TW: Update on my open letter: Please read part one first, there is a preface at the beginning.
I wish so much that I could report a positive reaction from my family. I wish I could tell all of you that they decided to believe and support me. That is not the reality though and I want to be transparent for those of you wanting to speak your truth because of me. You need to know of the worst case scenario before you do. Please read through all of this because it’s going to start off sad but end on a high note, I promise.
After I posted my letter, my family did reach out. One by one, negative reaction after another with one positive hidden between. Before getting into the negative, let me explain that I fully grasp the idea that this is severe new information to these people (kind of) and that it does take time to fully wrap your head around something like this. It is perfectly okay to need time to process. But if I could give one piece of advice to those who need that time, it would be to communicate. Tell your loved one that you’re there for them and you support them but that you still need a bit of time to fully comprehend it. For the love of god, don’t tell them you don’t believe them. I’m going to go through the reactions by who came first and each member of the family.
The first person to reach out was my mother. She called me crying and upset which I think is valid. She seemed insistent on asking why I had not told her about this before and she asked me about each detail attached to the incidences. Let me interject here and say that it can be very difficult to recall something horrible 20 years after it happened. I learn new information through memory and flashbacks everyday. The conversation went on and the same things were asked. I asked her if she believed me and she couldn’t say yes. I told her she needed to take some time to figure out why it is that she couldn’t believe me. Two things bothered me here, the first being that she couldn’t believe her own daughter. The second is that she took my moment of coming forward and my moment of vulnerability to shift towards herself. Out of respect for her autonomy, I will not delve further into this.
When we hung up, I received texts from my grandmother. She didn’t begin with any type of concern for me. No. Rather, she began with something that still rings in my head- “how could you do this to your mother?”
I was honestly shocked. I didn’t realize that someone who once claimed to love me could possibly disregard me in such a way. All I could think was “at what point am I worth defending in this family?” We went back and forth for a bit with me trying to calmly and bluntly explain my story and the fact that I needed support. It ended with me telling her to take some time to figure out where she stands. I told both of them that the only thing I needed was for them to believe me. Not to the family, not to the world, just to me.. it’s all I needed to hear from them.
Next my aunt, my grandfather’s sister- yes one of the men who did this to me. She texted me this long and seemingly supportive message. You see, with gas-lighting you really have to read between the lines to see what is actually being said and what is being avoided. This particular phrase stuck out “I’m sorry you feel that way”. For those of you who do not know, this is an empty apology. It takes away the autonomy and validity of that person’s truth and reaction. It is not okay to say. Of course, I got angry because after 20 years of not standing up for myself it all flooded in. I told her as I told all of them that I didn’t want to talk if they could not believe me. You see, she wasn’t trying to see my side, she showed no signs of remorse or care. She called me a bully- said that just like my liberal views online, I was being stubborn and bullying her for not agreeing with my side. Let me remind all of you that this was not an opinion of mine, it was fact. There was nothing to gain from it and it was NOT A FUCKING BIPARTISAN ISSUE. This was the first limb I completely severed. This person took my truth and my pain and made me the perpetrator. I cannot tolerate that in my life and nobody should have to.
I did have another person from that town reach out and they asked me who it was so they could protect their children. I told them privately so that they could and let me tell ya what, they were not surprised at all. This person had thought of my uncle to be a creep long before.
I heard from my mother again shortly after. She texted me to “see how I was doing”. It had gotten to the point with family that I had to be blunt immediately and ask if they believed me. I could not try and navigate my way through false niceties anymore. She responded by saying “I believe that you were raped and molested”.. to which I responded “by your father and brother?” She agreed with her brother but could not believe her father had. She wanted to come to therapy with me. This may seem like a good step or a genuine effort until you analyze the issues that lie within. She wanted to come into MY safe space, to become a part of my healing journey without admitting fault. I told her she needed to seek help on her own first to figure out why she couldn’t believe me. It has been three months now and my biological mother, you know, the woman who birthed me, has not called, texted, or even asked about me to my other family. Literally the least amount of effort someone could give.
My grandma called me a couple of weeks ago with a huge manipulative gesture. She began with thats “sweet” white woman phone voice where you really should have to say mean things if you use it. She asked how covid was in Memphis, how the BLM protests were affecting this city.. acting like nothing had happened. THIS IS ANOTHER MAJOR SIGN OF GASLIGHTING. I was short and she asked why- I told her last time we talked I needed one thing from her (her belief in me) and without hesitation, with no remorse in her voice, she said “yeah, I can’t give you that”. I said then we’re done but she continued. She told me I didn’t show signs as a child, that she knew her husband and he would not have done that.
I want to interject with the signs I had: as a child I wouldn’t use the bathroom inside of her house, on my grandfathers truck, or in public and at strangers houses. I was a constant walking kidney infection- terrified of small and inescapable spaces. I got upset whenever he was coming back in town and I started having panic attacks at 7.. what else would I have to fear that much? You never can 100% know who someone is.. and you should not discredit those who saw them in a different light.
I told her she was wrong and that we had no reason to continue being in each other’s lives but she kept going. So I asked her when I would be worth protecting to which she responded saying I already was. I knew of my family’s bias towards my brother and I because we didn’t fit the Arian standards my cousins did. So I asked something I both regret and thank god i did. “If my cousin xxxxxxxx had told you this, would you believe her?” She said she would have so I hung up and fell to the floor in tears. She called back and acted like nothing had happened but once I started crying she hung up on me.
This is the last I heard from them. At first, I was heartbroken and inconsolable. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t care about me. Why they couldn’t try to protect me. You see, I was different. Even as a kid I stood up for what I believed in and many did not take kindly to that as my family’s go to reaction is to ignore the problem until it goes away. I didn’t fully realize this until I was the problem.
Heartbroken and lost, I reached out to others- my dad, my partner, my brother, my best friends, my godmother, my aunt, and my actual chosen mother who I met in college. The support and love they had for me was unconditional, they believed me and offered anything they could to help. They talked to me for hours and checked on me often. They gave me the love that I have craved for so long and they showed me the worth they see in my humanity.
So please look at this truth for what it is- removing toxicity and choosing who you consider family. While I was sad about all of this, I feel so much lighter having finally given myself closure. You don’t always need someone else to do this for you and I recommend finding it on your own without reliance. I’m finally healing and moving forward, I don’t feel stuck anymore and I feel so much better that I spoke up. Go into everything with the understanding of worst case scenario so that you can be prepared. So please join me in normalizing this conversation. Survivors deserve their platform and support wherever it may come from.
A freed and strong half Jewish woman.