Editor’s note: When H. Marie Warga learned that her father was attempting to contact her, she wrote this letter to him. At the urging of Connie Valentine, one of the co-founders of the Incest Survivors Speakers Bureau, she sent it to ACEsTooHigh.com, with the hope that it will help other men and women who are struggling with the same issues: how to give voice to the unspeakable, how to establish boundaries, and what forgiveness means. Warga is entering her senior year in college, and intends to become a lawyer.
I am writing this letter since hearing that you were attempting to contact me. There are things I need to hear myself say to you before I read or hear anything from you. First, I am going to tell you that you were lucky. You are a man who was able to violate the trust
he built with his wife and child and then walk away without punishment. You were able to cause pain and suffering in a child’s life but move on without any repercussions. The destruction you caused was a mere chapter in your life. I know that you deny what you did to me when talking to others, but you cannot pretend with me. I am the one you violated. I am the one you betrayed. I am the one who remembers. You cannot run away from me or God. We know the truth, no matter what you tell others or say to yourself. If you dare try to have contact with the child that you hurt, there are first some things you need to know.
When that chapter in your life was over, and you couldn’t touch me again, you moved on. But your actions had a huge impact on the rest of my childhood. Your actions gave me anger that a child/adolescent should never have to feel. You gave me fear that only children who have been traumatized have. You gave me nightmares every night for years. I would wake up screaming in terror, trying to escape the monster in my dream that, even at a young age, I always knew was you. You trampled my trust for any man or boy to enter my life. You gave me a temper that led me to harm others as well as myself. Due to your actions, I suffered with depression until college that, on occasion, almost led me to end my own life. For years after your new life began, I struggled to keep the only one I had.
Even when times seemed to be good, a simple trigger would give me a flashback, sending me right back to when and where all the fears began. You took away my childhood. You took away my mother’s chance to play and have fun with her only daughter during what was supposed to be a happy, free and playful time in their lives. You took away my chance to have what other kids have, a protective, loving, supportive and respected father. You took away my time to learn and develop respectful and appropriate relationships with others. You left a child with nothing but fear, anger and confusion to grow and develop with. To this day, at 21, I still am trying to learn about what makes an appropriate and healthy relationship between a husband/wife, father and child. I am still trying to figure out if I will ever be able to decipher a good man, from one like you. You did not just molest your daughter until she was 5, you damaged her entire life in ways that you cannot even begin to, and never will, understand. Sadly, you are not the only man to do this, or something like it, to his child. But I want you to know that I came out on the positive end compared to what could have happened, and that is thanks to my mom.
She showed me how to be strong, move on, learn and use the feelings I had about my situation to drive me in a better direction. She showed me how the Lord helped her to save me from you when I was 5, and the Lord showed me how to save myself from you at 19. There are goals I have set for myself that sound extremely difficult to anyone who hears them. However, I believe that these goals have been decided on because I have developed something that others might not have. I have experience in this type of trauma. I have passion needed to make a difference in the lives of other children who are being put through what you did to me. I also have the intelligence needed to out-smart anyone who gets in my way of protecting those kids from people like you. They deserve a chance like I had to overcome.
There is one more thing that makes me different from anyone else who has been violated in such a way. I have forgiveness. When the Lord saved me, he showed me how to forgive you when I was 19. But hear me when I say, do not be mistaken. I did not forgive you because I felt you deserved another chance. People like you do not change and given the chance, I firmly believe that you would harm another defenseless little girl. I did not forgive you because I felt you had been punished enough. The only way I would feel that justice had been served would be if you were in prison with a lifetime of therapy. I did not forgive you because time healed all wounds. My scars are still very much there and I will always struggle, to some degree, with what you did to me.
I forgave you for myself and myself alone. It is because the anger, fear and sadness are a distraction and something I do not deserve to have. I let the pain and suffering you caused me run my life and love for 19 years, and that was too long. It was time to let that all go and find the emotions and feelings that truly make up who I am deep inside. All those feelings I had towards you, as well as the ones you made me feel towards myself, were like a blanket covering the real me. I forgave you to find myself, and I have. You deserve no credit for this. You are lucky. Your child survived a traumatic experience and violation by you, her father, and came out an amazing, smart, driven, kind and beautiful woman. However, you do not get to claim me and my success. I did this on my own, (but in the beginning with the help from my mom). My anger towards you however is gone. I wasted too much time and energy on you and I learned to put it towards fixing what you broke. Now that I have, I feel you should know what you caused as well as the result.
You broke me, and ruined my childhood, but you will not have my present or future. I welcome an apology from you. But do not think for a second that I will accept anything less than a true, honest-to-God and responsibility-taken, apology. Remember, I am smart enough to know the difference. If you do try for contact I will also require an apology for my mom. She was your wife and your love, and you destroyed her trust and hurt her one and only child. You took away the one chance she had at having a happy life raising her child. Yes, she and I have an absolutely amazing relationship now, but you ruined her plan. We both deserve an apology, but we will not hold our breath. Only after these two conditions are fulfilled will I consider any further communication with you.
(signed) Marie; aka Survivor