Dear Mom and Dad,
When you told me you didn’t like my first boyfriend, you had no idea how right you were. And a younger, more naive me did not pay attention to the little voice that said, “listen, they know better than you.” You saw something in him that it took me too long to figure out.
He said the right things: he told me he loved me, wanted to be with me forever, and would treat me like a princess. But the truth is, he was simply trading words for sex, and sex was his “right” within our relationship.
“How do you feel now that you’re not a virgin anymore?” He asked me after our first time together. I told him I felt great but the truth is that after all his pressuring, finally giving in felt disgusting. But when it was over, I felt nothing. It was a numbness that would last for years.
Sex was something that you and I discussed once during “the talk” when I was eight years old, but I never felt comfortable enough to ask for advice because you told me sex was strictly a marital act. Sex outside of marriage was a horrible sin. And, because another view was never open for discussion, I kept my mouth shut.
The truth is that I needed my mom to tell me that the betrayal I was feeling was valid, and I needed my dad to tell me that a man should treat me better. I needed you to protect me by preparing me to stand up for myself in a relationship.
I know if I told you the things that he did, you would cry and hold me, you would ask me why I didn’t come to you. If I told you that, to him, “no” meant absolutely nothing, you would have been crushed. I thought that if I told you, you would be furious at me. The way that you talked about sex made me feel dirty and worthless in your eyes.
I could not admit that I was raped, because I had no grasp of what a healthy sexual relationship should be like.
I won’t tell you what it took for me to get where I am now, because that is a guilt that I l refuse to lay on you. And I won’t tell you how many times I just wanted my daddy to hold me because I was scared, or wished I could talk to my mom when I felt worthless.
I’ll never show you this letter, and I’ll never tell you any of this. I’ve finally come to grips with my past. I’ve found a man who knows that no means stop, no means no. I have a husband who held me when I cried because something he did triggered a memory of my rape. It was never his fault, but he felt guilty anyway. The triggers are becoming fewer as I’ve learned to trust that he’ll respect me no matter what.
I am ok.
You are good parents, never doubt that. Every person makes mistakes, we are all far from perfect. You did what you thought was right, you told me your views and raised me how you thought was best. That’s all any parent can do.
I just hope that someday, when my children are older, they’ll trust me with their problems. I hope that I’ll facilitate healthy conversations about sex with my daughters AND my son, so they always feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns. And I’ll teach them what a healthy relationship means – married or not – because I wish that’s how you had talked to me.
I respect that your beliefs tell you that sex before marriage is wrong. I’ll be happy if my own children choose to wait. But I refuse to talk about sex in a way that makes them feel how I did. Each parent should take many opportunities to have conversations with their children about sex so that they understand how to protect themselves and are aware of healthy boundaries.
I don’t fault you for what he did, but I hope that others can learn from what you didn’t do. You didn’t have those conversations. You didn’t make me feel safe to approach you. And, because of that, you weren’t there when I needed you most.
You could not have prevented my rape, but you could have helped me heal. Instead, I spent many lonely years trying to figure it out on my own.
I’ll always love you, and I’ll always be grateful for the things you did right. But sometimes, I can’t help but hate what you did wrong. Despite this, I’ve become a happy, healthy, and strong woman.
And with your guidance, I’ve become a great mother, and a loving wife. For that, I thank you.