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.