About 6 years ago I decided to write a letter to each and every one of my abusers. It was part of the healing process for me and because I can’t do anything that helps me heal and not share it, I opened up a website, called Letters to My Abusers. Since its opening, thousands have visited and many brave souls submitted their own letters to the project at http://www.letterstomyabusers.com
The following is my own letter to my grandfather, one of my abusers. Those of you who are survivors may find this kind of letter writing powerful. I am including the Releasing Letters Guide in case you decide to take this step. You do not need to submit it to be published on the site, but you are welcome to. Please do not read if you are in a fragile place or attempt to write the letter unless you have support, preferably from a licensed therapist.
Releasing Letter Guide
The following is to be used as a guide. Each part of this process, holds its own benefit in your healing. It is a way to purge, confront, acknowledge, and break the silence of what was done to you and a proclamation of how you are taking back the power taken from you as a child. Here is a guide I’ve developed based on the letters I’ve written on my own path to healing.
In as much detail as possible, describe what your abuser did to you on a physical level.
Describe what you were thinking or feeling at the time (numb, nothing, is normal as well as terrified and confused) There is no right or wrong.
Include the emotions and beliefs you carried with you all these years and how some of it continues to affect you today.
Describe how it should have been (ex. you should have loved and respected me, I should have been safe in your care)
Include how that person changed you and how you see the world.
Let them know you are now taking back your power.
Release them from the toxic hold they’ve had on your body and mind. If you feel you want to forgive them, do so. If you are not ready, explain how you are not going to allow them to infiltrate your life anymore. Let them go.
This letter is for you, it is not necessarily a letter you will send. If you decide to send it, please make sure you are in a place where you are ready for any backlash that may come from sending it and that you are safe and supported. If not, do not send it at this time. It is still effective without giving it to your perpetrator.
Please include the age at which you were abused and whether the person was a relative, family friend, stranger etc.
I am also asking that you include some reflection on the process of writing the letter: the emotions that came up, the difficulty writing it, the time it took, the benefit you think you received and anything you may want to say in the form of advice to other survivors. You may also include where you are in your healing and what has helped you the most.
Please include a short bio (no more than one to two paragraphs) which includes what you are doing today.
Be kind and loving to yourself always but especially during and after writing this letter. Know that many emotions will surface and be sure to have a support system in place.
MY FIRST KISS
I was molested by grandfather on more than one occasion during the two years he lived with us. He was the first to molest me. He was my first kiss. I was eight.
You came to us in the summer of 1977. She spoke of you often; her Papi, the love of her life.
She spoke of how you took care of her by sending money to the Christian homes you left her in. At eight I did not understand why you left her in the first place, but she idolized you and so my doubts were quieted by her constant outpouring of praise for you.
This visit to New York would be the first time we met and its funny, how I don’t remember our first meeting. There is no sense of place or smell, nothing to ground me to those first moments we met. It was as if you appeared out of thin air, suddenly sleeping in our living room, living in our house. As I think of you my memory consists of small scenes. There is nothing in the space between, just fragments. I struggle to remember the details of the times you molested me. I wonder, if you were alive, what would you remember? Would you remember touching me, kissing me as if I was your lover?
I was in my mother’s room that day, trying to roll over on my head. I kept trying and trying and my lower body would not cooperate. I could only make it half way and I was too scared to just let my torso flip over to the other side. My butt was up in the air and suddenly I could feel you there at the doorway, staring at me. I looked between my legs and could see your big black shoes and short legs. I was laughing and within seconds your hand was on me, touching my butt in an upward motion. I stopped trying to roll over. You walked away. I sat confused.
You called to me from the living room and I walked over to you. There you positioned a chair in front of you and motioned me to stand on it. I wasn’t sure what you were doing, what game we were about to play. Later I would understand that you wanted to reach my lips with yours.
There on a chair- in a living room- you, my seventy year old grandfather gave me my first kiss.
I remember your mouth on mine and your tongue trying to force its way into my mouth. It felt large and bumpy, dry and disgusting. Your teeth were old and some were missing but I could feel the ones that were left under my bottom lip, cutting into me. Till this day I can feel your mouth.
I can see it too.
Did I look? Or was it my imagination, having seen your mouth in speech so many times before?
You held my head closer as I tried to unlock my mouth from yours. I cringed away from this vile and new sensation but you held my head forcing me to endure your tongue as it thrust more and more into my mouth. I opened my eyes, I could smell your cologne, I could see your thin salt and pepper hair and I tried to see what was happening. Within me was a chorus of emotion; shock, confusion, a strange numbness that stays with me till this day. This was the day, my detachment truly began so that I could survive you and the many that would come.
For the next year or two, your abuse of my innocence, my body and mind continued. Not even a broken leg from a car accident would stop you. There as you lay incapacitated, your leg in a cast, you continued to molest me. Each morning I received an invitation to your cot where you placed me on your good leg, instructing me to hump it. Between my legs rose of an unfamiliar heat, a heat that would shame me and confuse me as I tried to wrestle with an understanding of what was happening to me. I don’t remember disgust or fear on those mornings. I remember the creaking of the cot and how you tried to make it stop so as not to wake my mother. I remember the sensations rising in my body each time you touched me and how I struggled to repress them. It all felt so wrong and dirty, so delightful and arousing. In those mornings, my ability to distinguish right from wrong was altered, the normal development of my self as a sexual being stilted and any sense of trust especially in those closest to me was shattered. For if you could do the unspeakable …then who could I trust? And if I could so easily participate and feel such arousal…what did that make me?
I wonder how you justified it in your mind or if you did at all. Did you think that I liked it? Did you think on some level you were expressing your love for me? Is that how you reasoned violating your own flesh and blood? I was a little girl and you were supposed to love and protect me. It was up to you to teach me and encourage me to reach higher not bury me into the ground.
I hated what you did to me. I hated that you stole the thrill of my first kiss, the excitement of that never before felt arousal, the first time a boy touches you. In so many ways you stunted parts of me that were still in the process of developing. That day and the times that followed would forever alter me. My sense of trust, security, and family all fragmented into pieces I would struggle a lifetime to repair.
You took my precious mind and body and twisted a natural part of me into something dirty and sinful. You committed one of the greatest evils of the world against me and paved the way for the others. It was this first violation that facilitated the men that would follow, teaching me that men touch little girls and that little girls respond and do as they are told. Soon I began to accept this behavior as normal and when the others came, I didn’t know to say no or run or tell. You had no right to use me to act out of your perverse sexual fantasies. My innocence was precious and virginal and instead of honoring it, you ripped it open and exposed me to your twisted ways, never again to return to the little girl I once was.
I grew to hate you throughout the two years you stayed. Despite my protests, my mom wanted you to walk me to school in fourth and fifth grade. I’d walk way ahead of you as you huffed and puffed behind me. I relished my power each morning as you struggled to catch up and in some small measure I found my vengeance. My mother scolded me for leaving you behind, but I did it anyway. She thought I was just embarrassed to have my grandfather walk me to school and for some reason she didn’t punish me for it. Little did she know, it was deeper than just a preadolescent rebellion. I was rebelling against you, trying to outrun you and your dirty little hands. I didn’t want to walk with you or be seen with you because by this time I hated you and everything you became to me. What began as confusion became an understanding that something was terribly wrong. By the time I was ten, I didn’t like what you were doing to me and it was making me sick inside. I was powerless to stop you and so I used whatever I could to survive you and your perverted acts against me. I detached, going further and further into a world where you couldn’t find me, hiding my true self from you, guarding her against you.
As of today I refuse to hide or run from you anymore. I’ve hated you for so long but time has given me the distance and wisdom to know that hating you just keeps me trapped in our dirty dance, leaving me always like a shamed whore, abandon ed and dissatisfied. Today I release you and all that I made your acts mean about me. I release my grief over the corruption of what could have been grandfatherly love. I release the regret of my first kiss given to me by my grandfather on living room chair. I release the need to say over and over that you molested me as if by saying it enough times I could release its power over me. I release the wish that things had been different. I release the memory, of the grit of your hands against my body and the guilt of wanting it. I didn’t know that granddaughters deserve better, I didn’t know that you were supposed to protect me and love me in pure and spiritual ways. Today I reclaim the parts you so effectively damaged. Today, I reclaim me.
I hope that you are free from what plagued you here on earth.
Our dance is over.
Rest in Peace
Your Only Granddaughter,