Hi. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. But I feel like I know your story and you know mine, better than you think. Not exactly, of course, because who can ever truly know our stories other than ourselves. But I know the shape of it, the feel. There are things that all survivors share. Unfortunate, universal truths that result from this horrible wounding.
I am so sorry for all of this. I am sorry for what happened to you, and sorry for it getting brought back up now. Although, for me personally, what happened never really went away. It was always there, and the people who mattered in my life just ignored it or expected me to deal with it. I’m sorry for that, too, if that also happened to you.
I’m sorry, because I know the pressure to forget. To go along to get along. I cannot imagine what it would be like in a family with a TV show, a family with so many people who could have so many different responses. I don’t know what it was like in your family, but I am sorry if it was anything less than 100% supportive and caring and kind. There are things your loved ones are supposed to say when things like this happen, and I don’t know if you ever heard them. But I’m saying them, if you want to listen.
It is not your fault.
What was done to you was completely, totally out of your control. You didn’t do anything to “bring this on yourself.” And it definitely wasn’t part of God’s plan. No. Way. This isn’t some major test that the Lord wants you to struggle through. Growing up, I heard a lot of religious people say, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” This isn’t that.
This is 100% on your abuser. He was wrong. He was outside of God’s plan. It is a terrible thing that he did to you. And then he left you to deal with it.
Your parents were wrong.
This, what was done to you, is a crime. It should have been treated as such. It was good of them to get your abuser out of the house, away from you. That was right. But more should have been done. You deserved more. More than a year of waiting for it to be reported. More than having to live in the same house with your abuser. More than having to listen to him tout his “purity” during his courtship. To pretend, before God and man, that because he hadn’t kissed his girlfriend, he was pure. That, more than anything, pisses me off. Hurts me deeply. Because I can imagine how much it may hurt you.
This has nothing to do with purity.
There is only one thing that matters about sex or sexual experiences: Consent. That is it. Whatever your religious beliefs, that is the No. 1 rule, the only one that should ever be considered. Whatever you do, whenever you do it, whomever you do it with – this should be your guide: If both of you don’t want it equally, it’s not OK.
What he did to you, that is the opposite of purity. It reveals a deep impurity of the soul. He took without asking. He stole something from you — but it wasn’t your purity. Your purity, your value, your essence of self, is how you treat yourself and others. As long as you hold true to that, to the importance of kindness and compassion, you will be among the few truly pure people in the world.
You don’t have to forgive anyone. Ever.
I remember what it was like growing up in a Christian household. It was a lot like yours, actually, except with a lot fewer people. But I remember it all: the Sunday mornings, the purity pledges, the Beatitudes and, most of all, the importance of forgiveness.
It is the cornerstone of our faith. We forgive because we are forgiven. Without it, we cannot hope to attain salvation – that is what we are taught. I am still struggling with the what forgiveness means to me now, now that I have abandoned my faith in God and replaced it with a faith in myself. But I do know this one thing, the thing I have figured out: I never have to forgive my abuser. And you don’t either.
Forgiveness is not a requirement, not something to be coaxed or cajoled out of you. It is yours to give — or not. It is not the entry cost to get to heaven. Not for this. I will forgive my abuser when he has walked through the same fire that I have. When he has gone through years of therapy, when he has suffered from PTSD and had to take a leave of absence from work, when he has lived and worked 15 feet from the person who terrifies him the most in the world — that will be a start. But it will still not earn my forgiveness.
Maybe God can judge me for that, if he wants. If he exists. But I don’t think he will. Because he knows my heart, and my soul. And they are pure. I would never hurt someone the way I have been hurt. I do not withhold forgiveness out of spite or malice, but out of protection. Out of protest. Until the last rapist, the last molester, has a full and complete understanding of what they have taken from us, their victims.
I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But I know your story. I have been in a similar place. And my heart is with yours now, sending you hope for healing and wellness.