It’s been 20 years since the day I sat in the shower, crying in shame and anguish, as I watched the blood flow down the drain. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember his hands in places it shouldn’t have been. I remember the sneer and look in his eyes when he threatened my life. I remember how quiet the house was and how piercingly quiet it got when it was all said and done. I remember how the cold water hit my skin and how the tears were somehow colder. I remember it all.
It was 20 years ago and I still get triggered. I still have nightmares. I still shiver when a stranger gets too close. I still see a therapist in hopes to one day rid myself of all the pain that single day and all the days after that shaped my life. The only difference now: I’ve come to realize I’m angry at you.
You left this earth 5 years ago. The pain of your death has stayed with me. What if I could have done this differently? What if I was a better daughter? What if? What if? What if? I ache to hear you call me Hun Girl again. I ache to hear your fingers slide against your guitar strings. I ache to hug you one last time. I thought the pain and grief of losing you kept me in tears these last five years. But, last weekend, I realized it wasn’t. It was the fact that I was mortified and angry that you didn’t protect me.
Dad, you couldn’t have protected me that day. You were out preparing for our move back to Oahu. Mom was already in Oahu. My siblings were scattered someone on the island with friends. No one was home and I keep telling myself I should have known better. I should have known to not allow my boyfriend into our home alone. I should have known to not allow him into my room alone. I should have known all the things. But, I didn’t. I thought I was safe because he was my best friend. I thought I was safe because his dad grew up with you. I thought I was safe because I knew him. But, I wasn’t. You couldn’t have protected me.
But, when I told you and mom what happened my world shattered even more. Because it was then that you could have.
I’m angry at you dad.
I’m angry that you let mom hurt me with her words. That you never stood up to her as she said I was worthless, unloved, unwanted.
I’m angry that you stood there watching her tell the judge that I was too big of a burden to fight for.
I’m angry that when I told you what happened you didn’t take me in your arms and weep with me.
I’m angry you never even acknowledged what was going on. That you pretended like everyone else that it didn’t happen. That you didn’t believe me.
I’m angry you taught me that you would always be there to protect me and you weren’t. You weren’t dad. When I needed you most you weren’t there. You never showed up emotionally for me. You never showed up physically. You helped them make me believe that I was crazy. That I was foolish for saying it out loud. That I was broken for coming forward. That I was a liar, a scandal, an embarrassment to the family.
I remember as a little girl how you took away everything scary. You protected my little heart from It, Freddy Krueger and the dark. You showered me with love.
I remember you teaching me to ride a bike. I remember you teaching me how to cook, bake, fish and camp. I remember the hours we spent as you pushed me with basketball practice or aikido. And every cut, scrape or bruise for it all you had fixed.
You were always my protector. My superhero. My knight in shining armor. Like you, I was the different one, so you had understood and accepted our kindred souls.
So, why couldn’t you protect me then? Why couldn’t you seen my broken heart and grieved my innocence with me? Why couldn’t you have wiped away all the tears and tell me that I was safe? Why couldn’t you be the protector I knew you could be? You, Dad, you should have protected me. But, you didn’t. You didn’t.
For 20 years I walked through this without you. Or mom. Or my sisters or my brother. No one acknowledging that I was raped, that I was assaulted, that I had been violated. For 20 years I’ve lived with the anger I didn’t know was there. Now that I recognize it Dad, now that I see it laying heavily on my heart, I want to tell you one thing: I forgive you.
I forgive you for not being there.
I forgive you for not stepping in.
I forgive you for letting me go.
I forgive you for not protecting me.
I forgive you. Maybe you wrestled with the same demons I did. Maybe you lived with guilt and shame. Maybe you didn’t. Whatever you felt on the day I told you and mom what happened until your last breath I want you to know I still forgive you. Even if it remained disbelief. I forgive you.
I have a little boy in my home whose family turned their heads, too. He’s four and he’s in so much pain. He’s so angry. He doesn’t understand all the feelings he’s feeling. He doesn’t understand why his body feels so weird sometimes. He doesn’t know why he hurts himself. Or why he’s afraid of the dark. Or why he doesn’t have a family. But, I do. I understand it all. And my heart breaks for him, Dad. His father failed him, too.
Since he’s been in my home I’ve had to come to grips with a lot of feelings. I’ve had to feel the abandonment again. I’ve had to feel the pain and loneliness. I’ve had to feel the fear and the uncertainty. And I’ve come to realize I cannot help him without first helping myself. Two years ago I could finally forgive my assaulter. Two years ago I could finally realize he couldn’t hurt me anymore. As much as I needed to forgive him for what he did I wish I knew then what I knew now: I needed to forgive you too.
I’m still angry, Daddy. I’m still processing all these new emotions I’m feeling. I can probably tell you that I’ll have a lot of tears along the way. But, one thing will not change: I forgive you. When my kids ask about their Papa they will know of all the times you loved and protected me. They will hear of the fun memories you brought into my life. I will continue to teach them your love of food and music. They will know just how much I love you. Because, at the end of the day, Dad, no matter what decision you had made 20 years ago, I forgive you today.
I love you, old man.
Your baby girl,