A letter to my non-survivor friends: things I want to tell you but don’t know how

I’m one of those women who only in my 30s started recovering memories of my father sexually abusing me.  This discovery caused both a terrible upheaval in my life and a new found hope.

I have a terrible relationship with my family and a disaster of a romantic life.  But I have managed to make some friends: the kind I can call at 3 A.M., who would find the time to talk even after their twins were born, who will lend me money if I need to.  We challenge each other and made each other laugh.

My friends are all wonderful people with a strong sense of justice.  They could easily be any of the posters here.  None of them, however, are abuse survivors and perhaps that’s where the problem lies.

But most of my friendships have experienced strains once I started talking of my past.  So here are some things I want to say:

•    You should have given me a hug after I told you.  I was sitting there, crying, and you couldn’t so much as give me a hug?

•    If you don’t know how to help me, please just ask.  Survivors of abuse often have a really hard time asking for help.  Had you asked, I would tell you that I want a hug and I want to be able to talk honestly.  I’ve been carrying this secret for so many years.

•    It’s true, I’m not defined by the abuse, but it has profoundly affected me.  I need to talk about it, and figure out all the ways in which it affected me in order to move on.

•    I know it must be hard for you to hear about a father molesting his daughter.

•    To the very few individuals who have avoided me – really?

•    I’m no longer automatically in favor of accepting and promoting sex work in the name of personal freedom;  consent is a tricky concept in the context of abuse survivors, and the ability of some adult survivors to give consent under certain circumstances is highly complicated.  I’d gladly elaborate, but you have to be open to listen to ideas and emotions that would make you very uncomfortable.

•    Don’t tell me I should date men who believe in abstinence for religious reasons just because I’m a prude when it comes to sex.  I’m an Arugula eating, atheist Obama supporter just like you – I want my partner to share my basic values.  I have a lot of sexual healing to do but does the fact that I’m far from ready to have sex really mean I’m not allowed to date?  Because that’s what it seems like you’re saying.

•    It would help if you picked up a book or two about sexual abuse.  But I’m too shy to ask.

•    I know that I’m exposing you to a level of evil that none of you ever encountered before.  But I thought about it, and I’m comfortable with it.  Being aware of evil is part of being human.  Innocence of a certain kind is an appropriate quality for a child, not for an adult.

•    I’m happier than I’ve ever been, amidst all this pain.  I know it’s hard to understand.
•    I know I’m revealing a part of my that’s unbelievably insecure but I’m also very strong.  I have a lot to give and I want to give, even if I need help right now.

•    Thank you.  Most of you are really trying, I know, and I really appreciate it.  Really.  I just wish it weren’t so damn hard.

I hope one day I’ll have the courage to say some of this to you directly.

p.s. – I’m a longtime lurker and love your site.  I know it’s incredibly personal but I felt I had something to say here that was larger than just me.  I hope it’s not inappropriate.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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