(This is a letter I wrote, but did not mail, to some friends of my parents who bear a great deal of responsibility for the pain I've gone through for so much of my life. I apologize for the length; I have a lot to say. I'm posting it so that if other survivors feel the need to write such a letter but are having a hard time of it, maybe this can help serve as one way to approach it.)
Dear K and R,
This letter is to let you know how much you damaged me the night my sister and I slept over at your house. While the incidents took place over forty years ago, they not only damaged me then, they continue to hurt me, and have now reached a point where they are not only hurting me now, they are also hurting my wife. Instead of only one victim there are now two, and I will be damned if I will keep these thoughts suppressed any longer.
The first incident involved K and me sleeping over at your house. My mom and dad had arranged to have you baby sit us overnight so they could either go away or have some time alone, and you put us to bed in the same room, in the same bed. I can still remember the room—it was a small rear bedroom similar to the one we had in our house which we used as a library. This one had a single bed in it and a nightlight. Over the course of the night, childhood curiosity set in and we removed our jammies and looked at—and touched—each other’s bodies. Our curiosity was that of the normal childhood kind, as neither of us had any idea what sex was, and neither of us was anywhere near the age where sexual feelings would even take place. We were curious as to what the difference was between boys and girls. Period. I remember that we looked at each other’s bodies and genitalia, and we touched each other. What is interesting is that I remember nothing other than a sense of curiosity—neither of us became aroused in any way. When our curiosity was satisfied, we put our jammies back on and that was that. We went to sleep entirely unaware of what the morning would bring.
Now comes the incident that has fucked up my life for over forty years.
The next morning, around 8:00 or so when we woke up, both of you spent an incredible amount of time haranguing us for what we did. You didn’t just say what we did was wrong—you blasted away at us for what to a second or third grade child seemed to be an eternity. Not only did you, K, do this, but R did as well. At over six feet six inches, you towered over us. You both blasted us so badly that we were both crying and swearing never to do it again. I sat in a chair for virtually the rest of the day in a state of panic, not only internalizing that what I did was apparently terrible, but in dread of what was going to happen when our parents picked us up that afternoon. All I could do was sit in that chair and shake. And panic.
During this tirade, you basically accused us of having sex, you made me feel like I committed incest, and you also made me feel as though I had forced myself on my sister. I had no knowledge of what any of these things even were, but I did once you were done with me. For many, many years afterwards, I felt like I had essentially raped my sister (although in hindsight I know now that that was impossible,) and at least I had committed incest. I carried that guilt around for MANY years and so suppressed it that I never even brought it up to my parents where perhaps it could have been dealt with. I just carried it around like an anvil around my neck. When my sister got pregnant years later in high school and had an abortion, I even blamed at least part of her sexual activity—and the loss of the baby—on myself, deep down. Such was the extent to which I internalized the lessons I learned from you that day. I not only had a whole host of issues to deal with regarding sex and my own body and self, but I could take credit for my sister’s sexual activity AND the loss of a baby as well. I blame you for putting that blood on my hands. What I’ve discovered is that the unconscious has a tendency to freeze traumatic events in the way they happened, and they stay embedded in the victim’s brain until they are dealt with and discharged. My second-grade logic, combined with the terrible verbal beating I took from you, made me wonder in the back of my mind if any of that would have happened if I hadn’t committed some terrible crime against my sister that night.
This was only part of the crime you committed against both of us that night. God created two things that out of all His creations rank as among the best, if not THE best. One is the human body. The second is sex. Thanks to you, both of those things were wiped off the face of my earth that day. My body was no longer mine to even look at, much less enjoy. If I touched it, I was evil and sinful. Likewise, women’s bodies were also off-limits, sinful and something to be neither looked at nor touched. You bastards turned me from a normal, happy child into an asexual robot. My body in effect no longer belonged to me, my penis was nothing but a source of shame, and anything relating to the female body was completely off the table since you beat it into me that it was dirty, shameful and sinful.
What really kills me here, in hindsight over forty years later, is that neither of us, especially me (the younger one) even knew what sex was when you criminalized it. You turned a pre-sexual act of children’s curiosity into something filthy and deviant. We could have been looking at a pet frog, but you made it out as the same thing as sitting in a park and fondling children while jacking off. I will never live long enough to tell you how badly that fucked up my life. If you were perhaps concerned that we might be getting too old (!) to be sleeping in the same bed, all you had to do was knock on the door, tell us that were being too loud, and move one of us out to the living room. That’s all you had to do. I remember we were talking when we were exploring each other, and now I’m sure that that’s how you figured out what we were doing. The walls were thin. If you could have heard enough of the conversation to figure that out, you certainly could have moved one of us if you were that hung up yourselves about sex. Remember, we were pre-sexual. Whatever you chose to read into it was, and remains, on you.
So what’s been the impact, you ask? Immediately, I felt a terrible, tremendous amount of shame for something I didn’t even understand. Repeat, didn’t understand. All I knew was that two adults who I trusted spent what seemed like hours screaming at me, so whatever it was must have been a terrible thing on my part. The shutting down of myself toward my body began that day. Where before I was as normal as any other child, I now regarded my body as something shameful, evil and dirty. I avoided touching it—even bathing—as much as I could. It was something I hated. I didn’t want to live in it. I didn’t even want to acknowledge that it existed. I didn’t care what clothes I wore, whether they were clean, or what I looked like. While being teased by other kids for being a slob bothered me, I didn’t care enough about my appearance to do anything about it. That’s what self-loathing does. As far as I was concerned, my body—and my physical self-died that day. What lived on was a corpse—a hollow, shapeless little entity who had no more of a physical self than Casper the Friendly Ghost. I began to identify with Schleprock on the Flintstones—an amorphous little blob whose life was basically a ball of shit. I had no personhood of any kind any more, and that led to problems I will discuss in due course.
Secondly, getting castrated at that age would have been a far kinder introduction to the world of sex that what I received from you. I WAS basically castrated that day. The impression on my second-grade mind was so overwhelmingly powerful that for many years, even decades afterwards, I felt deep down that sex was something filthy and perverted, that I was unworthy of it, and that I should avoid it at all costs. I suppose the pain you inflicted on me made it too painful for me to even pay attention to as I entered puberty and adulthood. My sexuality, instead of developing like normal kids, involved hurried, furtive bouts of masturbation while feeling intensely guilty. When it was over, usually in seconds, I would feel an absolutely overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, just as though I had committed some terrible crime. My life would then resume its normal, dreary course. When I looked at girls, I felt guilty and dirty. I remember having a puppy love girlfriend somewhere around that time named Debbie Dixon, who I broke with when the constant teasing from my father and sister made her existence in my life something I could no longer bear. I will never know how much of a part what you did played in my decision to get rid of her. You should know that I didn’t have so much as a passing crush until well into high school. You ruined me that thoroughly.
Which brings me to another crime you committed against me, in conjunction with my father. Not long afterward, you, R, decided to clean out your garage in preparation for moving. Apparently the “lesson” you taught me about sex didn’t apply to yourself, since you decided that it was appropriate for me to receive your entire collection of Playboy, Penthouse, and the like. (I see now, in hindsight, your hypocrisy. My innocent, child’s exploration was wrong, but your stacks of porn magazines were ok. ) What made you think I was ready for something like that? What were you THINKING? Instead of throwing them out, you gave them to my dad who (secretly, it turns out,) gave them to me. When my mom walked in while I was reading them, she flipped out so badly that the lessons I had learned from you about how filthy the human body and sex were, were strongly reinforced by my mom. In short, not that I expect it to matter to you, my mom reinforced your lessons about sex and the human body, and this was probably the first of many betrayals of me by my father. He could have encouraged you to just throw them out, or could have refrained from giving them to me. He didn’t.
So what about all the other fallout? Well, when you damage a person’s core that badly, where his personhood and everything he thinks he understands about sex is destroyed, it opens the door to all sorts of things.
First, “sex,” in the healthy sense, is now absolutely off limits. So is anything resembling a healthy respect for one’s own body and the bodies of others. Since you forced all this on me long before I was able to understand it, that made all the distortions even worse. What that did was open the door to Rod’s successful attempts to molest me.
My feelings of gross inferiority, coupled with my fears and misconceptions about sex, also terribly corrupted my concept of male bonding. I was happy to have any friend I could get. The day Rod and I were playing “war” in the back yard and he started fondling his penis (and mine,) I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want to participate, but was beaten down enough to go along with it. He told me that, if I told anyone, he would tell them it was my fault, and I felt dirty, guilty and shameful enough as a person to actually believe him. Instead, I more or less took it as the price of having friends and felt, not so deep down, that I deserved it. Sex was a dirty, filthy, shameful, immoral, and disgusting thing, so what Rod did to me was exactly in line with what I expected—something to be ashamed of and to keep secret.
Were there more upshots, you ask? Oh, absolutely. The second was that, since I had relinquished sovereignty over my body the day you verbally abused me, I was psychologically at the bottom of the pile as boys go. Rod was tanned from swimming in his pool, going to the beach and so on. He was also in good shape from playing football, playing other sports, and so on. I, on the other hand, was pale from hiding in my room from John Sawvelle, the neighborhood terrorist, alienated from my peers due to how the school chose to address my I.Q., and absolutely ashamed of myself from any sort of physical standpoint. In short, I quickly came to envy Rod, physically, in the worst sort of way. He was everything I never could be, thanks to you. I could never hope to “be like him.” Instead, all I could do was envy the shit out of him and psychologically pay him homage by being his bitch. That’s right—if he wanted a blow job, all he had to do was ask. After all, it was only what I deserved, and who the fuck was I to say no to anyone, for anything? I owe you a great big thanks for setting me up like this.
Do you have any idea what any of this has been like? Can you for even a second imagine what growing up and going through young adulthood has been? To confuse male bonding for sexual attraction? To feel like a disgusting freak for so many years? To actively and almost violently hate yourself? To deal with depression compounded with the knowledge that you can never, ever tell anyone about it? There are no words to describe how absolutely awful it’s been. There have been times when suicide seemed like the only option, but thanks to the grace of God, I never followed through.
For decades, I ran from all this. However, those days are over and I have since made a vow to survive what you did to me and to heal from it completely. I cannot get back the time you stole from me, but I can see to it that I don’t lose even five more minutes because of you.
I am now seeing a therapist who is beginning the process of undoing the damage you did to me. My wife hasn’t left me, although she must love me indeed to have put up with this for so long. You’ve caused her an immense amount of suffering as well, since sex is something we’ve never enjoyed anywhere as much as we should have. Since I’m the one with the sex issues, the blame falls squarely on me. That’s another thing I have to thank you for. Nineteen years of bad sex, thanks to me. But really thanks to you. I can’t get those years back. I can only do things like write this letter to start to get rid of all the pain I’ve been holding in for these past decades, to finally put an end to the guilt, and to discharge the anger that I stuffed deep down into my soul for all this time. I know I haven’t even begun to truly address the anger and pain and hope this letter is at least a starting point. It will come out when it’s ready, just like the flashbacks. Yes, flashbacks, just like in Vietnam. Because of you.
By now, R and P should have produced grandchildren for you. That is, unless you’ve damaged them in the same way you damaged me. That is, unless they’ve entered the Priesthood, or turned gay, or have “just not found the right one” even though they are now, like me, approaching fifty years of age. All I know is that I hope you haven’t warped them as much as you did me, and if their children sleep over, you don’t destroy them. I can only hope. You should know that adults, especially trusted ones, hold a truly colossal amount of power in their hands, and the repercussions can be absolutely beyond description if it is abused or misused. I have embarked on the journey of getting beyond all this, and I hope, in closing, that you will not perpetuate it on more children. I am determined to make you and what you did a non-issue in my life, and this letter is where I have chosen to start.
(actual name withheld)
Edited by ModTeam (02/26/14 08:15 PM)
Never worry about "three steps forward and two steps back." Thirty steps forward and twenty back are still ten steps in the right direction.