to vulnerability but this is different. No one was ever allowed to see what my abuser and I shared. The conversations, the sex, the promises, the anger, the tears - it all went on behind closed doors with whispering voices and ears listening closely for footsteps. I've talked extensively about the abuse and the shaming that took place in the aftermath, but addressing my abuser in front of other people? This is new. I'm shaking but I'm ready, because this is really important.
(I'm not attacking my abuser and I have no desire to call him out or publicly shame him. For that reason I'm using a pseudonym for him.)
Over the years, I have often wondered what it must be like for you that I so openly tell my story. I picture you, sitting behind your computer screen, reading the words I've written about the things you did to me when I was a girl. The hands that type those words are the same hands you held all those years ago. Do you remember when you'd rub my left ring finger and tell me about the day you'd marry me? I remember. I was hopelessly infatuated with you. I lived for your attention and your touch. I kept our secret faithfully even when I thought I would die from the shame of lying to my parents. Even when you hurt me and told me I was worthless, I desperately wanted to please you and return to your good favor, no matter what it took. I would have laid down my life for yours in an instant. As much as any man can own another person, you owned me.
That ownership did what it was supposed to do - it slowly, meticulously took away my sense of self. Over time, I became less me and more an extension of you; your ideas, your desires, and your ambitions. As you took ownership of my soul, my body, my thoughts and my voice, you saw fit to look into my eyes and tell me it was my fault. All of it. I cannot imagine desiring to rob another person of their humanity. What is missing from your soul that allowed you to take so much from me? What void were you trying to fill? How you must suffer inside that you could so callously harm another person. My heart hurts for you.
When you told me it was my fault I believed you. Of course I believed you. I believed everything you ever said. When you told me I didn't deserve to be loved or respected, I took it to heart. The less love and respect I expected from other people, the more I would be willing to take whatever "love and respect" you gave me, and you gave less all the time. You made sure I knew I was constantly disappointing you, letting you down, not living up to your standards of perfection. I was never enough for you. Do you know what that kind of emotional abuse does to the mind of a fourteen year old girl? I hope and pray your daughters never experience the harm you inflicted on me.
Beyond the sexual, verbal and emotional abuse you carried out, beyond robbing me of my voice and my autonomy, you did something particularly profane. You took away my belief that I could be loved. When a child comes into this world, they desire above all else to be loved and cared for. Their survival depends on it, and that inherent need for love continues throughout our entire life. You earned my trust, you made me believe that you cared for me and loved me, and then you broke me over and over again. When you were finished with me, I felt empty. I no longer believed in anything, and I certainly didn't believe I could be loved. I no longer believed I was worthy of being loved, and the damage that did within my psyche has been perhaps the most challenging of all to reverse.
I've tried writing this letter to you many times before and I never could. It felt too much like I was giving you something by addressing you directly. You see, I have worked for so long to distance myself from you, to never again let you identify or define me. I couldn't write to you before without it feeling too intimate, too close, too much like I was undoing all that work. But not anymore, and here's why:
I trusted you not because of some fault within me but because I was innocent. You hurt me because of you. Because you let darkness into your heart. You fed the bad wolf inside. I can write to you now because I finally learned how to believe it wasn't my fault, and because I have something really important to tell you.
There is not one part of me that belongs to you anymore. I have taken myself back from you. My pain doesn't belong to you, my scars don't belong to you, but most of all, my strength doesn't belong to you. Not one iota of it. I said earlier that when you finished with me I felt empty and that was true. I did feel empty. But I wasn't.
Deep within me, past the tangled mess you created, past everything you took, lay a part of me that you could never touch. The truest most sacred part of me was never even within your grasp. I am a creation of Light and Love, and what I didn't understand until recently is those cannot be taken. Not ever. And though they laid quietly, nearly dormant even, in the deepest recesses of my soul, they were always there. You did not take them. They were never yours. And they are the reason I can write to you now and say with absolute truthfulness, I do not hate you. I feel sad for you but I do not hate you. I refuse to feed that wolf.
The bruises you left on my body have long since faded. The bruises you left on my psyche linger, yes, but they are fading more all the time. But the Love and Light within me? Those sacred parts of me? I have fed them and they have grown and flourished and they shine more brightly now than the fiery pain you gave me ever did. They shine so brightly, in fact, that I can share their warmth and light with others now, and my life is full of connection and meaning because of them. Where I once thought was an empty space exists an endless capacity for Love, so vast and great it extends far beyond my own physical body and envelopes every living thing. It is around and within all of us. It is within every person who has ever been harmed by abuse. It is within every mother, father, and child.
It is even within you, Buck, if you choose it. And that is why I cannot hate you. Because hating you would mean silencing the Love within me, and I truly will cease to exist if I do that.
If I could turn back time and tell my thirteen year old self that she doesn't need you, I would. If I could tell her she is already enough, already worthy of love and care just the way she is, I would. If I could tell her she is allowed to say No to you, I certainly would. But I can't do that, so instead I will say those things to others so they might avoid the pain and suffering I experienced at your hands.
You didn't choose Love, but I will.