A letter to my 12-year old self
You aren’t going to want to hear this. You’re headstrong, stubborn, independent and determined. These are all qualities which will be useful later in life, but… you should hear me out.
I write this because I know what happens next. I know what you were forced to do, how you suffered then and for so many years afterward, and how the abuse worsened after that day.
I know you feel insecure, ugly, different, like an outsider, unpretty, alone. I know you feel outcast because all the other girls seem to turn heads, have boys lusting after them, seem to be developing into young women and don’t have the same unsightly dark hair and pockmarked skin as you do. I know you wish someone would pay attention to you. I know you feel unwanted, awkward and out of place. In spite of all that, I want you to know that attention is not always a good thing. Attention can be good but it can also be very very bad.
He’s older than you. You don’t even like him. You think he’s weird, colloquial, even strange. But he pays attention to you. You think he’s not that bad. That you can overlook the unattractive quirks. At least he pays attention to you. At least someone is finally interested in you. You’re not the only one left on the sidelines anymore. It’s probably worth putting up with his baggage so you don’t feel so lonely and different from the other girls.
He tells you you’re pretty and that he likes you. He says he likes that you’re outspoken, direct, and different. He won’t like it for long. Soon he will find it threatening to his masculinity. He will begin to prey on your weakness, physically harm you, and he will find his strength in making you feel small and weak. He will start trying to control you. He will try to shut you down when he feels threatened. He will hurt you.
He’s going to ask you to go with him to spend the day at a popular tourist attraction in town.
Even if your parents say it’s ok to go. Even if it’s just for a few hours. Don’t do it.
He’s going to be nice at first. Then he’s going to take you to a secluded area and make you perform an act on him which you absolutely will not want to do. He’s going to hold you down. He’s going to force you. He is going to make you feel defiled, disgusting, ashamed, confused.
And then it’s going to get worse.
Soon the abuse will turn physical. He’ll use you as his punching bag. He knows you’re insecure and he gets off on it. He knows you’re afraid to tell. He knows his threats terrify you. He knows you are young and insecure. He knows you aren’t string enough to just walk away. He says nice things to you even after he hurts you. He knows this will make you think he’s not that bad. This will contribute to your fear.
You’ll look back on that day as the beginning of a learning experience. You’ll eventually come out stronger but you won’t be able to change what happened. You will feel ashamed even when you finally accept that it wasn’t your fault. You won’t tell anyone about it until many many years later. You’ll confide in your husband about what happened that day. You’ll finally begin to see that it wasn’t your fault. You were a child. He took advantage of you. You still won’t be able to fully come to terms with it though. You still won’t be able to confide in your parents about what happened. Part of you will always be angry with them for letting you go. For allowing you to decide that it was safe to go. For letting you play the role of parenting yourself instead of stopping you from going. They should have said no. They should have let you be furious with them for not letting you have your way. They didn’t. You’ll never forget this.
One day you will have daughters of your own. Be their parent, not their friend. Be vigilant of their feelings. Teach them the importance of self love, and communicate openly with them. Tell them what happened. Make absolutely sure that they know they can talk to you. About ANYTHING.
I can’t stop you from going but I can make sure that you don’t forget. I can tell you how important it is that you share your experiences with your children. That you parent them. Make them understand that you have to set limits even when they might hate you for it. Because then maybe they won’t have to look back and remember horrific days like that one 23 years later.
Know that even though things will get worse before they get better, you will come out on the other side. You will find happiness, peace, solace. You will be able to forgive and face yourself.
Above all, know that what happens next is not your fault.