Happy 13th birthday. I’m sorry this letter is late. I know your birthday was a couple of days ago, but truthfully although I’m 18 years older sometimes I just don’t know how to put something so important into words. I want to do this the justice it deserves, the justice you deserve and I want to raise the awareness it so rightly needs. I’ve rewritten this letter over and over again trying to get it perfect, but there is no perfect way to tell you what I need to say. So here goes everything I need to tell you.
I see that you’re mostly sad. I notice that. I see you and I see your pain. Half won’t notice your sadness and the other half will just see an emotional hard work and bad-tempered teen. Your moods will be blamed on hormones. I see the truth, a young girl who’s struggling and I’m here to tell you it will be OK. I see your hurt, your painful shyness of not thinking you’re good enough and I’m here for you. I see your notes you write to yourself about happiness being fiction. I’m writing to tell you that’s not true. Happiness does exist and one day you’ll live it. You’ll be happy. Not every day will be great, you’ll of course have bad days, but because of hard times, you’ll be able to see the good. You’ll appreciate and have gratitude for not only the good times but what the bad times teach you and how they shape you. Overall you’ll be really happy. You’ll learn to love yourself and you’ll have the most amazing family that adores you.
Before you get there though, I need to tell you something that you haven’t fully figured out yet. You’re starting too but you’re still in a bit of denial, believing you’re perhaps just overreacting. You’re not and I wish you’d talk. Tell a teacher, tell your Nana, tell a friend’s Mum, just tell someone what happened to you all those years ago. Tell anyone. You’ve dealt with this the only way you’ve known how to and I’m proud of you for that, but you need to stop dealing with it alone. You’re not alone. I feel like I need to write this sensitively, how can I find a nice way to write the words that send a chill down my spine, and then it dawns on me I can’t. So I’m not going to. I won’t sugar coat this for you because that would be to downplay something that should never be brushed off as if it doesn’t matter because you matter. This matters. So as I take a deep breath, here it goes. You’ve been sexually abused and as I wipe a tear from my eye because I can’t change it, I know there is something more important for me to do than to relive the past. I have to change the future. You have to. Your job now is to raise awareness of sexual abuse.
I know you don’t get this fully, thinking it was OK because he was a guardian and he was just looking out for you. He wasn’t and you need to get this message out to people who are maybe going through the same thing. What he did wasn’t OK. None of it. It doesn’t matter that he looked after you, that only makes it worse. It doesn’t matter that it only happened once (that you recall, but let’s be honest, there are whole parts of your childhood you’ve blocked out and you can’t remember) and that it could have been worst. No that’s brushing off something very serious. You were in Primary School, he was 37 years older and touched you and hurt you. That’s never ever fine. When social services let you down, that wasn’t because it was OK, that was simply someone doing their job terribly wrong.
When social services came round and one sat in the same place the incident took place that was wrong. You couldn’t bear to sit with them and you didn’t trust them. I understand. I get why you sat on the floor in front of the radiator with your head down cuddling your knees and crying into your lap. I know why you couldn’t look at the social worker whilst she sits comfortably where you were abused. I don’t get why they’ll leave and give up on you so easily. I’m so sorry for that, but please stop thinking what happened to you was OK because of social services failing you. I know that them walking away meant you went back to having this man in your life every day and that it chipped away at you, but please know that doesn’t make it right.
I wish I could make you see the truth and tell you how much you are loved and what real love is. You see you turned 31 a couple of days ago and even though it happened in Primary School you never really forget it for long. You think about it most days. It’s always there, lurking and affecting your relationships, friendships and beliefs you have about yourself. Struggling with rejection, thinking you’re not good enough and battling demons. I get it. For that man who touched you inside, that wasn’t OK. He shouldn’t have ever done that, but you did nothing wrong. You were just a very little girl, who trusted someone who took advantage. He told you that you should have enjoyed it and made you think you were abnormal, he made it so you didn’t tell anyone because you thought you were weird to not enjoy it. Living with him and you continuing to be nice to him and thinking he loves you more than anyone. That pains me to know now, but it’s OK. You live with that shame every day and I only hope one day soon you overcome it.
Over time you slowly start to change. You stop being that girl full of pain. You’ll look for positives in the darkness. You’ll use it to help others. It will make you so aware when bringing up your own children. You’ll speak about sexual abuse to parents and you’ll try hard to raise awareness. You’ll research the facts. 1 in 20 children in the UK is abused. Meaning for every classroom, they is a good chance there is a child being sexually abused. You know one in three children don’t tell an adult and you’ll know that over 90% of all cases are by someone known to the child. You’ll also know it’s nearly always someone people wouldn’t suspect in a million years, these people are very clever. You’ll push for this information to be out there. You’ll know nearly all sexual abuse isn’t reported, detected, or prosecuted. Things get brushed off as tantrums, hormones, and attention seekers. You’ll know better and you use this awareness to teach others to not so easily dismiss a child’s behavior. *Statistics are based on the time this post was written, but always check for updated statistics from credible resources*
Most children don’t tell anyone that they’re being sexually abused and in your case, it was because you didn’t really realise you were abused. As far as you were concerned this was normal and fine. It’s a crime that is usually only witnessed by the abuser and the victim. Kids don’t know they are being abused, why would they? They are kids. You didn’t think there was anything to tell, you didn’t want to be laughed at or not taken seriously. You were so incredibly young. You didn’t want to not be normal or to look silly and you definitely didn’t want to get in trouble. Sadly you also didn’t want to get your abuser in trouble for like many abused kids, you believe they love you more than anyone. You don’t want to lose them or upset anyone. Who else would possibly love you after all? Everyone already jokes and taunts you about your temper. You think you’re a nothing, but you’re not. You are good enough and one day you’ll be able to start embracing yourself and accepting yourself.
You’ll have friends and family that just get you. You’ll be understood instead of written off as attention-seeker by people who have no clue what’s happened. I know at present people don’t sit down and ask you why you behave the way you do or give you a chance to trust them but know as you get older that changes. Things get better.
As time passes you see things and you notice things perhaps others wouldn’t. You grow stronger and more beautiful from everything that’s happened in your childhood. Whilst you never forget, you still get to be happy in the end. That’s how strong you become. You meet the most amazing man called Tony when your 20. You’ll marry him only a year later and have two amazing kids. You’ll have days where you can’t actually believe your luck. Life with them is way better than you could have ever imagined. Way better than those notes you use to write. Sure not all days will be like that. You’ll suffer Post-Natal Depression with your daughter. You’ll have to overcome many emotions now that you understand it shouldn’t have happened. They’ll be days you’ll feel rage and you’ll take it out on Tony and later you’ll come to feel ashamed of that. He’ll never think any worst of you though, he doesn’t go anywhere. He’s the 1st person to not poke fun out of your temper, but he’ll see the person underneath. He’ll see your pain, sadness, anger, and that your heart needs some sewing back up. He steers you on a path where you start to heal.
Tony teaches you and starts the healing process for you. Later you’ll learn to do healing for yourself, you’ll be more independent but he’ll always be strongly by your side. He sees you for you and by 21 years you finally make an official statement to the police. I’m sad to tell you the case gets dropped, due to lack of evidence. Although please don’t be sad, because you rise from this and you made that statement. You did it! You care enough about yourself to know now that what he did to you mattered and that statement told him you know that. What’s more, if another victim comes forward your statement could help them get their justice. The officer who deals with the case is lovely and all the fears you had about speaking up were just that. It’s nowhere near as hard as you think it will be. Bottling it up is much harder and whilst it’s emotional going through it all, it’s also a relief to finally start to get some closure. Speaking up was the right decision, it’s always the right decision. The police care, they take you seriously and it’s the start of you taking care of yourself and becoming happy. (updated: reading this back years later I realise my white privilege with how the police treat me and how not everyone gets the same treatment, I wish I knew what to say about that, but I don’t, but I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone has this experience and for that, I’m so deeply sorry and I will keep learning and trying to do better).
They’ll be darkness, they’ll be pain and bad relationships which you’ll struggle to cope with. They’ll be an attempted overdose I can’t stop. You’ll allow yourself to be put in low self-worth positions in life because of all this, but that’s for another letter. In the end, though, life will be good. You’ll be happy and this is you on your 31st birthday. Happy. Something you never thought existed let alone would happen ☺
Know you are good enough ♥
Love your 31-year-old self,
This post was inspired by Five Little Doves letter to herself on her 17th birthday.
After I published this, many people came forward to share stories, raise awareness and start to heal. Here is one of them.