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Letter to My Family

by annie

Dear family:

Welcome to my little corner of the web. By now you may have all read each and every word printed on these pages. I hope you have...but more than read them, I hope you have really heard what I've said...taken it in, thought about it, applied to your own life what belongs to you, and gained some valuable insight from my experiences and disclosures.

I know that first of all you are angry because I have let the cat out of the bag. I have told family secrets and in your minds, they should be kept in the closet. That is not how I believe. Secrets don't do anyone any good. Secrets don't facilitate healing. Secrets only guarantee that the things done in secret will continue on through the generations. They guarantee help for no one, especially those keeping them.

I never have been one to keep secrets. I told people I was abused even while in my teens, perhaps even younger. I told my school counselor, I told a doctor, I told someone at church. Unfortunately back then people didn't know what to do about it so it was easier to just ignore it and hope it would go away. I didn't tell these people everything...only a little piece...perhaps to see what, if anything, they would do with it.

Then when I met my husband, I shared some of it with him because I had some real fears about getting married and having sex. Luckily, he knew how to help me through some of those fears and has stood by me as I've worked through other difficulties the sexual abuse and other abuses caused. He is so much of the reason I have made it this far.

As I encountered problems along the way, I also spoke with my pastor about some of it, but still we didn't know how to really work through it, and I would run (not go back or bring it up again) once I disclosed the sexual abuse, too. It was too scary for me and I had too much shame. I was sure others would find me repulsive when they found out. I am so glad I know better now...that I trusted someone with my past and let him help me through it.

So even though you may have thought all this was secret until ten years ago, you were wrong. Of course no one who reads these pages will know your identity except other family members unless you tell them. The other people who read these pages don't know me or who my family really is. So in some ways, your secrets are still secrets.

Now, what I want to say to you is this:

To my abusers that are still alive, and any other abusers I may not know of: I hope you will read this site and find out what abuse does to children. I hope you will let yourself begin to feel the pain inflicted on myself and others. I hope you will also get in touch with your own pain. I do believe that most people who abuse were themselves abused. I don't hate you. I don't want to see you punished. I want to see you helped. I want to see you find freedom and victory over the darkness and power of sexual abuse. I want you to care enough for your children and your children's children that you will stop if you are still abusing...and do that no matter what you have to do to stop it. I hope you will go to those you have wounded and seek their forgiveness, understanding that forgiveness is a process that takes time...and of course trust must be earned again. I hope you will see how much you betrayed those you abused, and how much you have taken from them.

To those who were abused and/or are being abused: I pray that you will find courage and strength in these pages. What happened to you should not have happened. It was not your fault, it is not normal, all men are not like that. You have nothing to be ashamed of and you do not have to keep the secrets any longer. Until you can end the secrecy and do what you can to stop the abuse, it will continue on through generations. Your children will be abused...their children will be abused...you will marry abusers, etc. It goes on and on. If you already have children, it is your obligation and responsibility to protect them. It is your responsibility to see that they are nurtured and cared for in a healthy way. It is your responsibility to see that they get the help and support needed if they have already been abused, and that they are protected from their abusers. And it is your responsibility to believe them and be on their side when they disclose abuse. Too many of us have been expected to take care of ourselves as children and have not had anyone stand up for us against our abusers. We've been blamed for the abuse and shamed into silence. Some have even been threatened. We must take the responsibility for the children God gives us to nurture them and protect them at all costs.

For too long I looked the other way. I felt helpless. Abuse and incest was expected in our family. We all talked about it, knew about it when it happened to another family member, but we never told anyone who could or would put a stop to it, never confronted the abusers...we just kept letting it happen. A family member would abuse, but the spouse wouldn't be told to supposedly protect her/him from being hurt, or some family members wouldn't be told because of what they might do to the abuser. There were always excuses that did nothing but let the abusers continue abusing the same person and then allowed them to abuse new ones. I can't do that anymore. It doesn't help anyone. When we know of abuse and do nothing, we then must share some of that responsibility with the abusers. We also bear some blame for the pain and destruction it brings to the victims. It's time to stop enabling those that hurt our children.

I want to say now to everyone in my family that has been abused since I have been an adult, I am sorry for my part. I'm sorry that I didn't speak up. I'm sorry that I didn't find some way to stop it and to help you. And for those that I did finally step in and try to help, I'm sorry I failed even in my weak attempts and didn't do more. I hope that if you come to the place of recognizing and having to deal with some of the after-effects of abuse in your life that you will forgive me and that I perhaps can be of some support to you in your healing process. I do promise you this...if you ever need me to be there for you, I will be there. I will believe you, I will support you, I will walk along side you no matter what.

If I can but save one person from going through what I've gone through, it is all worth it.

To those who accuse me of making up lies of abuse to get attention...There are a whole lot of things I'd rather do to get attention than trump up charges of being sexually abused. Is that something you would ever do? I had all the attention I needed, and positive attention, before I began dealing with my past. I had a successful job that I loved, I was involved in ministries I enjoyed, I was content as far as my public life went. Disclosing a past life filled with sexual abuse doesn't exactly bring a flock of people to your doorstep who are willing to listen to you and support you. The truth of the matter is that sexual abuse issues make a lot of people uncomfortable and more than likely they will distance themselves from the person who is struggling to resolve past issues. Look at what you all did. People don't want to face the ugliness of such a crime. They'd rather keep their heads in the sand if possible. This includes people who are abusers themselves, people who were abused but can't face it, the family members who for strange reasons choose to side with the abusers, and people who just plain don't want to be bothered with another's pain. When survivors begin dealing with their abuse, more often than not they lose their family of origin, just like I did. They also lose their friends that aren't willing to stand by them in their time of need. Sometimes they even lose their spouses who are unwilling to change abusive behaviors. Many times the friends and family can't handle it when the survivor gets healthier and begins to set boundaries or stops playing unhealthy, unproductive games in relationships. And besides all that, most survivors I know don't even want anyone to know because their shame is so deep. So this is a ugly lie that someone, including me, would do this to get attention. This is not the kind of attention any normal person would seek.

I do want to add however, that I was one of the lucky ones. I did have some wonderful people who were there for me through the whole process and still are. They are jewels in my life and some of them had to keep after me because I wanted to isolate because of the pain. Had they not pursued and kept in contact, I might not be here today. This was not expected at all by me. It took me by surprise that they were there and it showed me how much some people cared about me even though before I wouldn't have believed it.

To you that are upset about my poem, "Nobody Cared, Nobody Cried", and are threatening me....I'm surprised, hurt, and sad that you can read a poem that comes from the depths of my being, full of the pain of feeling alone, worthless, and uncared for, and not be touched by that pain. I would hope that you could put your own stuff aside for just a few moments, your fears of exposure, your guilt, your shame, whatever it is that drives you, and feel with that little girl and cry for her. It's sad that even now the words are proven true... You see that poem isn't about incidents of abuse. They were just events repeated over and over again that reinforced the feelings of being alone. The poem is about a little girl who felt like there was no one who cared. It's about a little girl who never saw a tear shed for her or with her. That little girl happens to be me and the feelings happen to be mine. To coin a family phrase, "Shame on you!" that you can't see beyond yourself to feel for another human being.

Annie

I welcome your responses and will even put them here.


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