When I disowned my brother on account of the fact he traumatised me with sexual abuse at the age of ten, I wrote to him. I explained across pages and pages how I felt and the damage he has done. I took weeks to carefully craft something that really explained what I felt. I poured my heart out. You can read the letter here.
Today I received his response. On a single side of A5 paper. Just this pathetic paragraph. I’m not sure why I was surprised.
There are no words I can find to say how sorry I am, nor can I provide you a reason or explanation as I just can’t find one. I am guilty of some terrible things that I did to you and none of those things were your fault. I dearly wish I could take them back but I can’t. Every day I wake and feel the guilt and remorse for those things and for what I put you through – then now and forever more. These emotions are always with me and I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you.
I hope one day you will be able to find some forgiveness towards me, although I would understand if you cannot.
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Honestly, this letter is more than I could ever expect from my own brother. Though he once uttered the words to me, “it was my fault you were fucked up.” he never apologized to me, in fact, continued to deny it when he was confronted by my sister.
I know he may not have expressed everything that you needed to hear, but I think you can appreciate that he did take the time to at least respond.
I’ve been thinking of writing my brother myself and I know that I will never get a response back from him. If I do, one day, it will be a complete surprise.
By him saying “those things” I think he still can’t face the reality of what he has done to you. Its hard to admit those things out loud.
When I heard that he denied it, I was in rehab, surrounded by strangers, bawling in the corner of my dorm, a girl came into comfort me. When I explained what had happened….. I simply said, I mean what can you expect? Who wants to admit that they fucked their sister?
Not sure where I was going with this.
Hope it helped though.
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It always helps to hear from you. I know you understand.
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Wow that must take quite a bit of processing, I hope you have a decent therapist and can take some time to talk through how this affects you.
I guess an apology and an admission of guilt is worth something. All of us survivors carry around a sense of guilt and tend to blame ourselves so maybe you can use this letter to absolve yourself of any blame, and to assist with your healing.
Knowing that there is nothing wrong with you, knowing that it was someone else’s fault, these are stages of recovery that many survivors of abuse never reach.
You are doing great and your blog is awesome.
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Yes I had a long therapy session yesterday, I didn’t open the letter until I was there. My therapist has a lot of empathy and that helps. Everything is taking a lot of processing! Having an extra session today too so hoping that will help. I am so glad you like my blog, it means a lot to get your feedback. Laura
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Laura, first and foremost I’m very sorry you suffered sexual abuse at the hands of your own brother. A stranger who abuses someone is bad enough but incest cuts deep and leaves so many emotional (and in your case physical) scars for the person who was abused.
I’m so sorry his letter was short and didn’t really dig deep emotionally. Is he a shallow person? Would it have really, really have made a difference if your brother had offered some long, deep and sorrowful reason as to why he abused you? I’m thinking it wouldn’t have mattered either way and you would still carry the hurt, scorn and emotional trauma you do.
All I can say is that he replied to you and didn’t deny what he did. You poured your heart out … he kept things simple and clean. I don’t think either way is more “right” than the other … and don’t mistake me, I don’t for one minute think what he did to you was right in any way shape or form.
What would you have liked to have had him say? Do you want him to feel suicidal and start cutting too? Would you like him to kill himself? Would you like him to be banned to a mental health institution for life? What would be justice since we can’t undue the past? Did he ever got therapy?
Laura, what he did to you was in the past … and I’m not saying that it’s insignificant or doesn’t matter, but the cutting that you do today — in the present — is what your mind is telling you now. You are believing all these thoughts that come through your mind and you don’t have to believe all of them. I realize it’s an easy thing for some stranger on the internet to say … but he is no longer actually physically abusing you … you are bringing to life all of the thoughts that happened and putting yourself, your beautiful intelligent creative self through the wringer for someone who no longer physically hurts you.
You don’t deserve the life you’re giving yourself. No one deserves to be abused, but the sad, sad, sad reality is that it happens and will continue to happen to countless people who don’t deserve it just like you. When you cut yourself you’re abusing yourself like he abused you … perhaps in a different form and fashion, but nonetheless abuse to this degree is destructive.
I have no idea how to tell you that you matter and to “fuck the past” … but you really, need to fuck the past or you may end up shredding yourself to ribbons in no way that your beautiful form and psyche deserve.
When you get to your lowest point in your mind can you imagine yourself as a 5-year-old and what you would do and say with her? You wouldn’t bring out the razor blade (or whatever cutting tool of choice) and start slicing on her would you? You would tell her words of both love and worth … wouldn’t you?
I’m so sorry that your brother, your abuser, could NOT tell you what you wanted to hear … that HE could not pour his heart out like you did and that he seemingly doesn’t feel the pain and shame that you do. Do you want him to feel these things — to have now TWO people hurt, shamed and self-harming? You can’t control him or what he does and has done, but you can control you … and you CAN care for you. He will never feel the depth of pain of what you feel and have felt — abusers rarely do. You can’t hope for him to be something he is not and can never be. But you can spare yourself of more pain. You experienced pain, but you do not have to BECOME pain.
No matter what this spineless, horny, using pathetic excuse for an ignorant human being did to you, you don’t have to let him continue to torment you by using your own mind as your own worst enemy. Your cutting and slicing and dicing and bleeding will never bring back your innocent self, nor will it make him pay for his wrongdoings … you will only visit more psychiatric institutions, feel more shame, hate him more and continue to live in the shadow of the past, only to wash, rinse and repeat. No one looks at the wake while they drive a boat … and if you continue to look at the wake, people will be attending YOUR wake instead of celebrating the vibrant YOU that you are in this thing called life.
I can’t make you take care of yourself … I can’t make you like yourself … but I can hope that somehow you make it out of this very, very, very dark and unnecessary abyss when there actually is a life out here for you … one where people DO love you and want you here … intact mentally AND physically.
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Hello. Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful response. I do take some strength from your encouragement. And I do often stop myself cutting by reminding myself I am just continuing the loop of abuse and shame. At the same time it’s very difficult to stop, because it is such an ingrained, core belief. There is so much connected with the body when a person has been abused. It just becomes this vehicle for pain and punishment.
I’ve had another letter from him this week. He ignored everything that’s happened and just told me his wife is pregnant and asked me to be happy for them. Nothing he can say will make me feel any better about what happened, but I have asked him not to communicate with me. So his ignoring that feels like yet another violation. I don’t know what I want from him, but I know I would like him to admit the extent and severity of what he did. When it all happened, he only admitted to ‘touching’, but I want recognition from him and from my family that he raped me. And that what I suffered wasn’t confused fumbling, it was violence. It’s hard to even contemplate getting closure when that is ignored by most of the people that matter in my life.
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Sometimes we don’t get what we want from the people we most want it from — YOU KNOW THAT — I don’t have to be pedantic about it.
He’s an individual in denial and probably doesn’t want to commit to spoken word or written admissions.
He needs to be cut from your life … excommunicated like a pedophile priest. I’m sorry he trashed your childhood … but YOU are not trash.
You are a beautiful, sensitive writer and blogger and probably so much more that I can’t even begin to know from the little world you share!
I was hoping my words weren’t too harsh and brought on negative thoughts, but I couldn’t ignore your post.
While my brother didn’t physically abuse me, he took advantage of our family in such a way that we weren’t able to function as a “normal” unit — whatever “normal” is. I have and sometimes do harbor a lot of resentment about what he did … and I also know that no letter I could write pouring my soul out would make any difference.
My point is that this narcissistic denial qualities that some people, like our dysfunctional brothers, will never go away or will we ever be given an apology nor retribution to our satisfaction. The best that I can hope for is to move forward and when I can, find people that can relate to my situation so that I don’t feel alone.
I also know Laura, that YOU are not alone because I have read and seen seen many responders to your blog who have experience sexual abuse as well. Knowing that sexual abuse is occurring now and in the past doesn’t make it less palatable, but at the very least you know that you aren’t alone in your feelings and harboring of disgust for what one individual did to you.
My heart goes out to you. I don’t want that man, your abuser, to continue to abuse you through your own thoughts and actions. He is the past. He is dead to you.