A survivor of long-term incest and child sexual abuse writes a letter to her 7-year-old self.
I know you’re scared. Every day, all day, you are so afraid. Nothing in your life seems safe. You think that no one sees you, no one hears you. You think no one cares about you at all. You think you are alone. You think that there is not a single person in this world who loves you.
You think you’re bad. You must be if not even your own mother can love you. You know that you annoy her. You know that whatever you do is wrong. You try so hard, but you always seem to mess up. All you want is to be good. But you know that you are not.
You wake up every morning and wonder what is going on with your body. You’ve tried to ask but nobody will tell you. Your mother told you it’s normal. She said all girls feel that way. You overreact. You’re too dramatic. She said your father would never hurt you. But you can barely stand up straight. When you get to the bathroom you can see scratches and bruises on your body. You’ve seen other children cry when they get scratched or bumped. You don’t understand what they are crying about. Scratches and bruises are not supposed to hurt.
You take tiny little steps when you walk, you’re afraid that whatever it is inside of you is just going to fall out. You feel like there is a giant ball of fire in your stomach and each time you move you can feel the flames spreading out. You don’t let yourself think about why you feel these things. You just concentrate on not feeling them.
You think that nobody knows these things about you. You would be so ashamed if anyone found out. But I want to tell you that I see you. I see you when you crawl into your hiding space and hope they will forget about you. I see you duck behind the curtain so your mother will not know you are in the room. I hear you when you whisper your prayers. I’ve heard you beg and promise and bargain, anything if tonight it will be different.
I’m with you when you suck in your lip and clench your fists. I know how hard you fight not to cry or yell or speak at all. I’m right there when you close your eyes and disappear. I stand and watch as his hands move all over your body. I know all of the things that you can’t or won’t say. I’ve stored all of your secrets so that you don’t have to think about them.
If I could, I would pull you up out of that bed and whisk you away. I would keep you safe. I would wash away the scent that forever lingers on your body. I would clean your cuts and and soothe your aches and pains. I would hold you tight and whisper in your ear. I would tell you that this does not define you. This is not who you are and what you will become.
I would your hand when you walk so you would not have to worry about falling over. I would carry you up those stairs so you wouldn’t have to hold your breath. I would be your voice and help you ask your questions. I would explain the answers over and over until I was sure you understood. I would tell you that it’s ok to say that you were hurt. I would tell you over and over that I believe you. I would apologize for not being able to stop him. I would help you ask for help.
I would tell you that it’s ok to cry when something hurts you. Tears let people know that something is wrong. Crying does not show weakness. It shows strength. It takes a lot of courage to let other people know that you need help. There is no shame in crying. Your tears tell stories that your words can not express.
I would let you know that one day this would end. One day you will leave home and he will never touch you again. One day you will find someone to listen to your story. She will encourage you to speak about things you have never spoken about before. She will tell you she believes you. Your heart will swell and you will ask her to repeat it so you can be sure you heard her correctly. You will be afraid,
but she will assure you that you don’t have to be. You will worry that she will hurt you. You will assume that she will walk away. But she never does. She will tell you that you can trust her. It will be the hardest thing you have ever done, but you do.
One day you will stand with me and we will tell your story. People will hear it and feel free to tell their own. You don’t know it now, but I think you will be ok. I think that we will be ok.