Dear Dr. Laura,
This letter is written to all the girls whose father’s hands were not pure. I have thought about writing to you about this subject for a long time. Today, I have come up with the words.
When I was about 9, until I was 14, my father indulged himself by touching me. He never touched me in the pubic area, thank God, but what he did do remains with me still the same. That’s the thing I write about: the remaining. It’s not something you ever really can forget. You can tell yourself, “I am letting go,” so that intellectually you will be alright. But once in a while, out of nothing connected to it, there it is again, popping up like billboards in the sky in front of you. Moving pictures moments, without sound.
I was lucky though in an unusual way. The last time my father ever touched me he said to me, “Don’t ever tell your mother I touch you in this way.” “Why?” I asked him with total innocence. He said, “It would kill her.” I replied to that with, “Then you should stop it”. And he did! He never touched me again. I say I was lucky because this instilled in me a sense of power. Yet, there is one more thing.
My father, by his actions, brought forth early sexuality in me. I still feel guilty because I enjoyed the feeling I got when he did what he did. That was very difficult to say. I have never said that to one person. I never tempted my father in any way. I was young, and I was so innocent, I honestly did not think it was wrong. So I would like to forgive myself for that, and I would like to forgive my father. But here is the problem. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the events. It simply doesn’t work. And the fact is my father was a grown man, he should have known better. Shame on him! There will be no forgiveness. No one should tell any woman she has to forgive her assaulter. I will try to forgive myself some day. I was a child, 14 years old. Let’s see, today I am 56……. any day now.
What women have to know is how not to dwell on the memories when they pop up. My experience is that it is in the dwelling where the danger lies. That is where you can lose yourself and become a victim. The memory has to become something that you persistently dismiss from your brain before it becomes a feeling. It’s the feelings that connect us to the events. So, before the memories reach my heart, I let the billboards take wings, turn my head, and walk away, and I am ‘OK’. I believe feelings are stored in the heart, so I tuck them into the lowest, smallest, quietest place in mine. That way it only emerges when I am in a reflective mood, like the one I am in now. That is when I become aware there was a reason I couldn’t keep 3 marriages together. Why I couldn’t really ever trust a man with my whole self. Then my life makes sense and I can let it all rest.
Thank you for loving children, and by extension the child in me.