This page explores how justice and closure can be sought by writing a letter to the abuser. There are always options, whether the letter is delivered to the person who committed the sexual abuse, is shared with the world as an open letter, or is simply written for your own personal processing and sense of closure.
The first section details the thoughts and intent of Kevin in writing a letter to Mark, an organist/conductor/teacher who sexually abused Kevin from the age of 13 years old, in the USA. Kevin has since married and gone on to become internationally renowned in his chosen profession.
Kevin: Writing a letter to the abuser
It is very difficult trying to decide what you want to say when you have a lifetime of feelings and emotions you’d like to express. I made some very definite choices in writing this letter that of course wouldn’t be right for everyone.
When my wife and I went to my hometown to confront the abuser on that Easter Sunday 2010, I first had to decide on a few things to say to him that would be pointed and direct. I figured it had to be literally just a few sentences, because I knew that the longer the confrontation went on, the greater the chance that I might lose control of the situation. For example, someone might come up, he might call for someone to help “with this crazy man,” LOL, whatever. I also knew that there wouldn’t be enough time to make my point verbally… ergo, the letter.
I decided to not argue what I imagined would be his principal “defence” if I were to ever be in conversation with him: That I was gay, and so I must have wanted it because I was gay (something that was not actually true). I also decided not to go into the litany of ways in which I’ve suffered (flashbacks for example), as I knew that in his pathetic mind that would be proof I was denying my true nature by not being with him! (Side note, he was a somewhat unique perpetrator in my experience, in that he seems to have been trying to raise or groom his own adult partner.) Therefore, rather than divert the discussion to myself, I tried to make it all about him and what he did, not how I reacted, either then or now. I determined to merely discuss the one unassailable fact about which there could be no debate. I was 13, he was 30, and that makes him a child molester.
Handing over the letter
My wife kept returning to the question of “What if he doesn’t take it?” I decided on a line that I would use when giving it to him. “Mark, you need to read this, it’s very important for your future.” As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry about him taking the letter.
I had it in my hand when I approached the altar after he finished playing the postlude. Upon saying his name, he turned around to see who was speaking to him. He saw this rather serious looking man, with a shaved head, in a very sober black suit (not usual Easter wear in the southern states, US!). He simply took the letter without a word of direction from me. By this point he was shaking and sweating, like he expected the police to be waiting with handcuffs outside the door. I don’t mean to gloat, but it was fucking brilliant to be the one who was calm and cool, and have him being the one shaking like a leaf!! I said the line anyway because I did at least want to go away with the idea he would read it. :)
For you it all came down to one thing I realize… I was gay, and therefore it didn’t matter to you that you were sexually abusing a teenage boy. I’m sure you also say there was nothing abusive about what you did. Let me correct you on both counts.
Sex between and adult and a child is sexual abuse Mark. I don’t feel there can be any sane difference of opinion about this. And yes, I was still a child at 13, 14, 15, and because of what you did to my head through the trauma of performing sexual acts with you as a way to find some kind of love and acceptance, I remained a child for many more years where you were concerned. That allowed you to manipulate and control me beyond what I knew was right, but I was helpless to do anything but play the role you designed for me. I admit that I probably played it so well that you would be astounded to hear how I really felt. I actually hated you almost as much as I hated myself for being with you. That’s an example of why sexually abusing a child is never acceptable… an adult never knows what they are actually doing to a developing mind. With children what you see isn’t always what you get.
That brings me to the core of your self-deception Mark. You no doubt comfort yourself with the idea that if I was gay then it was OK. Let’s look at how twisted that is. If a child is coerced through whatever means, be it subtle cajoling or violent force, to have sex with an adult, and that adult happens to be the gender to which that child would be attracted, do you think that makes the sexual abuse of that child ok? Can you truly believe that? That is one of the greatest insults to abuse victims everywhere I can imagine. It wouldn’t matter if I was gay, straight, bi, asexual or anything else… it’s wrong to do what you did, and you know it.
I don’t feel like telling you all of the different ways I’ve suffered because of you. I don’t wish to provide you with one iota of information about my life. I will tell you though that I have suffered, and greatly. I will also tell you that without a doubt my life is better, richer in family and friends who love me, than yours could ever be, because these people know all of me. Who can you say that about? How many people would really think the same of you if they knew what you did? No matter how you would like to try and color it, just imagine putting out the facts to your family on your next visit with them. That must be very lonely.
Speaking of people knowing… I hope you haven’t forgotten how many people know what you did and how old I was when you did it. Perhaps you’ve even felt that over the years. People in Evansville wouldn’t come out and say anything… but they act different to people they suspect are child molesters. Hopefully that will change one day and people will take action against an adult they suspect is having sex with a child. Lucky you, that day certainly hadn’t come back when I was 13.
Your loneliness is what it was all about though. You were so lonely because of an inability to deal with your own sexuality that the only way you could face it was with and through the eyes of a child. Maybe you were bringing me up as you would liked to have been… or maybe you felt the only partner you could control was one you had incubated in your own sexual/mental laboratory.
I don’t subscribe to your religious beliefs but if you truly do, then you know what this means. You know what you’ve done.
I will tolerate no contact from you to me. You need expect none from me. This is a one-time event to plant the seed of you as sexual abuser firmly in your mind. I know it will take root till the day you die. Every time you open one of those Bibles you will remember what you did to me. I know you.
After confronting Mark with the letter, Kevin notified the local Church authorities, where upon Mark was immediately fired, and banned from any involvement with the Catholic Church. Kevin has generously allowed the above letter to be reprinted here in the hope that it will assist other men who have been sexually abused, as well as their partners, family and supporters.
A letter to you, the man who sexually abused me
The following is an open letter, translated from Portuguese to English, by Ângelo. You can visit the author’s website (in Portuguese) at Quebrar o Silêncio.
Ângelo: Writing an open letter
This was written as an open letter, and as such it was never delivered to the abuser. Writing it was a exercise for myself, to purge my inner thoughts and also to expel my last breath about the sexual abuse. It helped a lot in that regard.
For some time I believed I shouldn’t publish this open letter as it no longer represents how I feel. However, these words still speak for how I felt for years and decades, and how many men still suffer in silence. Having that in mind, I’m sharing this letter to bring visibility to this cause and some much needed awareness. Please share it! #breakthesilence
Today, I write you this letter because the time has come to close this chapter in my life and to confront you with reality: you have sexually abused me when I was only 11 years old. You’ve abused a child that, like every other child, depended on an adult for his security. You’ve approached me with your lies and affection; you came as a friend and gave me your attention to create a relationship with me, a relationship that brought with it a lifelong, destructive toll. When you invited me to your house, when you took sexual advantage of me, an 11-year old child, you also destroyed a part of that child, a part of me.
I grew up believing that when an adult gives me attention, they’ll charge for it afterwards. You taught me that when a man gives affection to a boy, he will sexually abuse him afterwards. And you made me believe that it was natural, that it was normal and acceptable to all men to have sexual contact with children. How could I thought otherwise if my first sexual experience was with you, an adult, who took advantage of the innocence of an 11-year old boy saying it all was perfectly natural?
I am going to explain you what were the consequences of your acts, so you don’t have any doubts about the way you scarred me. Because of you and what you did to me, I grew up believing I had no value, that I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s affection. I grew up believing that I deserved your abusive behavior, that I was the one to blame. With your lies and cunning words, you sowed in me guilt without end. I grew up disgusted with myself, feeling dirty as if I was to blame for your actions, as if I, a simple child, was the one who had sexually abused you, a poor, innocent man who was caught in the web of an 11-year old sexual demon. That was how I felt. For decades, I was the criminal.
You’ve sexually abused me, however you walk as a free man. You’ve always walked free and exempt from a guilty conscience. Otherwise you wouldn’t have the courage to approach me in the street, with my mother by my side, and invite me to your house, you wouldn’t have the courage to ask me why have I stopped going to your street. I will never forget the last time you took me to your bed; the panic on your face when someone rang the door and you covering my mouth with your hand so they couldn’t even hear me breathing. If that was natural as you’ve always carefully told me, why did you react that way? It was in that moment I understood there was something wrong. In that moment, your dread didn’t match your deceitful words, craftily used since the beginning. You were so frightened that I took the chance to flee and never went back. But the harm, the damage, repeated over and over again, was already done and I brought it with me.
The worst of it all is that even though you were the monster who abused a child, the shame, the mortification, the guilt, the malaise, the will to die, the never-ending dark hole, the nightmares, the suffocation, all of it came with me. It was I who carried that horrible weight throughout my life.
And still you’re seen as a model citizen, someone who is a friend, someone everyone can trust. But that ends today because I know who you are. I see you for who you truly are and today is the day you’re going to see yourself in the mirror, the day you’re going to be confronted with your true self. Today, I’m grabbing the mirror to show you who you are. To you and to the world.
For decades I was the one who kept a secret and that protected you. I was afraid that those who love me would say I was the abuser. The guilt, the disgust and the shame were so paralyzing that I kept my mouth shut, bearing all of this in silence. But that ends today. I refuse to be a victim of a past that I couldn’t escape.
Today I give you back everything you’ve given me, everything I didn’t deserve and never asked for.
Today I return you the shame, your indecency, your guilt. None of it belongs to me.
Today I give you back the horrible, inhumane crime you’ve committed to an 11-year old child, so that you feel the weight of your actions for the rest of your life. The shame is finally yours to have.
Today, I break the silence and declare you guilty!
Speaking out and building awareness
I held on to the letter for a long time before sharing it, as I did get to a point where I had moved on from these feelings. But I’ve come to realize that many men may feel the same way and I thought that, by sharing it, people would understand a bit better some of the things that go through the mind of a male survivor. There’s a great need for creating awareness about sexual male abuse.
As a way of contributing, finding meaning and giving back, I created Quebrar o Silêncio in Portugal to help male survivors. We are very proud to be helping men to overcome the trauma of sexual abuse. Many men that come to us say that they didn’t talk to anyone before talking to us, and this is means a lot. Not only to help us to validate the work we do, but also to understand that there’s so much work to be done.