You may be wondering why I'm writing you after all these years. It's been nearly twenty - did you know that? It's been nearly twenty years since you chose to inflict your evil desires on my body? I've never taken the time to address you about what you did to me two decades ago. I've written many letters to myself as part of my healing process. I've written letters to the many people who knew what happened yet did nothing to protect me or even show true compassion towards me. I've even written letters to my husband wishing I hadn't entered our marriage with so much baggage. But never you.
So why now? I'm not exactly sure, except that I'm whole now. After all these years and all the damage you did to my soul and body, I'm whole. So it seems like a fine time to write you.
Let's not get into all the gory details of those months when you physically, emotionally, and sexually abused me. I remember your twisted smile when you saw the terror in my eyes. I know you relished in my submission and shame. We don't need to rehash that time for either of our sakes.
What I want to do is tell you who I am now.
You see, when we first met I was twelve and completely naive. I thought adults showed me love when I was given any attention whatsoever and I thought I returned that love by pleasing their whims. So at twelve when 'no' wasn't a word I was allowed to use with adults (which you were, by the way), and certain family members were telling me how doting you were to me, I thought this was a version of love.
How completely twisted. Of your intentions. Of my perception. Of those family members who encouraged and giggled at your affections towards me. How utterly disturbing.
Then at fifteen when we met for a second time and your physical affection had become more bold, still I was so unaware of my own rights. As I approached dating age, I hadn't been taught that I could say 'no' to unwanted advances.
I look at my daughters now, at 6, 5, and 3 years and there is no doubt in my mind they are aware they can say 'no' to any touch they don't like. Even if that means they don't want to hug me good-bye, they have the right to say 'no' because it's their body. I don't ever remember hearing that in conversations growing up.
So along you came, charming my family. Intellectual. International. Showing off your cooking skills. Making my family laugh at my expense... and I was expected to go along with it.
"He's just teasing you, Liria."
"Look how sweet he is, brushing your hair."
"That's just how European men act. You're being too sensitive."
I was always being "too sensitive." I was always the problem.
But I wasn't and I see that now.
Oh, how I wish I could stand before you now. I wish so much I could let you see just what you created with your vile and abusive behaviors.
It was only for a season that I was broken. You only got your way for a short period, although it felt like eternity while I lived there. But the power I have now in knowing my worth, in knowing my boundaries... it would crush you.
You are the kind of man who thrives on weak souls. You love people who are broken and hurting, because they are easy targets for you. You sought after easily manipulated targets, not just in me but in my parents, knowing none of us would stop you. I was a child but you targeted weak-minded adults as well.
And how horrible for you! What a pathetic life you must live, feeding off of soft-hearted, poor-in-spirit people.
But I am not poor-in-spirit any longer. There is a fire deep within my being that is masked by empathy and compassion for others. That's what I want people to see first, but behind those very authentic character traits is a Valkyrie ready to go to war with any person who crosses my boundaries again. Or my children's.
I don't do 'weak' anymore. I don't do 'helpless,' 'naive,' or 'tolerant' any longer of those who seek to destroy. That time has come and gone for all those who manipulated, abused and disregarded me. I have been created in a new image, a strong one, with a sword in one hand and shield in the other.
So I would love to stand before you now. I would give you a similar smirk you gave me many times when you had the upper hand, only now I would have it. There is a glint in my eyes that would make you think twice before opening your mouth.
Your actions decades ago set into motion the creation of something neither of us expected. I'd be willing to bet no one who knew me back then would have guessed I'd become the woman I am from the fire you set. That makes me happy too. It's thrilling to prove people wrong about who I am, especially all those who tried to break me through abuse. I wonder if I'd even be so strong if I hadn't endured your hands, your words as an adolescent and teenager. Maybe, maybe not.
You were a part of my story and for many years the nightmare in it. But now... well, you can stay a part of my story but only because I allow you to be. With you in my history, it makes my present look so much more beautiful. So you can stay. Until I get bored of you, I think. Then maybe I won't mention your existence anymore even when I talk of what I've overcome. Because for you to leave this earth without a thought from me would be one of my biggest victories.
Liria Forsythe is the founder and president of Speak Truth Ministries. Her blogs are reflections of her experiences and struggles in the aftermath of her past abuse as well as how she chooses to thrive now.