Trigger Warning: This letter contains a survivor's personal story. Mentions of Sexual Violence are placed in this letter. Please do not proceed if reading it may trigger painful memories.
Let me cut out the ‘Hello, how are you?’ and get straight to the point.
I know you’ve already gone through a lot. And, it probably continues even now.
No matter what you have been through or are still fighting, please know that none of this is your fault. It is even possible that you’re not ready to believe this, at this time. I didn’t either, and for a long time I blamed myself for what had happened.
The anger, pain, humiliation I felt at knowing that I was to blame for what happened to me remained for a long time. I was a young girl then and hadn’t even attained puberty. He was a few years older. He had me convinced we were in love. For a long time, I looked up to him. We met only a few times a year, when I visited my maternal home in another city, or when he came visiting us. The abuse stopped when he went away to college. I still believed that we were in love. Even though we were far apart and weren’t even in regular contact, we were meant to be. I was convinced our love would endure. I know now how stupid it was of me to think this.
This illusion was rudely shattered when one day a specific incident led me to question his feelings for me. I realized this was no love. I was past my teens by then, and it is possible that this incident only reiterated what I had already suspected all this while. Maybe, the distance and the lack of communication had cleared the cobwebs in my mind. The hatred and anger I felt at being foolish enough to fall for false claims of being in love continued for a very long time. I was a child. I knew nothing about love. Why, then, had I been stupid enough to fall for someone’s false professions of love? I should have been smart enough to see through the lies. I should have known better. I was a child and what does a child know of love, after all.
And that’s exactly why it was wrong of me to hold myself responsible. I forgot in my rage that I was holding myself responsible for something that I was unaware about. It took me several conversations and some difficult sessions with a bad therapist to let go of the blame I laid on myself. I’ve still not reached the point where I am ready to forgive my abuser.
But I have understood that none of that is my fault. How could it be, when I didn’t even know what was happening to me?!
That’s the thing with abuse. Those who abuse are master manipulators; irrespective of age and intellect, it is difficult to see through what they are doing to you. And yet, we think we are to be held accountable.
In some cases, you may even recognise it for what it is, but cannot put a stop to it for various reasons. There could have been a threat to your life; you could have been dependent upon them financially; or a lack of support system that you needed deterred you from going out and seeking help. It is possible that one or all of those factors, is still true and hence, the abuse still continues. This is not to say that you should let it. This is just to remind you that you should reach out for help and build up the resources and the support you require to put an end to the trauma.
Even if one can do that – put an end to the abuse, that is – the aftermath of that horrifying experience is enough to leave us scarred for life. I cannot even begin to imagine what I would say or how I would react if I were to come face to face with my abuser. Thankfully, the universe has so far protected me against that possibility. Like I said, I haven’t yet forgiven him. It is just that I am not holding on to the pain either anymore. It took me time but I did finally come to the realization that more important than absolving him of him of wrongdoing, I need to first forgive myself.
My journey of getting to this point of being able to do that hasn’t been easy. I don’t think it will be easy for you either. Especially, since it may involve opening up old wounds and reliving all that trauma. But that’s the thing you know – you’ve gone through worse. This reliving of that experience will mean poking under the scabs but in the long run it is healing, since you work on healing the wound and not just working to put up a fake front. Not to mention, this is much required to enable you to let go of the past, move on with your life, and achieve your full potential.
In the end, I would only like to reiterate two things:
First, that it was not your fault. It still isn’t.
And second, you are not alone. There are people, including me and everyone at SAAHAS, who stand with you in support and solidarity. So, don’t hold yourself back from giving yourself the safety and security now.
I send you healing hugs, and wish you all the love, luck, and happiness in the world that you so rightfully deserve.
A fellow survivor,