A year ago, age twenty-seven, I finally gathered the courage to tell my father that I had been sexually abused at the age of twelve. I gave him the ‘light version’, talking about abuse rather than rape and being very careful not to mention the violence. Nonetheless, my father was not the same afterwards. As I’m writing this, I go ‘What were you thinking?! Of course he’s not the same afterwards, you stupid!’. I guess I wasn’t thinking, and I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t regret the day I told my father about the abuse, neither does he.
We sometimes talk about it when we’re together, although admittedly my father never quite makes it through his first sentence without tearing up. He feels an overwhelming pain and loss of control, much like what I felt all these years ago. He also feels immensely guilty for not protecting his twelve-year-old daughter. It’s pretty damn heartbreaking. Yet, I’m grateful for his attempts to share his feelings.
I told him not to feel responsible for what happened. I assured him he’s not to blame, and that these feelings are not helpful, for him ór for me. But, much like me, my father is not that easily convinced. And I’ve come to think that maybe he’s right: maybe his feelings of guilt are justified. He should have protected me, shouldn’t he? At the very least, he should have thought ‘something is not quite right’. Or should he? I was twelve years old and all alone, out there in the hands of a pedophile, while my father toured the country on his road bike. Maybe he’s not to blame, but if I were him I would feel guilty as hell.
The following statements simply don’t add up: 1) I know the abuse was not my fault, and 2) I know I was right to tell my father about it; yet 3) I feel responsible for the pain my father’s experiencing now. There’s very little I can do or say to make it less painful for him, too. It’s been just over a year now since he knows what happened. Me, one year after the abuse, I had stopped speaking all together. It took me the best of fifteen years to get to where I am today. So here’s to patience, courage, and perseverance. Things will get better, one day. I love you, dad.Follow @ArticulateAna
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