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A Letter to my younger, 11 year old self

I know what is happening to you. I know that your older cousin is pulling you aside every chance he gets in order to molest you. I want to talk to you about this so that you don’t grow up feeling damaged and dirty and mixed up about men, sex and relationships.

You are not alone. About 1 in every 4 girls is molested. I know you think that all of your other classmates are living regular, happy childhoods and that there is something wrong with you and this is the reason that you are being chosen. You also think that you are the only one who is living in a house where there is constant tension and fighting. It’s very embarrassing. You don’t want anyone else to know your shame. But just think about this, perhaps your friends are also doing a good job of hiding their own situations. You know Cherrie? When she is in high school she will get pregnant and be in an abusive teenage marriage. What about Juliet? In college she will try to commit suicide. Unfortunately you are not the only sad 11 year old.

You ask yourself why he is choosing you. Are you somehow responsible? No. It’s not because there is something wrong with you that he is choosing you. He has access to you. You aren’t seeking him out. You don’t like what is being done to you, right? In fact, you are afraid of him. Your female cousin, his sister, has warned you about him even before it began. He is also choosing you because you are quiet and timid. I am not blaming you, this also is not your fault and we can talk about that in a future letter, but he sees you as safe to approach. I know the rule that is drilled into your mind and most female children in your conservative, religious community: “be nice”. You are told to not draw attention to yourself. To not stand up for yourself, to be “respectful”, even to the perverted guy behind you in line who touches your backside and then slips quickly away. You are being taught to be meek and mild. Let me tell you right now, that this is very bad advice. It is preparing you for a lifetime of submission and being a quiet victim. Use your voice. Be demanding. Be disagreeable. Tell your Mom in no uncertain terms that you do not want to be left alone with him. With him, become a prickly cactus that he won’t risk approaching. Use some colorful language that you have heard but have never let come out of your mouth.

Even if you are shaking in your shoes, don’t show him this. He may have done it once, or twice, but he will find an easier victim if you make yourself a difficult victim. Saying all this, I know you. The advice I am giving you goes against everything you’ve been taught and against the gentle and shy person you are and I know you probably can’t follow my advice because it is so different from all of the other input you are receiving.

But at least let me clear up some misunderstandings that you hold. You are being taught at church that when you marry you should be a virgin. You know that this is not possible now and think that no good Christian boy is ever going to want you. You are damaged goods. You even think that somehow people, a potential boyfriend, can somehow know this about you by looking at you. You feel like you are wearing a sign that tells everyone: I am not a virgin, I am not pure or clean, you don’t want me. But, people don’t know by looking at you. Truth be known, you are pretty invisible to everyone, period. There is not some test that a future husband can do to find out. Actually, men are pretty clueless. But, you ARE clean and pure and beautiful and I love you very much. What some stupid boy, or man, does is not a reflection of the woman he does it to. The misguided religious people you are experiencing spend a lot of focus on the sexual behavior of women, but I never hear them speak out against rape, violence, or dominance that the men in the congregation are doing. But that’s also the subject of another letter.

You wonder why he shows you no affection, and either ignores or mocks you when others are around. You are getting ugly messages from this of what sex is for and about. Later, you will come to accept that men want one thing and that after they get that one thing that they will ignore you or find you useless. You may even be learning that the only way to keep a man’s attention is through sex. I’m especially sorry for this message. Even now, as an adult, I don’t know how to tell you otherwise about this because every direction you look you will see messages that what makes a woman desirable is her sexuality. Just try to hold on to this tiny piece of an idea: that there are more important things than being physically and sexually attractive. Plant this tiny seed and don’t neglect it, even if everything around you says that it’s a stupid thought.
I don’t know if this has helped at all, but know that I love you and I see your inherent worth. I think you are a great kid and this thing that is happening to you is not a reflection of who you are. Not at all.

Comments

Saving Angel's picture

Wow..

Diane.. your words and illustrations brought tears to my eyes. You are definitely a motivation and inspiration for so many victims just like yourself. Please check out the amazing website Project Unbreakable as I think you would fit perfectly with their network.

Please continue to share your letter with so many people in every way that you can. You are truly amazing. Your story of survival is so heartbreaking but it is also a reminder for everyone of how they can overcome the difficulties in their lives.

I have so much respect and love for you!

I have been thinking for some time about writing such an article. I am tired of feeling shame over it and now 37 years later feel like I can voice my thoughts. I have more in me to write about: domestic violence and losing my son in a contentious divorce. Maybe it is ready to come out and be of help to someone else out there who feels like they are completely alone. Let's keep in touch. Our messages have already crossed paths after I read your article. I will check out the website you recommended.

Diane Ezeji

Precious M's picture

Self worth

Dear Diane,

It is important to value yourself no matter what you have been put through. I will teach every young girl this message I have drawn from your story: people always take advantage of those who are quiet and timid. It is important for a young girl to be bold so that potential sexual molesters don't consider her vulnerable.

My dear sister, all you have gone through is meant to shape you to to be that unique woman that God designed you to be. I encourage you not to be filled with regret but try try to get the message in the mess. Yes, there are more important things than being physically and sexually attractive!

Diane you are a gem in this world. Do not lose your glory.

Much love from your sister in Cameroon,
Precious

My pen speaks

Diane Ezeji's picture

support

I am really happy to receive your support and that I gave a message that can be put to use.

Diane Ezeji

MyrtleG's picture

Reflection does heal

Dear Diane,

Thank you for sharing your story, it touched me in a very deep way.

Forgiving our inner child is so important to the healing process, experienced by survivors of sexual abuse. Many times we just skip this process and forget that this child needs to be assured that she is worthwhile and that what has happened to her, is not her fault. By allowing the various emotions to be experienced at times when we do; can be very scary(bringing back all those terrible memories, but a therepeutic part of the process, nonetheless).

Playing through the event (with the help of a psychologist, hypnosis for instance) can also help. Part of healing requires an holistic approach, understanding both the emotions and bodily reactions. For many years one can for example, move away from intimacy, and if we have not shared this abuse with anyone, it can make us seem aloof, distant.

I understand your truth - you are beautiful and an attractive soul. Shine on!

I admire you for your courage and know that you will inspire many others to start their own healing process.

Much Love and Light

Myrtle Adams-Gardner

Diane Ezeji's picture

Blaming ourselves

Thank you for responding to my story. Yes, for so long I blamed my younger self for allowing this to happen to me. I am still working on a more current issue: the domestic abuse I went through and the guilt over what that did to my children. I am thinking of writing about that next, but I have blocked major memories of those years and am not sure I want to remember them yet. Thanks for your encouragement.

Diane Ezeji

wemothers's picture

Weldone Diane

Weldone Diane,
I hope you realize how brave you are for sharing your story.

Diane Ezeji's picture

thanks

It actually felt exhilarating to speak that truth. I felt like a burden was lifted when I pushed the "submit" button.

Diane Ezeji

Susan K.A.'s picture

Thank you, Diane

THANK YOU for your important message to girls, to all of us born female, with quiet, shy temperaments. I was socialized in a very similar way (Christian, traditional gender-roles) and, though I have no memory of being molested, have certainly been sexually harassed a number of times in my teens/twenties and was too polite, too "nice" to make a scene over it. Even into my 40's I still occasionally feel like that self-conscious girl at times...

Let's stop telling little girls how "pretty" they look in that dress, telling our friends' how (physically) beautiful their daughters are--OF COURSE they're beautiful--their spirits are beautiful, the love and truth that shines through them, their vitality, curiosity, intelligence, compassion, zest for life is beautiful!

Thank you so, so much for sharing this letter.

Hugs,

Susan

______________________________________________________________________________

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."
-Hafiz

Diane Ezeji's picture

girls

yes wouldn't it be wonderful if we complimented girls for things besides appearance! Imagine growing up and hearing: you are so creative, quick, smart, witty, strong, funny, etc.

Diane Ezeji

Mukut's picture

Beautiful Letter

Wow! truly heart touching Diane. You brought out the emotions so perfectly. Continue to share and shine. You are an inspiration to many.

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Diane Ezeji's picture

thank you for reading my post

thank you for reading my post and sending me words of encouragement

Diane Ezeji

Nusrat Ara's picture

IT IS SO TOUCHING. This is a

IT IS SO TOUCHING.
This is a letter for every girl in every nook of the world. Thanks for writing and sharing,

Love

Nusrat

Diane Ezeji's picture

Thank you for reading my

Thank you for reading my post. I am so happy for all of the support I have received.

Diane Ezeji

ruthibelle's picture

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

Love,
Ruthibelle
ruthibelle.blogspot.com

Diane Ezeji's picture

thanks!

thanks!

Diane Ezeji

Sarjo Camara Singateh's picture

Diana

that looks like a counselling piece, it is a story that needs a reflection, for both parents and their children. am proud of you dear.

sarjo

sarjo

Diane Ezeji's picture

thanks for your comments.

thanks for your comments.

Diane Ezeji

Monica09's picture

Powerful post

Dear Diane,

Thank you for this powerful post! Your story is one that many young girls can relate to. I hope both boys and girls receive gender-sensitive, respectful education and training in places of worship, schools/universities, homes, workplaces, etc. I am glad you focused on helping the girl regain her self-confidence and understanding her worth that is not estimated through sexuality.

With deepest respect,
Monica

Diane Ezeji's picture

Yes, and her worth is not

Yes, and her worth is not measured by whether someone violates her. Thank you for your words.

Diane Ezeji

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

What a brave spirit

Courage and salute

Regards,

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

Diane Ezeji's picture

Thank you. It did take

Thank you. It did take courage, but afterwards I felt a sense of release from this memory.

Diane Ezeji

Deqa's picture

WoW

I really couldn't find any other sentiment than WOW... you are extremely strong my dear. You have shared with us a valuable lesson that every little girl should be educated about. I am so glad that you decided to share this so that others can benefit from it. Honey you have balls of steel and you are so creative in writing because you sure allowed us to absorb the feeling from your piece. I felt numb and couldn't blink till i finished reading.
Thank you for having the courage to share, because it sure takes a great amount of courage and strength and I look forward to reading more from you.
I am extremely proud of you and I am sure you are a great teacher.
Love
Deqa

Diane Ezeji's picture

That comment coming from you

That comment coming from you means a lot. I am thinking right now of something else I need to write about.

Diane Ezeji

Dear Diane
I could personaly relate to this massage thank you for having the power bravness to write it and share it.
There are some issues that when we address we feel lighter, brigter and peacful.
Sure learning about our bodies, sexuality and relationship is one of them.
Thank you
Loved your way of writting
Keep that smiule on your face
Stay happy
Ola

It is never too late to try make your way to your dream and left up your expectation.
Sudanes Women Building Peace
www.suwepmovement.org

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