Recently I was invited, as a speaker for RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) to contribute to a book they are soon publishing. A book that will include letters from survivors of sexual abuse.
I am honored to share, and hopeful that by remembering my past with candor, by revealing my memories, mistakes, and insights, I might be positioned to help a person now.
Well, that's not entirely honest. I like to go big: I'm hopeful that it will help hundreds of people now and in the future.
This book excerpt is a little bit long and absolutely worth your attention. So I invite you to brew a mug of coffee or steep a cup of tea and find a moment. I encourage you to sit in the quiet while you read my words with volume.
Here it is, friends.
A letter to my Auntie Carol.
Dear Auntie Carol
I don't know if you remember or not but when I was twelve years old you were kind enough to let me stay in your home for a few days; it may even have been as long as a week. I was there with a cousin whose name I don't remember. I do remember that we had loads of fun, just being alone in the country and playing in the fields. I had always loved that house. I was glad you and Uncle Gerald moved into it after Aunt Rose died. It was kind of weird when Aunt Rose's husband married her sister. She was nice and all, but I preferred Aunt Rose so the house didn't feel the same till they moved out. I don't remember what happened to them. Maybe they moved away from all the reminders. It was all a very long time ago. They were elderly and I am sure they are all dead by now, reunited in whatever afterlife they believed in. Hopefully Aunt Rose wasn't too mad at her sister. Who knows? Maybe she even appreciated it and was partying with her sister's husband up in heaven. Life and love, as it turns out, is much more complex and sophisticated than I understood back when I was a child. I think that is what made my twelve-year-old attack of puberty so challenging.
Ah, puberty! What a cruel joke of evolution.
And that brings me to the point of my letter, and why many of my memories are so clouded over with the distraction of a more prevalent story.
Here is what I recall. I had had fun, felt warm and comfortable with you and Uncle Gerald, and enjoyed the company of whoever that distant cousin also visiting was. Likely it was someone my parents thought I would be positively influenced by, because now as I look back I suspect the whole visit was a sort of respite for my parents. Respite from the emotional instability my budding boobies and period onset invited. Acting out in puberty was simply a new kind of more perverse and confused acting out for me, and probably just added to my mountain of weird behaviors in the eyes of my parents. Back then I thought I was normal. I have since learned otherwise and wondered often how the strangeness of me influenced the strange happenings of my life. I have no answers for these wonderings. I just wonder.
So, indeed, it is possible that you were supplying respite for my parents and a positive influence for me. Whether that is true or not you were hospitable, asked for very few chores (which was respite for me), and I had fun. I want to say thank you for that. I don't think I ever did write the thank-you letter my mom asked me to send a few days after the vacation ended. Perhaps you felt ignored, unloved, unappreciated, but you were not. That is far from the truth of things. Sometimes gratitude gets lost in the grittiness of life. That is what happened. Life got gritty and so I shut my mouth.
I think it's time I wrote you that letter; the one I never would have written.
Dear Auntie Carol
I want to thank you for your generous hospitality, and tell you what happened to me, and to you, even though you were unaware.