Anonymous Survivor Story: 'Letter To A Perpetrator'
Why Do You Want To Tell Your Story? To express this pain and this journey using my own voice for once. So people understand the prevalence of abuse in young lives, the gravity of it, the impacts it has on the lives of victims and survivors - sometimes ending them - and to help people understand how abuse is structured into familial, political, social and economic systems. All of these need to change so that child abuse can stop forever.
Tell Us Your Story Hi [name],
I don't know if you remember me. I'm gonna wager that you might. Your mother cleaned for my family and I spent some time at your family's house in [place] around the time I was 7. I remember the floor plan, the colour of the walls. I remember the big rectangular window that looked out. I remember your parents' waterbed. I remember lying down on some blankets in the spare room between your bedroom and [name]'s. You teased me a lot and sometimes hurt me, so I was scared of you. I had the door closed. The blind was closed or the small window was grimy or blocked, I don't know - it was too far above me. The lights were off, or maybe my eyelids were just dimmed with dread about what I knew was going to happen as soon as I heard the door open, saw its blade of light hit the wall. Light from the nice window in the front door, outside of which was a small garden with a bush whose leaves were like pennies. I liked to pick and count them when I was trying to avoid you and your nicer, but still mean sister and her even nicer, but still mean friends.
A lot of kids were mean to me. I'd been sexually abused by my father since birth, and the scars on my personality made me weird. He facilitated my abuse at the hands of many other men, often for money, some at places like kindergarten and school. Some of this abuse was filmed. I've seen my own suffering cited in articles about Internet child pornography. My father groomed me so that I'd either seek out abuse or submit to it, and so that I'd never speak of either form. I would die, you see. The ways were numerous but they had the same effect and imprint on my soul. My baseline was scared. I grew up scared. My life is riddled with black holes of terror that my memories slipped into until, just recently, they began emerging, slowly revealing themselves as gravity released them back into the fabric of what feels, now, like a new universe where I don't have to fear for my life anymore.
That abuse persisted another 6 years after you and your hands and your penis left my life. I think you referred to those as 'willies' when you groomed and abused me, dropping your voice into authoritative big brother mode when you were trying to replicate, or exorcise, what i'm assuming was done to you, upping your pitch back to a teenage whine when you realised you were getting off on your own transgression and hypocrisy. Anyway, where was I... yeah, back in that small room that would feel like a cell except for its clutter. I was trembling and I'm trembling now as I write this. In, perhaps, the exact same way. My legs are instinctively crossed - to protect my dick from prying hands, to protect others from the existence of what I had learned was a weapon and am deciding now has the potential not to be. My legs probably crossed the same then.
What had happened, you see, was that I'd been playing Game Boy - the Pokémon TCG video game tie-in. I remember where I was in the game, too, but you wouldn't have been interested then and you probably won't be interested now, because in that moment and in your memory since I've just been an object that you might have accidentally brushed against once. Anyway, I was singing softly to myself. I liked singing, I was good at it and I still am. It relaxed me and reassured that I had a voice to begin with, despite propaganda otherwise. I was cooing the words 'Caterpie, Caterpie' to myself. Maybe the tune will come back to me. But I wasn't listening to myself, I was listening to you when you said 'caught you' with the same nasty, bitter edge to your voice I'd recognise in my father's and his friends's sometimes. You jumped on top of me and I went limp. I made the decision, as I'd do often at that age and continue doing, less consciously, into adulthood, to first unfocused both of my eyes and then cross one of them. The right one, you may have noticed. I imagined that my eye was some kind of laser beam or x-ray or both, one eye to hurt you with the look of my helplessness and one eye to memorise literally everything around me, anything to shift my focus away from That.
I'd been diagnosed with ADHD earlier in my childhood, and now I feel fine without Ritalin. But I still take it... I have a slight drug problem. Nothing major, but enough to sometimes hurt me in an echo of the way you and others hurt me. This time was particularly bad, it was different than the time you stood in front of me in the bathroom or knelt in front of me on the floor of your bedroom. You were hurting me extra this time. I could see it, blurrily, from the tiny perch I'd picked for myself on the thin pane of that high window. I could feel blood coming from my ear. Things seemed quieter in that ear after that. For twenty years until the other day, when your face popped into my head and suddenly it rang clear as a bell.
Maybe the time in the bathroom was a second, gentler round after you'd cleaned me up. But I don't think it really matters. Something changed for me around then. I'd grown up 15 minutes down the hill and up the river from you, and my accent was as Kiwi as yours, maybe a bit posher. Maybe that's why you didn't like me, and for that at least I can empathise. I hate the posh. But I'd been raised in a closed bubble by [nationality]s, 2 aliens living alone with their single spawn, pretending to be humans in a dark house on the outskirts of town. If they were aliens then I was something else, a ghost in that house, choosing something equally monstrous but certainly different to be, doing anything to not be like Dad but for some reason taking on the shame he should have felt anyway. I've always felt like a ghost, like I've died, like I'm Holy, like I've been singled out. As a result I singled myself out. It created both great successes and great upsets in my life.
I'm beginning to learn how to interact with other people, how to treat them and what to expect from them. I wasn't doing so fine before. The empathy that sustained me, that connected me to the living, was still there, but were beginning to be frayed in those same black holes that blot out my eyes when I don't want to know what's happening to me. Well, after you hurt me in that little room, I changed my accent! To a [nationality] one, not ideal, but because if the working-class Kiwis my Dad kept me walled off from were just as terrifying as he was at least I had the comfort of a mother, equally abused, humiliated and forcibly implicated, but loving in the pure way that a child needs. Her light shone through as stubbornly as the light through that obstructed rectangle of glass I leant against that afternoon, watching my body being smothered by your violence. I became a kind of imaginary friend to myself, with a new voice and identity. I had to be my own friend because this change isolated me further, even if it cushioned my psyche from repeated blows.
I make sure when I can not to speak like my Dad and I like my accent, but I wish sometimes my Kiwi one would come back to me, undoing all the crises of identity that kept hurting me long after dicks and hands did. If it does come back, I hope it never bends to the same shapes your accent did in those ugly sessions. I do feel like a Kiwi, and I'm poorer now than you ever were and it's hard but there's nobility in it, and I'm trying to rebuild my life after that day you joined in its wrecking crew, and I don't want to be scared in my own home or community anymore, and I'm trying finally to Live! and Be Good! and Be Better! than you were on that day and, I'm sorry, assuming you are now. Maybe I'm reaching out because you're closer in age to me than many of the other people who abused me. Maybe you've acknowledged what you did and what was surely done to you to provide such a sophisticated map for your own predations.
I can't forgive you, but I can forgive myself and the World. I just hope you listen to my pain, and know there's a lot more where that came from, and I'll always be carrying it like a boulder in my brain, no matter how far it rolls from jagged mountains to open plains. And I hope you never again do to someone what you did to me. I'm not a thing anymore. You know what I am: I'm a person. And so are you.
The trip to the other side of the black hole is pretty fast when you recognise that.