An Open Letter to My Mother
|Me at 6 days old.|
|My mom and I, a few months ago.|
There have been some things on my heart lately that I'd like to share with you and because I love you, I'm writing this as an open letter.
Through telling my story of abuse, I have honored my pain. Through publicly defending my dad, I have honored his pain. I have spoken about you, too, throughout this journey of sharing and healing, but I would like to take this opportunity to do something I haven't explicitly done before.
I want to honor your pain.
I know how long you waited for me. After three wonderful sons you finally got the little girl you'd always wanted, and I felt so much love and adoration from you. You raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. You taught me how to work hard, how to love the elderly, and you tirelessly helped me develop my passion for music. You believed in me, and that belief empowered me to stand tall and strong. My world had no ceiling.
I can't imagine what it must have been like for you to find out your little girl had been sexually abused by someone you thought was trustworthy, someone you cared for and considered a friend. What anguish you must have felt as you watched me drown in my sorrow and change into a girl you barely knew anymore. How your heart must have ached as I, consumed by anger and confusion, pushed you away and screamed hateful words at you. Your little girl had been so damaged, altered by dark, secret trauma and abuse. I couldn't see your pain then. I only saw my own. But now I have two beautiful daughters and more than anything in the world I want to keep them from being hurt, and if they were ever hurt the way I was, I would be crushed. I know you tried to stay strong and keep that pain hidden from me, but you were deeply hurt and I now realize your wounds must have been numerous.
I remember the night I told you what he had done to me. You sat on the edge of my bed and listened as I finally released my secret to you. The words stung as I said them. I remember being embarrassed because I didn't know the names for everything that had happened. My stomach hurt. I didn't want to look in your eyes. I didn't want to watch you being hurt, and then you began to cry and as you held me in your arms I thought "maybe this is the beginning of everything getting better."
I didn't know what would happen next. I didn't know you and dad would be blamed for what that man did to me. Back then, I thought it was unfair and even ridiculous for my parents to be blamed but what I didn't realize is that it was an incredibly cruel, harsh, and unloving thing to do. When you needed understanding and support, you were unjustly criticized and chastised. I am so sorry for that. I can't imagine how that must have hurt you.
Your story is not mine to tell but clearly our stories are intertwined. You are my mother and I am your daughter, and I don't know what is in your heart but I cannot pretend to believe that you are not affected as I continue telling my story. Your support of my advocacy has been such a gift to me. Here I am, prodding along, unzipping and baring my soul to the world and baring some of yours along with it, and you stand beside me and tell me you are proud of me and that you love me. That gives me such power, mom. A girl without her mother is a lonely thing, and I am blessed to have your unconditional love.
When I came out about my abuse, you were the first person to say the exact words I needed to hear. You said the words to me that should be among the very first words we say to victims of abuse who have reached out and shared their suffering with us.
"I believe you."
Those words. Those kind, powerful words. Perhaps nothing else went the way I thought it would, but you said those words to me and they breathed strength into me. Thank you so much for that.
Years ago, you wrote a letter to the judge presiding over my case and in it you spoke about how horrifying it was to find out your daughter's innocence had been taken by someone you trusted and cared for. You spoke about how angry and hurt you were and how you had no idea I was being violated for all those months in our own home. Your words were vehement and forceful - you needed that judge to know how much this hurt our family and how we desired to see justice meted out on my abuser.
But the judge did not believe you. During the sentencing he said unkind and harsh things about you. Just a few months ago, he said more of the same unkind things about you when he was asked to recall the case, and over the last eleven years you have time and time again been thrown under the bus by a great number of people, accused of having had knowledge of an inappropriate relationship between my abuser and I, and blamed for orchestrating it. What a shameful thing was done to you. You never deserved that.
Mom, I know you don't like to let people see you hurting (and I don't blame you one bit for that.) But one thing I know is this: from the time we are born we desire to be validated. We want to know that we are loved, heard and valued, and you are no exception to that rule, which is why I would like to take this opportunity to give back the gift that you gave to me. You told me you believed me, and now it's my turn.
You said you didn't know I was being hurt.
I believe you.
You said you trusted him to respect and honor me.
I believe you.
You said you only ever wanted to see me happy and loved.
I believe you.
I believe you and I am sorry for the ways you have suffered. I am not the only one who was hurt back then - our entire family was abused. Our trust was abused, our generosity and kindness were abused, our love was abused.
Our lives are a collective of stories and experiences, and in the span of one lifetime we see such a great array of sorrow and joy. We will continue to walk forward into the light, into wholeness and healing. We will continue to learn what it means to love and honor one another, and I will continue telling my story so that others may learn from it.
There was a time you and I were broken, but as you always say, we Greenfield women are strong. We came back together and we picked up the pieces. You raised strong girls, mom. I will learn from the good things you did and I will do the same. Thank you for teaching me to believe in my daughters the way you believed in me.
I see you. I love you. I honor you.
Love from your daughter,