These are some of the secrets abuse victims keep. If you are a parent of a teenager, this is my message to you. It is inspired by a letter I received today. When I started writing this list, I thought maybe I’d write 5-10 things. I ended up with almost 100. I narrowed them down and grouped them together to make 25. They are honest. Some will smack you in the face. Others are the tip of the iceberg.
1. I’m being abused.
Abuse happens in teenage relationships. Like, real abuse. To girls much younger than you could ever image. It comes in many different levels and many different forms: from controlling behaviors, to horrible naming calling (not like ‘bitch’ or ‘loser’…..things like ‘c*nt’, or ‘how could I respect someone who’s as big of a f*cking disgusting slut as you are,’) to rape, to threatening to kill us, or themself, to actually attempting to do so.
I’ll tell you that I am fine. That everything is fine. I’ll tell you to stay out of it. That nothing is wrong. That it’s none of your effing business. Or I’ll pretend to be happy and swear that everything is great.
…it’s not. I’m lying.
I don’t lie because I mean to lie. I lie because I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Afraid. I think I’ve let you down. I think that everything is my fault. And I think that I can somehow make it better by being better. I think that I can somehow change what is going on or make it go away by fooling the entire world. A lot of times I’m lying so that I can try to fool myself.
3. I’m just as desperate for someone to know about the abuse and to help me as I’m desperate to keep it all hidden.
As good as I am at lying, every once in a while I will slip up and give you a hint: I’ll make a quiet comment putting myself down. I’ll wear baggy clothes. I’ll give you a weird look. I’ll leave a note where you can find it, and swear it was an accident. I’ll start to cry or throw a tantrum because I can’t decide whether I want ice tea or lemonade. I know it might not seem like much, but pay attention to it.
4. I don’t think everything’s my fault, I know that everything is my fault.
I am 100% sure that the abuse is my fault. I feel it in every fiber of my being and it is devastating. Sometimes I can see that my boyfriend’s (or ex’s) behavior is wrong, but I will find some way to blame myself. (This will take me years of therapy to change, so when I say ‘I know, I know, it’s not my fault’ refer to #2.)
5. I need your help. Even though I swear that I don’t.
I need help getting out and staying safe. You don’t need to lock me up and never let me date. This will backfire and make me hate you and not trust you. I need to be rebuilt and protected even though I will fight against this. What I really need though is to feel empowered. If you forbid me from dating you send me a message that I can’t handle it or don’t know how to control my own life.
Please don’t punish me, get mad at me, or make me feel worse about what is going on or stupid for being in the situation I am in. I already feel stupid enough. I just need you on my side.
6. I need information.
I don’t know how to ask for help, and even if I do, I won’t. But, I need my school to keep me safe. I need the police to be involved maybe. I need therapy. And then I need you to tell me that you will protect me and that everything is going to be ok.
7. I’m in love with the boy who hurts me.
The love I feel is very strong. Take me seriously when I say I am in love, because it’s real. Telling me I am too young to have found my soul mate or I don’t really know what I feel…it just makes me pissed. The feelings I experience are very real to me, so take them seriously.
8. I don’t know how young I am.
I feel old. I’m not a kid anymore. No matter how many times you try to tell me, I can’t understand that I am still young. It won’t be until about 10 years from now when my little baby cousin turns my age. Then, it’ll hit me. Hard.
9. I wear a lot of masks.
I smile. People think that I am happy and that nothing bothers me. But underneath them there is emptiness and pain.
10. I need you to talk to me about sex.
I really, really, really, really, really don’t want you to ask me if I am having sex. I’d rather die. But, chances are I have already done it, am thinking about doing it, or am feeling a lot of pressure to do it. I have a lot of questions and I don’t know all the answers even when I think I do…so as much as I don’t want to have an awkward conversation, I need you to talk to me about it anyway. I need you to do it in a non judgmental way. It’s hard for you too but you have to do it.
If I won’t listen to you, don’t make me feel bad. Just find a way to get me the information I need. Write me a letter. Buy me books. Keep trying. Whatever. I need to know about things like birth control. I need to know what’s healthy and what’s unhealthy. I need to know that I don’t have to have sex, or that if someone pressures me to do it that it’s wrong. I need to know about STDS. And I need someone to talk to.
***If I tell you I am having sex, want to have sex, have had sex, or use the word sex in a sentence, and you do any of the following: freak out, cry, act shocked, ask me why the hell I did that, tell me you are disappointed, call me stupid, shake your head and stay quiet, etc. I will never talk to you again. And I will never forget***
Also be careful not to be too excited. If someone is forcing me to have sex, and I say everything’s fine, there’s a chance I’m lying (see #1) If this is the case, and you are excited, I feel like a piece of shit. Actually, even dirtier.
11. My boyfriend is putting an UNBELIEVABLE amount of pressure on me to have sex.
If he hasn’t talked me into it yet, he’s trying to. If he can’t talk me into it, he’ll just try to do it anyway. If I try to stop him, eventually he’ll force his way inside. If I do it willingly, he’ll eventually become aggressive.
He uses sex against me in a horrible way. Not every time. Sometimes it will be good, but somehow, at some point, he will make me feel absolutely worthless. Slutty. Empty. Hollow. Ashamed. Dirty. Sick. Dead.
I don’t know what rape is. Not really. I don’t really know what sexual assault is either. I just know they are ugly words. And coercion? Uhhh….no clue. All I know is it is all my fault. In some way or another. No. Matter. What. My fault.
12. Sleepovers are not innocent.
I really, really, really, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally want to have sleepovers with my boyfriend. Like so much so that it makes my stomach hurt and me get this crazy feeling that I don’t know how to describe. I’ve never felt this before (yeah, those horrible hormones) and I HATE you when you say no….but….sleepovers are an incredible amount of pressure. They aren’t as innocent as we swear they are.
13. I’m trying to find answers.
Not just about sex, but about what is happening to me. I search the internet. I read books. I’ll hide the fact that I’m doing this, but I’m desperate for information and for something to explain what’s going on.
14. Technology is a scary, scary thing.
I don’t have as much control over it as I think I do, and I really don’t understand how scary it can be. Neither do you. Trust me. People have pictures of me that I wish they didn’t have. They have access to more information about me than I’m even aware of. They know where I am all the time and who I am with. Technology has the potential to ruin my life.
15. My boyfriend is pressuring me to send him naked pictures.
Probably A LOT. He tries to send me pictures of his wiener. Seriously. And….honestly, I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do about it. It seems easy to say “that’s ridiculous, just don’t send anything back and tell him to go screw himself” but it’s not that easy.
He makes it seem cool. He makes it seem sexy and exciting. He makes it seem like I owe it to him. And he makes it seem like I hurt his feelings, let him down, or that I don’t trust him or love him if I don’t.
If I try to talk to you about it with you and you say “Well, you didn’t do that did you???” or if you freak out and get mad at me or threaten to punish me, or anything remotely related, I will not only hate you but I will cut you off. I will be mortified. I will vow never, ever, ever, to try to talk to you again.
16. You don’t understand.
And honestly, I don’t think that there is any way you would ever understand. When you tell me that you understand exactly what I’m going through it just makes me feel further away from you. You might relate to some things, and sometimes your advice is helpful, but you do not understand everything that I am going through, starting because of the fact that you don’t know the majority of my reality.
17. I am scared.
Really scared. I’m trying to be brave. And tough. And strong. But I am scared.
18. I need you on my side.
As hard as it is to hear things that I tell you (if I tell you anything) don’t preach, don’t lecture, don’t even make a face. Just hold me and love me and be on my side, because no one else is.
I am confused. Like really fucking confused. And I might act tough, but on the inside, I’m falling apart.
You have no idea what I have been through or am going through. It’s worse than you can imagine. (I’m sorry. I don’t want you to know this because I don’t want to make you sad. But, it’s the truth.)
I don’t need someone else to make me feel bad about myself or to tell me that I am doing everything wrong. I need you to be on my side. 100% totally and completely and forever on my side.
19. I feel so alone and I wish I could just disappear.
I’ve lost most of my friends. If you knew how alone I felt it would break your heart. Most of the time, I wish that I could just close my eyes and disappear from here. and I doubt that anyone would notice.
20. I’m desperate to escape and to ease the pain.
You can get mad at me for doing drugs, getting drunk, for failing school, for having an eating disorder, for fighting with people, for throwing tantrums…or whatever other way I act out, but I’m just trying to make the pain go away. I need something to take away the pain.
21. I hate you for no reason.
I’ll think of 1,197,864,328,901 reasons why I say I hate you. But really, the only reason I think I hate you is because he’s made me hate you. He badmouths you all the time. You have been made out to be an enemy. If you overreact or get angry or freak out and try to control everything, you play right into what my boyfriend is telling me. You become a monster and he can use that to make me hate you instead of him.
I might tell you that I hate you, that you are ruining my life or that you are too controlling, but I need you. I need you to protect me even when it makes me hate you more. I need you to be the bad person sometimes. I need you to believe me if I tell you I am scared, or if I tell you my boyfriend has hurt me. I need you to listen to me without freaking out.
22. I don’t know I’m being abused.
The abuse started slow. So slow that I never saw it coming.
I don’t know that it’s even abuse because I don’t really know what abuse is. I think abuse happens to old women who are weak and stupid and much older than me. I don’t think that what’s happening to me is actually abuse.
23. The night time is the worst.
24. I get horrible advice.
My friends give me horrible advice. So do magazines. And TV shows. It’s confusing and I don’t know what to think.
25. You can make a difference.
I love you. I’m not sure if you can love me still, but I’m hoping that you’ll try. I need you to tell me that I am strong, because I’m being told that I am weak. I need you to tell me that I am beautiful, because I am being told that I am ugly. I need you to tell me that I have a choice, because I feel trapped and helpless. I need you to never, ever, ever give up on me. I need you to tell me that this is temporary and it will get better, because it feel never-ending.