Below is a letter I wrote to my brother after we had spent weeks navigating through our first real contact in years. He was asking for a relationship with me despite having chosen to support our father who had violated me. He accused me of lying and “blowing these out of proportion”. He blamed me for the dissolution of our family. He said his “conscience” told him that he had to continue supporting our father. He felt alienated from a relationship with me because I had set boundaries and because I couldn’t just “get over it”. My insistence for empathy left him with a choice. He has, to date, chosen our father. We have not spoken since this letter was written.
You want me to hear your pain. I am willing to do this and have done this. I acknowledge a deep, desperate sadness in your heart. I feel for your isolation and understand that on a deep level you desire to be a part of our lives. Most people who know me see me as a very compassionate person with a heart for the pain of others. I would not, and have not, ever judged you for being hurt; nor have I disregarded your pain and the impact that my choices have had on your life.
John, the question I keep asking myself is, “Why doesn’t my brother want to know the truth?” How do you tell yourself that it is okay to say to me that we have simply come to “different conclusions?” I am not sure what this even means. Do you believe I had some choice as to whether or not I should acknowledge my own history? A conclusion is a choice we make; what I endured is just reality—a reality in which I had no choice.
Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to hear about the experiences that nearly destroyed me?
I was treated like human trash without regret. I was manipulated, traumatized, violated, and threatened for years, John. I was told to be a sweet girl and had been convinced that I had no value. I have suffered physically and emotionally, as a result of the injury of PTSD, to the point that the functioning of my brain is forever altered and my body suffers greatly. I have grieved on a soul level, unable to trust, unable to believe that there was a God who loved me when, in my life, there was so much suffering. There is so much more I could say …
It broke me and shattered my soul.
Do you have any idea what I have had to go through to recover from this nightmare? No, you don’t, because you have never asked. You acknowledge this vague sense that you have of my “pain,” and then you want to move on. Do you really think that’s all it takes?
I see many things in your words, but what I don’t see is empathy. I cannot be close to someone that has not expressed deep sadness not just for my “hurt” but also for my history. We all have hurt, but I am not asking you to understand how I feel; I am asking you to acknowledge, or at least consider, that there is another truth out there besides what you have currently chosen to believe. For God’s sake, don’t I deserve at the very least a chance to tell my story? After everything we have been through together … really?
I have a history that demands that I surround myself with people who are willing to be safe so that I can survive and have a chance to achieve wholeness. I am in a battle for my life; that is my truth. I started my recovery process with a scream of defiance against evil. It was a response to God’s call to recognize my value and heal from this vile injury.
You said that you did not want to be involved. Indifference—that is what you offered me. And worse, you chose to listen to a man who leaves a wake of pain in his path. This man, in whatever state of brokenness, broadcast death all over me and our whole family. You cared more about him and his extended family than you do those who have loved you and fought for you. That is the choice you have made. What I find so hard to believe is that you have not just made one hurtful mistake. You have made many choices at many different times to betray me, discredit me, and cause me great sadness.
It is these many choices that you have made—not me, you. I am left to question whether or not I can trust you.
I am not sure that you understand why there is the need to talk about what happened with dad. You act as if I am just being stubborn and requiring you to hear twisted details just so I can feel better. You don’t seem to understand that my desire is not to have these things be the center of our relationship. I have a lot of life I am living, and I have come very far. I can tell you, I have a lot of relationships that acknowledge this devastation yet are not consumed by it. Give me a break; so just because we need to talk about the elephant in the room means that’s all we can ever talk about? Explain to me the logic. You belittle me. My identity is not based on my violation. Why you have convinced yourself of that, I am not sure. Maybe it helps you in some way. Maybe you are just trying to avoid a hard conversation.
This is not something I want to do. This is something that has to be done in order to “move on,” as you say you desire. There is a huge difference between wanting to do this and simply recognizing the significance of addressing what really happened.
Your response when I first told you the tip of the iceberg was to question the “severity” of the abuse, and beyond that you have never wanted to know one detail of what I endured. As if knowing “how bad it was” somehow really makes a difference.
I was willing to expose my devastated soul to you. I have no desire to do that again with anyone who thinks I am lying, or, equally as perverse, thinks I made a big deal out of nothing. I cannot accept your invitation unless I can be sure that you care about me. Caring about others is about accepting the truth, as unpleasant as it may be.
This is ground zero.
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