Sexual Offenders,
No matter who you abused or how, you created pain and a lasting mark.  The wound scabs over and gets ripped open repeatedly until finally, at some point in active recovery, it becomes a scar.  I used to feel I didn’t belong, that people could see I was different.  Regardless of the circumstances, I was ashamed I didn’t fight back more, that I didn’t stop it from happening.  I didn’t think I even belonged in a victim support group because my story of abuse was different, not so bad.  But I discovered our story after the abuse is what bound us together.

When I first started remembering the abuse and started in consistent therapy to deal with the issues, I was having the panicked feeling of being followed almost all the time.  I started only hanging either in large groups or by myself.  I began having body memories of pain in my genital area and other areas I later discovered were related to the terrifying visuals that soon after began to destroy my sleep. Sometimes I disassociated, losing all awareness and memory for a length of time.  You can imagine the impact on my safety, daily routine, and relationships.  I also had no memory of my childhood at all, only recalling the still photos of our family albums.  I felt so incomplete.

So, what about the scab-ripping?  One way it occurs is through re-experiencing the abuse when triggered by sensory cues. Another, more subtle way is the ingraining of self-destructive beliefs and patterning of self-destructive behaviors.  I honestly can’t verify some memories of my abuse, but they emerged without any suggestion or prompt and my “experience” of them is very real.  Other memories, some I can verify, are so horrific that my mind still doesn’t want to believe.  Likewise, other people also don’t want to believe.  Thus, years after starting recovery, I still struggle with doubting my reality, even beyond my memories of abuse.  Consequently, I sometimes feel disconnected and insecure.

I lived in a household where personal boundaries weren’t respected much and the earliest of my abuse occurred when I was just a toddler.  I internalized this, believing it was normal to be violated, and was sexually abused by a few more people over a few years starting about 5 years later.  I growingly felt “dirty” and powerless.  Another 5 years later, I agreed to degrading sexual acts with a peer under the manipulative promise it would stop if I cooperated.  When it didn’t stop, I told and my freaky peer was firmly scared off, but I wasn’t given opportunity to say anything more.  He wasn’t punished.  I wasn’t comforted.

Yet another 5 years later, I was acquaintance-raped.  I laid stiffly without word or reaction, disassociated most of the time.  By that time, I had deeply repressed all memories of former abuse.  At one point during the rape, I had the opportunity to yell out to persons passing by not far away, but my mouth was covered and I was restrained by my abuser’s body.  I realized afterward that someone might have heard my muffled yell for help, but in that moment, I had thought only, “He’ll kill you… and you deserve it.”  Then I left my body again.  In the few years after, I entered into two brief but emotionally abusive and physically threatening relationships because I reveled in the moments I was treated as if I was special and I felt so very lucky that someone said, “I love you.”  I didn’t feel lovable anymore.  I stuffed everything more and more until one day, about 3 years later, the wall started to bust open.  I entered therapy to begin dismantling that wall, intending to rebuild it as a proper retaining wall with a gate I could control.

I started writing this letter to you about four years into recovery.  I’ve since added.  At that time, I thought the wounds had mostly become scars.  My perspective had changed to seeing myself as a survivor rather than a victim.  I had been in a healthy relationship for over a year.  I had learned how to trust and build meaningful, interdependent friendships.  At that time, my panic attacks had become few and infrequent and remained so for years.  I had learned and practiced incessantly how to define and defend boundaries, how to identify and share my emotions, and how to recognize and assert my rights.

Nonetheless, I remained afflicted with recurrent bouts of depression lacking clearly identifiable causes.  I was still easily triggered, almost always on edge, and felt as if the wall was crushing down on me anytime I tried to let my emotions through. Less than a year after finishing this letter the first time, I decided I was recovered enough and chose to not continue therapy when I relocated to another state.  Even when I did start therapy again, I glossed over my abuse history, unwilling to feel too much, to feel victimized by my own lack of emotional control.  I lost touch with myself, ignoring unpleasant feelings so I could deny them.

Recovery is a long process that requires active, committed participation.  I had quit recovery.  For a number of years, I carried on – but only by expending a tremendous amount of energy to stay “in control.”  In actuality, I was losing more and more control.  My life became increasingly consumed by obsessions and compulsions into which I channeled my anxiety.  While I fell in love and much of the time managed to relate in a healthy way, I made choices that deeply impacted my life out of fear that expressing my feelings would crush me and the relationship.  I continued to doubt my reality and my worth, but denied that unpleasant reality as well.

One night, I ignored clues of something askew.  I put myself in a vulnerable position.  I had lulled myself into believing I was so in control that when confronted with needing to be in control, I instead once again became mentally impotent.  A person in an authority position touched me in private areas, directed me to do the same, and held onto me when I tried to pull away.  Instead of summoning my strength and persisting to free myself, I shrunk in fear.  Like the nearly powerless toddler I once had been, I drifted in and out of awareness.  I didn’t want to believe what was happening, so I had tried to find humor in the situation.  Now I couldn’t laugh anymore, except cruelly at myself.  In one instant I illogically feared further harm if I resisted, while in another I felt I deserved all the pain I was enduring and more.  Someone I trusted was taking advantage of me.  I hated stupid, stupid me.

I was at last able to talk myself out of the situation, but left still locked in a behavioral fantasy of “everything is fine.”  I felt an incredible self-loathing.  All of my memories re-emerged full force.  My emotions alternately hid well-cloaked in denial and spewed out like vomit.   All the symptoms that I had been struggling with and the ones that had previously dissolved now preyed upon me endlessly.  I found no relief until I committed myself to recovery again and began the difficult process of acknowledging and accepting my reality and myself.  I’m still struggling, wanting the relief of recovery but fighting the process.

I’ve discovered more of who I am and who I want to be.  I’m developing courage, a passion of the heart.  Sometimes I despise my therapist because she makes me work so hard.  She pushes me until my own anger breaks away that unhealthy wall, but she’s there to help me rebuild – mainly by helping me grasp that I am capable.  When time stretches between sessions now, I feel the momentum of my self-discovery lapse.  I’m going to start seeing her more for the very reason that it terrifies me, but staying the same terrifies me more.  I don’t want to be a victim again and I don’t want to hurt others by my refusal to become the better me I’m meant to be.

Recovery is a choice.  I know many if not all offenders were victimized in one way or another themselves.  I forgive you.  I give you your guilt back for my peace of mind.  You hurt me and you have no excuse.  We are adults.  We each have a right and a responsibility to be the best person we can be.  I won’t blame you.  I won’t give that power away.  I am not powerless, even if I sometimes feel that way.  I will choose as many times as needed to accept MY reality, including you and my “experience.”  I will choose – as often as needed – to change, to grow into the me I’m meant to be.  I choose to believe I am worth it and to believe you are too.  When I can see me for who I am, my wounds will only be scars.  And when I can see that those scars do not define me, I will at last be the me I’m meant to be.  I am committed.  I won’t quit again.  I will succeed.

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