Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Letter to My Father

 [Child Abuse Trigger Warning] 

I'm 36 years old and I am a survivor of child abuse, both physical and mental.  I've managed to survive all of these years (with a lot of mistakes) because of my super-human ability to forgive (and the fact that my father lives several states away and we hardly talk).  Recently he posted a picture on Facebook (yes, I am friends with my family on Facebook) of a little girl, who couldn't have been more than 5 years old, with bruises all over her face.  His comment on the photo said:
I don't understand how someone could do this to a child.
36 years old and I've never been affected by triggers of child abuse.  Not until I saw those words from my abuser.  I was sitting in the parking lot of my son's school when I saw this and I literally lost my mind.  Thankfully my sister was able to talk for more than a couple of minutes which allowed me to calm down enough to drive home.

I talked to my roommate about what happened and how I just wanted to comment on this picture and say:
You're a fucking hypocrite.
She told me to do whatever I wanted, but that I should give him a chance to respond first and to send him an email.  Then, if I don't get the answer I need I can post whatever I wanted...I just had to give him a chance.

So I sat for a few hours and hid in the Sims - the only place I can go lately that allows my mind to numb enough that I'm not crying every 5 minutes for no reason (due to the current depression).  After awhile I sent him an email, and let me tell you...once I started, it all came out.  So here is my email to him and if you read on, I'll tell you what happened after (names have been edited out).
______

Daddy,
I've been thinking about what to say in this email for the last 5 hours and frankly the only thing that I came up with was to make sure that I was calm when I wrote it.

I love you, even after everything we've been through, all the pain, the lies, the blame, the neglect...all of it. I love you because you're my father. You made a decision to accept me into your life and you didn't have to. For that, and all the other positive messages (intentional or not) that you gave me over the years, I am eternally grateful. I have also forgiven you for everything. Not because you deserve forgiveness, but because that's how I survive. You need to know what forgiveness means for me.
I forgive everything you did to me, but can't give the same forgiveness for what you did to my brother and sister because it's not mine to give. One forgiveness, given for an entire past, that means I can move on with my life and not carry any of the guilt or blame that comes with being a victim of abuse.

This forgiveness does NOT mean that I have forgotten or stopped holding you accountable for the physical and emotional damage you did to me. Nor does it mean that the pain or scars from the abuse are gone.

In order to keep healing, I have to make sure I'm honest about my feelings. So here it is.

I can't even begin to comprehend why you would think it would be remotely okay to post a photo of a little girl, obviously a victim of abuse, and then to say "I can not understand how anyone can do such to a child. So very sad." If you don't understand, perhaps you mean you don't understand how YOU could do that not just to me, but to my brother and mom (not to mention the emotional damage you caused my sister). I can accept that. But you have to know that I have been victimized all over again by my abuser, 20 years after my abuse. You are a hypocrite. The comments on the photo were appropriate responses against child abuse, and what makes me sick is that your friends and wife think you share their same views....that you would never do that. What would they think of you if they knew the truth?
You took away my voice and trivialized the pain I went through. You spit on my scars...scars that I wear proudly now because they show me as a SURVIVOR....but in one moment, you attempted to steal that from me.

I want you to remove that photo and NEVER post anything about child abuse again.

I want an apology for all the times you beat me with whatever was handy, for breaking a broom across my body, for breaking my bones, for all the bruises and tears you inflicted on me, for every time you lashed out at me because it was convenient and I was near, for all the ridiculous expectations you had of me, for every time I was happy and relived that you beat on my brother because at least you weren't hitting me at that moment, for teaching me the only way to express anger was to hit and yell and demean, for all the times I took that lesson and hit my brother and sister, for that lesson being so deep that even after years of therapy it caused me to hit my own baby and justify it by saying that he should have done what I said, for making me see you beat my mother, for making me watch the life drain from my mother's face when you tried to choke the life out of her, and for failing to live up to your promise as a father to protect me and keep me from harm.

Most of all, I want you to acknowledge what you did. I want you to stop lying to yourself about what happened. I want you to admit that you beat the crap out of your children.

I won't be your victim anymore. I refuse to be caught off guard by you again. So here's the deal. If you can't do what I've asked, I will be done with you. As much as I love you, I love myself more and I still have some healing to do. I will give you two days to decide if you are capable of this. If not, I will not be resentful or hold a grudge. Some people just aren't capable of that kind of honesty. But I won't talk to you any more. I will un-friend, ignore, and block you on Facebook. I will lose your phone number and address. I will no longer speak your name to my children. I will remove you completely from my life. Not because I hate you, but simply because I love myself.


If I don't receive your response by April 2nd I will assume you were unwilling or unable to do what I've asked. No explanation necessary.


Love,
Me

I still cry when I read this email.  I told my mom about it and she was shocked that I'd actually sent it to him, but I couldn't not hit send.  He replied (a shock to me, I didn't think he would) and I've been debating on whether or not to share the replies here but it is important to me that you know the whole story.  There were 3 replies and after the last one I didn't feel the need to continue the conversation.  I sent this email thread to my mother and she is able to finally start healing.

________

Sweetheart, I have read your post 3 times. I am still trying to digest parts of it. I am so sorry you are hurting still. I made a lot of mistakes trying to raise three children alone. I was angry at your mother for leaving us and not helping when she lived just up the street, I wasn't angry with you. I drank a lot  no excuse, I just did. It was my way of handeling it. You will always be my daughter. I fell in love with you when I first saw you in Italy, and nothing has changed my feelings. I am sorry for taking my anger out on all of you. I can't change the past.


Do what you think you have to do, but don't ever doubt that I do love you.

Dad

PS: I don't know how to remove anything on Facebook. So help me if you want.
______

Daddy,

I don't want to lose our current relationship, I just wanted an acknowledgement of my pain, for you to not disregard it by lying to other people about what happened, and for the long awaited apology. That's all.

I've been going through a very difficult time emotionally and I'm sure that's why I had more to say than a simple "I don't appreciate what you posted", for that I apologize. I meant everything I said, though I probably could have said it in other ways.

Me
_____

Sweetheart, I do understand. I am not proud of many things I did in my life. I should have found help in understanding myself many years ago. I didn't. That's my fault. Unfortunately you , and the rest of my family suffered. It was my fault. No excuses.

I love you. As I said before, never doubt that. I made so many mistakes I can't begin to count them. I spent more than 20 years in the military (agaoin NO EXCUSE) but I didn't know a thing about raising children. Without your mother, I was even more lost.

I can't change the past, as I said before. It doesn't mean I don't feel, or hurt, or underrstand.

I am so sorry, If I caould bear your hurt I would.

Dad
_____

I'm sharing this for 2 reasons.  First, to continue to heal I can't hide from the abuse anymore.  I don't need to shout about it from the rooftops, but I do need to acknowledge it happened and is very much a part of me.  Second, I want you to know that it gets better.  So very much so.  Standing up to your abuser is so empowering and healing, whether you were a victim of abuse, bullying, rape, or something else.

Find the strength within to forgive yourself - because, baby,  it's NEVER your fault...and then little by little, take that forgiveness and give it to your abuser.  Not because they deserve it, but because YOU do.  YOU are worth it and no matter what you may think, you are beautiful and amazing and wonderful and there is always someone out there that loves you.  And if for one minute you might doubt that, just come here and I'll remind you.

I'll fucking love the shit out of you forever!

1 comments:

jenannder said...

Oh, my sweet friend. I am so glad you messaged him this. You handed it very well. I love you and I pray your healing continues... but I know it will... because you are a survivor and one of the strongest people I know.
You are always in my heart!
Jennifer

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