An Open Letter to the Men Who Broke Me
t r i g g e r w a r n i n g : CSA, SA, Rape, DV, disordered eating, animal abuse
As a young girl, I was said to be sweet and goofy. I would say hi to strangers and strike up conversations with them. I was always smiling, with a noticeably sizeable gap between my two front teeth. My parents divorced when I was four, obviously at no fault of mine. But, as many divorce children do, I pondered on it anyway. My father was a reactive man. He was loving and gentle when he wanted to be. I adored him as a little girl. We were best friends. But he had a temper and as a child, it terrified me. He hurled profanities at me and called me names — “brat”, “annoying”, and accused me of misbehaving over slight missteps, like accidentally standing in front of the TV or peeing the bed. As a teen, he told me I was ‘psychotic’ because I begged him to pay attention to what was happening to my little sister, who was depressed, anorexic, and seeking validation from predatory men online. He gave my brother a black eye, dragged him around the house by his underwear, and slammed him against cabinets. He pulled my baby brother’s hair, smacked his face and butt, and put hot sauce in his mouth when he mimicked curse words, mostly likely heard from my father and older brother. He forgave someone in our close family who sexually assaulted me multiple times in my childhood and yet, turned around and blamed my mother when her father was arrested for what he did. But even in the madness, I always forgave him. I was alike to him in temperament and we would stubbornly face off in major arguments. We mirrored each other in so many ways during those times. I reflected back at him the same hurt he caused me so many times in my life. I would explode in my anger. I threw things, I hurt myself, I punched shit. I could only feel anger and a dark sense of longing following me endlessly. I wanted my father to love me unconditionally. But my father is a hardened man and he sets high expectations of people, sometimes ones that don’t really seem to have any reasoning or attainability and he can have a mean streak when you’re not meeting them. As an adult, I forgive him. I no longer give my love freely, so sometimes I am guarded in how I approach him. But I do love him and keep him in my prayers. I know he loves me too, even though he has spent much of my life pulling me into a cycle of hurt. I think sometimes, he didn’t know how to navigate the world because he was never really taught how to in a healthy way. He is insecure and has skeletons in his closet. He is angry and can be loud, but he can also be soft and sincere when he wants to be. Days ago I told him I miscarried a pregnancy. We walked arm in arm and stood in the warm breeze under the shade of trees.
“Anastasia is having wheel chair races with Pop-Pop right now,” he said. It made me smile. My father has always been a spiritual person. He believes in ghosts. He believes that spirits remain even after they are physically departed. It brings me peace to believe that my would-have been daughter (I don’t really know for sure, but I’m just going off of gut instinct there) is safely with my grandparents and surrounded by love.
Dad, I do love you. I see you for who you are. I don’t hide from you anymore. You’ve aged and so has your mindset. I hope you continue doing what you need to do. You are an amazing grandfather and the baby clearly adores you. You are still the father I raced go-carts with and got burgers with. I am still the same daughter that held your hand and hugged you as we stood side by side at my grandparents’ graves. Both of us have been through a great deal in our lifetimes, but we are better than the things that hurt us.
My maternal grandfather was a dangerous man. He was an alcoholic with a history of child molestation, unknown to my mother. I only remember what he looks like because of his mugshot. I remember the night he was arrested, his face was on the news. He was arrested after drunkenly calling the parents of young girls and telling them his fantasies of their children. He also called one of my aunts with fantasies of her. It came out then that he had molested my mother’s younger sister and possibly even my mother and I. All of us had holes in our memory where he was involved. My mother’s sister is the one who remembers the most details. He should have been charged with so much more but none of his victims would testify. Parents didn’t want to force their young children to face him in court or walk through the timeline of their trauma with strangers. I was the only child who was a part of the investigation, as my mother struggled to find answers and protect us from the man who used to be her best friend. But even after a year of talking to police and doctors, it remains inconclusive to this day the full extent of what happened to me. My therapist says it’s my brain’s way of protecting me. It locks those memories away to prevent them from invading my head.
I spent so much of my adolescence feeling a deep shame for what he did. Some the little girls that I identified in photos were friends of mine who knew my grandfather and had been around him. I felt as if I were to blame for bringing those girls around him. I remember I would play with those girls all the time when I stayed with him at the campground he spent time at. Then, one day one of them stopped talking to me. She was confrontational, aggressive even. I never knew why, but I think the investigation sadly answered my questions.
CD, you can sincerely go fuck yourself. You don’t deserve an ounce of empathy or kindness from Mom and I. You tore our lives apart. You traumatized us. You took something from us. You hurt my aunts and those little girls and left them with the same pain that I feel. You are a monster. I’m not typically a vicious person, even if I’ve done some anger management, but I really fucking wish you got charged with raping small children and were given, like, the death penalty or something. Mom and I have been waiting for you to die so we can move on with our lives without feeling your presence lurking, knowing you live less than an hour’s drive away and could try to find us at any moment. Stop trying to contact us, more specifically Mom. You messed with her head the most, abusing her and then manipulating her to think you were a good father. You are not safe. Stay the fuck away from kids.
My ex-boyfriend was really charming. He had a nice voice, a nice smile. I thought he was cute at the time, although when I look back I find myself questioning how. He was also the first man in my adult life to rape me. In fact, the words “stop saying no, you’re making me feel like I’m raping you” are permanently burned into my brain. He would shove me against walls, grab my face, try to intimidate me, steal my keys and lock himself away in a room. He berated me and shamed me for every small thing from having acne to not knowing how to really cook well. He picked apart my body and criticized my feelings. He forced me to do sex acts to “comfort him” and show him I was a good girlfriend after spending dinner time yelling at me and gaslighting me and telling me I was the crazy one. This man threatened to throw me out a window. With his forehead pressed against mine and me pinned against the door of our apartment by my wrists, he said he wanted to punch me. I spent so many nights feeling desolate and alone while he went an aired his version of our dirty laundry to strangers online that he played games with. He cheated on me with multiple women. He told the girlfriend after me that he thought about letting my cat out or killing her because he didn’t like her. My cat is the sweetest and most affectionate animal I know. That woman and I have had many conversations about the trauma we share because of this man. She is now also his ex.
MB, you are a miserable man. Your only validation in life is seeking out people who will succumb to your insecurity and possessiveness. I hope to God some girl actually has the backbone to stand up to you in court the way I never did and put you behind bars. You’re a rapist. I know it, V knows it, and L knows it. You don’t deserve to be a part of society. You’re a leach and a liar. I do not care to pray for your soul, but rather pray you stay far, far away from me for the rest of my life. My ex-husband felt like a prince charming when I first fell in love with him. He was handsome and witty. He made me laugh and we were nearly inseparable. But like the man before him he let his insecurity control him. He wasn’t that abusive of course. But still, he had his moments. Another person in my life who seemed to struggle with alcohol abuse, he would call me out of my name in our home. In front of our friends, he hurled verbal assaults at me. He sprayed me with Febreeze in the face, shoved me against a brick wall, openly joked about killing my pets, said my form of self expression was tacky, and went on to say some truly heinous things about me WHILE we were still ‘happily’ married. He really got on with my father, genuinely. He made excuses for him and told me I needed to quit blaming him for my problems. He accused me of faking my mental illness and even faking some of my traumas. He projected his struggles with his mother onto me. He made me feel empty and numb. He drained me. I’m pretty sure sometimes he hated me.
JD, I’m bipolar. We battled each other. We battled our own shit. I never strived to be perfect but at first I did for you because I thought that’s what you deserved for ‘rescuing’ me from MB. You showed your dark side pretty early on though and I should have heeded the red flags. But I clung to the love you gave me because I forgot what it felt like to be special to someone and for a brief time you reminded me. But you can’t take back the things you said or undo the things you’ve done and neither can I. But I forgave you a long time ago in Emerald Isle two weeks before I left. You can still be annoying, hence why you’re blocked. But the closure I needed was to be in peace without you. My life is far from perfect and I still struggle now, but I feel freer. I love myself more. I strive to live for more. I strive to choose myself. I hope you do too. I hope you live a long and happy life. I know your heart and know who you are. While you could be mean, you probably had one of the most fucked up childhoods I’ve ever heard of and I can’t blame you for being triggered into thinking of it sometimes. I just wish you hadn’t made me apart of it. Live freely, Tater. Let go. Stop letting your mother take up so much of your mind.
To all of you, with mixed feelings, not with hatred or unkindness will I say this: there were times when you did not deserve my empathy. There were times when you deserved my rage. Some of you hurt me worse than others. Some of you are the reason why I still can’t sleep at night. I can’t force you to change. I see some of you trying, I see some of you that I will simply never forgive or have an ounce of warmth for. I have grown to be more at peace. It’s been a long time since any of you have disturbed it. But sometimes late at night when I’m driving in the quiet dark, the thoughts of the bonds that broke me live in my mind. The memories of helplessness, anxiety, and numbness return. The pain sits heavy in my heart.
These are some of the most negative and impactful bonds I’ve ever had with other people. I was hurt deeply, I learned to lash out in return. I’m glad we all have distance between us. I’ve also known a lot of joy and love in my lifetime and for that, I am truly grateful. Sometimes the ghosts of my past haunt me. It’s just a part of my story.
I am no longer yours. I’m just Emma. I’m okay with being just Emma, whoever she is. I love myself regardless of your hurt and I will always be patient with myself. I validate myself now, I don’t need any of you anymore and I never will again.