I was not going to write about the Penn State Child Rape debacle. And, yes, it's alleged, and it's "molestation" and blah blah blah.
Pretty words don't change what it is.
But here I am. Inspired by the Open Letter to the Mothers of the Victims of Jerry Sandusky* on BlogHer, I wanted to write a letter to the ahem, alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky. And to victims everywhere. And I'm going to be writing this letter through tears, as both a survivor and a mother, not, fortunately, to survivors.
I love you. I hold each of you in a space in my heart reserved for children who go through things children should never have to go through. A large part of the world holds you there, too.
Your parents love you, too. They may not know what to say to you, or what to do for you, or how to help you begin to heal. Don't be afraid to tell them what you need. They want to help you heal, in any ways you can.
Your life now is going to change, in many ways much as it did on the day you were victimized. You will be questioned and asked to relive the details of what happened. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for the pain you will have to go through, and the nightmares you will have.
The changes, of course, started on the day that you started being groomed by the monster that assaulted you. Changes that, as you will grow up, will cause you to question your sexuality, your ability to remain in a committed relationship, your ability to love and to protect your children. You will wonder if you should even have children, or if the monster planted seeds in you that will allow you to harm your children in the same way.
You will have so many questions about yourself, and about what happened to you, and about what your future holds, beyond the immediacy of police and attorneys and court and media. No one can answer those questions for you. No one can tell you that everything will be okay. And while we can all tell you that we're sorry, you'll never hear an apology from the one person whose apology might actually mean something. And you may never feel that anyone understands.
Here's what we can tell you-we being those of you who have been where you are right now, and made it through to the other side:
There will be people who understand. Finding them may be difficult, but they are there. Find someone, anyone, who will listen and believe you, and ask them for help to find you someone to talk to who does understand. That person may not necessarily be a therapist or counselor. But someone will listen, will know when to hug you and when you don't want to be hugged, and will validate your truth.
Your parents are going to be really protective of you for a good long while-just as you'll be hyper-protective of your own children. While you may feel smothered by it right now, try to cut them some slack for it. Above all, they blame themselves.
There are a lot of paths your life can take in the future years. You can choose to make it a healthy life, or you can choose to wallow in what happened to you for the rest of your life and never move forward. You'll always be haunted by the memories and have the ghosts, but you can still have a life that approaches normal. The experience you've gone through will change you forever, and there's no getting around that.
Someday, you'll probably want to tell someone that you've fallen in love with. If it's the right person for you, the trust you've shown in them will be met with understanding and empathy. You'll be hesitant to tell them, and the decision will probably cause more than a few sleepless nights for you. I can tell you from personal experience that one time it didn't go so well, and that one time, the reaction I got made me love the person even more. I wish I could give you a better story, but I'm being honest. The one that didn't go well isn't a part of my life anymore, but not because of that. Sometimes, you just don't know that the one you've fallen in love with isn't the right one for you, and that goes for everyone. And when that person wakes you up in the middle of the night from the nightmares you may have your entire life, and wants to hold you because that's the only way he or she knows to help, try to let them. They would slay all your dragons, if they could-and if you let them.
Someday, you'll probably want to have children. You will probably be over protective of them. You may hesitate to let them go on sleepovers and distrust teachers of the same gender as your attacker. While I can't say that this will fade in time, you will learn when it's okay to trust and when it's not. You will also learn that you can't protect them from everything, no matter how hard you try-which is a hard lesson for every parent to learn.
You will develop a core group of friends who may not know everything about you, but will stand by you when you have melt downs and freak out and don't want to talk and don't want to be hugged and do want to be hugged. They'll know when to push and when you need to be left alone. They will remain your friends for many years. They may share the same background as you and understand on that level, or they may just simply accept you for who you are. Lean on them, and be there to be leaned on, and you will have gained a powerful gift indeed.
In the end, only you can fix you. You can have an awesome support system with friends, parents, a significant other, and even a therapist, but you have to be the one to get out of bed each morning, to put one foot in front of the other, and make it through another day. Your support system can give you strength, but you have to have the forward momentum. Some days will be harder than others. Some days, you may not even think about it, although that may be a long time in coming. Some days, you will need their strength more than other days. But if you take that step each day, I promise you will find someone to take it with you. You are stronger than you think you are.
And if someday, somewhere, you're reading this and don't have anyone to take that step with you, email me at DemetersCloset@gmail.com. I'll take it with you. Because I've been where you are. No matter where that is, and how alone you think you are, I've been where you are.