You aren’t going to want to hear this. You’re headstrong, stubborn, independent and determined. These are all qualities which will be useful later in life, but—you should hear me out.
I write this because I know what happens next. I know what you were forced to do, how you suffered then and for so many years afterward, and how the abuse worsened after that day.
I know you feel insecure, ugly, different, alone. I know you feel like an outcast because all the other girls seem to turn heads, have boys lusting after them, seem to be developing into young women and don’t have the same unsightly dark hair and pockmarked skin as you do. I know you feel unwanted, awkward and out of place, wishing someone would pay attention to you. In spite of all that, I want you to know that attention is not always a good thing. Attention can be good but it can also be very, very bad.
He’s older than you. You don’t even like him. You think he’s weird, if not downright strange, but he pays attention to you, so you think he’s not that bad, that you can overlook the unattractive quirks. At least someone is finally interested in you. You’re not the one left on the sidelines anymore. It’s probably worth putting up with his baggage so you don’t feel so lonely and different from the other girls.
He tells you that you’re pretty. He says he likes that you’re outspoken, direct, and different. He won’t like it for long. Soon he will find it threatening to his masculinity. He will begin to prey on your weakness, physically harm you, and he will find his strength in making you feel small and weak. He will start trying to control you. He will try to shut you down when he feels threatened. He will hurt you.
He’s going to ask you to go with him to spend the day at a popular tourist attraction in town.
Even if your parents say it’s alright to go, even if it’s just for a few hours, do not do it dear.
He’s going to be nice at first. Then he’s going to take you to a secluded area and make you perform an act on him which you absolutely will not want to do. He’s going to hold you down. He’s going to force you. He is going to make you feel defiled, disgusting, ashamed, confused.
And then it’s going to get worse.
Soon the abuse will turn violent. He’ll use you as his punching bag. He knows you’re insecure and he gets off on it. He knows you’re afraid to tell. He knows his threats terrify you. He knows you’re young and insecure. He knows you aren’t strong enough to just walk away. He says nice things to you after he hurts you, and thinks this will make you think he’s not that bad. It will only contribute to your fear.
You’ll look back on that day as the beginning of a learning experience. You’ll eventually come out stronger but you won’t be able to change what happened. You will feel ashamed even when you finally accept that it wasn’t your fault. You won’t tell anyone about it until many many years later.
You’ll confide in your future husband about what happened that day. You’ll finally begin to see that it wasn’t your fault. You were a child. He took advantage of you. You still won’t be able to fully come to terms with it though. You still won’t be able to tell your parents what happened. Part of you will always be angry with them for letting you go, for allowing you to decide that it was safe to go, for letting you make that call. They, the adults, should have and said no. They should have let you be furious with them for not letting you have your way. They didn’t. You’ll never forget this.
One day you will have daughters of your own. Be their parent, not their friend. Be vigilant regarding their feelings. Teach them the importance of self-love, and communicate openly with them. Tell them what happened. Make them understand that you have to set limits even when they might hate you for it, because then maybe they won’t have to look back and remember horrific days like the one coming your way. Make absolutely sure that they know they can talk to you, about anything.
Know that even though things will get worse before they get better, you will come out on the other side. You will find happiness, peace, solace. You will be able to forgive and face yourself.
Above all, know that what happens next is not your fault, and keep the following guidelines in mind.
Feeling Your Feelings
I suppressed the truth and didn’t tell anyone what happened to me for many years. Actually saying what happened out loud, to others who supported me, created an outpouring of bottled-up emotions that I hadn’t allowed myself to experience before. It was hard but so important to let them out. Once I did that, my pain became easier to talk about and eventually I didn’t feel like I was suppressing it anymore.
At the time I didn’t have anyone that I felt comfortable enough to talk to. But eventually I found it in my wonderfully supportive partner. What he gave me was an unbiased, nonjudgmental ear, so I could express how I felt. He gave me a warm shoulder to cry on. I felt like I could trust him and I felt safe. This took me years to accomplish. And it wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t listened when I needed him to, without projecting or implying shame, guilt or judgment. If you don’t feel like you have this kind of support, there are many organizations and support groups out there who can provide it. You can also find support in unexpected places. For years I confided in my cat because I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone. It was silly but surprisingly comforting just to speak about how I felt, even if my pet had no clue what I was saying. Remember that you are not alone, that you never have to be.
I put this off for years but when I finally felt ready, I sought out professional support. It took me several therapists and types of therapy to find the right fit. Once I did, I started using coping methods I learned to deal with my inner anxieties and was able to shed of bad habits which made me feel worse: ruminating for example.
Care for/about Yourself
This cannot be stressed enough. It’s so important to practice self-care, whether you feel down or not. I have tried hard to make a habit of doing something for me every single day. It can be indulgent, like getting a massage, taking a relaxing bath or walk, treating yourself to an enjoyable activity, or something as simple as cooking your favorite dish or reading a book you enjoy. No matter how busy I am, I always make time to do something selfish, even if it’s only for five minutes a day. On days when I am completely snowed under I still try to read a few minutes before bed. The habit is surprisingly relaxing and it feels good. I encourage you to adopt Drake’s self-affirmation: “What am I doing? What am I doing? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me.”