To my sixteen-year-old self,
Here you are ten years later with the same kind of feelings you have today. Actually, ten years later you are worse off than you are today because somewhere in the past decade you have accepted the lies of others about what happened, how you feel, and who you are. Let me give you a warning as to what the next ten years will hold for you.
I know you think right now is the worst of it. Sitting wherever you are, feeling completely alone because you spoke up. You feel like it was all a mistake. Believe me, it gets much worse. You will lose yourself and your confidence. It will not be a sudden loss. No, it will be a slow demise of everything you thought was truth. What you are standing against today will cost you everything. You will lose everyone, including yourself.
So the man touched you inappropriately. He was close to you and the family and he snuck in and made everyone trust him. Then he pounced. He went for the weakest link. The one that knew the least about what a man should and should not be doing to a sixteen year old girl. But he made you feel like it was your choice. He asked you if it was okay and you said it was because to express the kind of anxiety that was in your heart or the sinking feeling in your stomach every time he slipped his hand on your leg under a table was simply not allowed. Then he tried to use your father’s lack of emotional and physical affection for you as the perfect cover for touching you all the time. And he convinced your mother it was in your best interest. She even continued conversations with him with a smile on her face as he sat on the floor and put his hands up your pant legs and all you could think was how completely uncomfortable you were. How confused you were to hear it was all “okay” when your insides were screaming the opposite. You must be wrong. You are only sixteen, and everyone you trust is saying, “It’s fine.” So you go on. Until he crossed the line.
You remember it like it was yesterday. Ten years later you still remember how rigid you went as his hands slipped up your shirt and under your bra strap. It still makes your stomach weak. So you told someone. You told a friend to get advice and instead she told her mother. You were terrified. Terrified someone knew. Someone that could do something. But you were relieved at the same time. Maybe, just maybe, someone will think it’s wrong too. And she did. She cornered you and made you tell her all your secrets in detail and said she would defend you. She told you what had to be done and how your father and family must know. But at sixteen she made you the warrior. They all rallied behind, pushing you to the front lines as they ran for cover and you did what they said. Exactly as the Bible lays out and…you lost everything. Your family rallied behind the man and everyone else left when they saw you weren’t going to win. And there you were…left behind. They agreed it was wrong, but they didn’t want to fight for you. You weren’t worth the trouble.
Your family didn’t fight for you either. Instead they started taking everything from you and punished you for being untrustworthy. No key to the house and strict rules on where you could go. You became the bad guy. You were the one who did something wrong, and you must be held accountable. They covered your “sin” by telling extended family you were just rebelling. Heaven forbid anyone know he was involved. For your sanity… you fled. Fleeing was the best choice you made, but you had already lost what you held most dear…your confidence. You don’t trust any decision you make. You can’t tell what’s right or wrong and you certainly can’t pray. God has been brought down on both sides of this argument and scripture has been so twisted you can’t tell what is truth anymore. And you are terrified to make the wrong decision and bring God down with you.
You can’t express yourself. You are told you are wrong when you don’t feel wrong and you feel abandoned. Ten years later sweetie, you still do. And you have lost even more. You end up going home, and in doing so, submit to all their rules and regulations. You become who they want you to be because it’s easy and you forget every part of who you used to be.
There are more consequences as well. You develop bad habits to cope with the pain and anger of what happened. It wasn’t what he did to you that bothers you. That you could live with every day. It’s the pain of knowing to this day they still defend him and your problem is the elephant in the room. Don’t bring it up. Act like everything is fine and survive. Your family won’t accept anything else. Your friends say that your gut instinct was correct, but you have now convinced yourself you just took it all the wrong way. Or even sicker, that maybe you wanted it to be something more so it was just your perception or imagination.
It wasn’t. It happened. They all left you. And you have to find you again. Don’t forget the feelings you have now. Don’t forget how much pain you are in. Because if you think that you’ve lost it all now, you haven’t. There are more people that betray you. More men you allow to touch you because you don’t care, and there are more dark days. But you beautiful girl….you are still in there somewhere and we will find you. I promise.