If you would have told me a year ago that I would send the letter below to my family, I probably would have thought it was a very ambitious idea. How I could I possibly write a letter to my family sharing such a dark secret? Today, I can proudly say this letter has potentially reached 60+ people. That's 60 opportunities for a discussion on abuse, 60 opportunities for raising awareness, and 60 opportunities stating it's okay to share.
And it's only the beginning. I hope as you read the letter you, too, feel the power of a story.
Dear Family and Friends,
All I ask is that you read this letter in its entirety and choose kindness.
When I was 3 years old I told my mom that I was going to marry my uncle because “that’s what married people do,” and she asked what I meant. When my mom explained that moment of my past to me, she said that I had the most horrible look on my face. Then I revealed I had been sexually abused by my uncle.
When stories of sexual abuse are told, those listening don’t know how to react; what to say, what to do, what to believe. Most of the world knows little about abuse. It’s this taboo thing that people find the need to hush, so many victims of abuse never share their story. Yet, the sad truth is that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually abused before the age of 18. This means that with the 65 friends and family this letter is being sent to, 21 others have a closely guarded secret similar to mine. The truth is that 75% of children who are victims of sexual abuse never tell at all during childhood. Not once. So I thank my three-year-old self who chose to say something when her mother gave the opening to do so. I write this letter to SHATTER my own SILENCE. Because my uncle’s abuse was only the beginning of my story as a survivor. If you are reading this and feel that tinge in your gut because you know what it’s like to keep silent, I hope this letter serves as a permission for you to speak your silence. We can find the peace and freedom we’ve always deserved.
As a child, my mind repressed my memories until I completely forgot altogether. But, years later Post Traumatic Stress Disorder allowed me to discover my past once again. Two years after that, I remembered that other family members had sexually abused me—and one that was very close to me. Keeping silent took a terrible toll on my mind and spirit. For a while, denial helped me survive. But my memories couldn’t be swept under the rug by denial. As I lived in silence the turmoil within me grew worse. From looking at me, no one would ever imagine just how much turmoil was going on inside of me. It was this pressure constantly weighing on me and a shadow that crept in the background of my thoughts. I felt responsible to keep his secret to keep everyone happy. If I spoke up, I would no longer be the only one hurt. I was alone. I was afraid. I was at war with protecting myself and protecting everyone I loved.
Keeping my secret caused an invisible wall to form between me and my family and friends. I wanted to protect all of you from the knowledge of it, and in doing so I found myself lying about inconsequential things unrelated to the abuse. Ever wonder why I haven’t been around the last few years? As the turmoil within me grew worse, I found the courage to choose myself. I chose to not have a relationship with my abuser; I would not talk to him, see him, or be around him. But my abuser was still a loved family member to all of you. And so, when he was at events… I was not. I missed countless holidays and family became a word that lost its meaning—and for that I am sorry if I have caused you any pain or sadness from my absence.
There are four reasons I am writing everyone this letter today.
1. Silence delays the healing process. I experienced this first-hand. Now, I am in the process of becoming a speaker as an advocate for other victims and survivors to keep UNQUIET.
2. Abusers are the ones who placed their family or friendship or reputation in jeopardy and they were responsible for the consequences of their actions. I did not and am not.
3. 70% of child sex offenders have between one and nine victims. At least 20% have ten to forty victims. An AVERAGE serial child molester can have as many as 400 victims.
4. September 4, 2016
September 4th is my wedding date! You will notice there are a few traditions broken at the wedding. I will not be walked down the aisle by my father, there will be no father-daughter dance, and my dad will not be by my mother’s side at dinner. If you’ve put the puzzle pieces together, you’ll have realized that my dad is one of my childhood abusers. My dad is not invited to nor welcome at my wedding. September 4th is mine and Dave’s day. The spotlight deserves to be on us. So, on my wedding day all I ask is that you respect my choice to not have my dad there. If you'd like to talk or have any questions, call or text me at 216-------.
Celebrate life with us, enjoy our special day, and dance the night away.