Forgiveness. It can’t be a means to an end. You have to mean it for it to matter. And I don’t know if you can give someone forgiveness who hasn’t asked for it. I’ve only been asked to move on, to forget, to start fresh — not to forgive. Because asking for forgiveness is an admission of wrongdoing. And you haven’t admitted that you were wrong; you’ve only told me that my memory is wrong. But there are some things I’ll never forget, no matter how hard I try to block it out, no matter how many times you tell me it didn’t happen.
Of course I wish it didn’t happen. I’ll never forget being thrown into walls, thrown into furniture, thrown onto the floor and kicked in the stomach. I’ll never forget being locked in the basement for days without food. I’ll never forget the night you handcuffed me to my bed, forced NyQuil down my throat, and beat me with a billiard stick. I must’ve fallen asleep at some point, but I woke up in the morning, still handcuffed. It was a weekday; I missed school, but I missed school so often that it barely mattered. I screamed for awhile, pulling at the cuffs, hoping someone would hear me, save me. But it was the middle of the day. No one could hear me, so I went back to sleep. A million times, she tried to have me committed to mental institutions, citing a number of depressive disorders that she’d diagnosed me with herself, citing the time I sat on my window sill when I was three and threatened to jump. I didn’t want to die because of a chemical in my brain that took away my will to live; I wanted to die because of you. And here I am, with a new lease on life, and you’re asking to be included. You think I’m denying you some privilege or punishing you, but the truth is that it’s not about you — I’m just tired of punishing myself.
And all you’ve done isn’t all I blame you for. I blame you for not protecting me. I blame you for putting me out on the street and leaving me to die. I blame you for all of the trauma associated with the physical and sexual violence I faced on the street. I blame you for abandoning me, showing up only after I beat all odds and survived and thrived, without you.
When I went to therapy at UCLA’s Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, I didn’t talk about my rapist; I didn’t talk about my rape. I talked about how I got there in the first place. I talked about you. That if I had just had a safe place to go then I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. That if I had just had a place to call home then I wouldn’t have met him in the first place.
And what I hate is that it was so easy for everyone to tell me not to go back to Anwar’s house. When I felt like I had nowhere to go but back to my rapist, I had the world’s support telling me that it was wrong. When I felt dependent on my abusive relationship two years ago, I had the world’s support to stay strong and stay away. But when it comes to my mother, I hear lines like, “You only have one mother,” and “You always go back and work things out anyway.”
It’s easier to single out my rape and my abusive relationship as though they were just unfortunate, isolated incidents, as though they were in no way connected to anything that happened in my past. As though survivors of child abuse aren’t at increased risk for experiencing domestic violence. I blame it all on you. How dare you fail to recognize the extent of the damage you would do? And, even if it didn’t have far-reaching effects, wouldn’t it be bad enough that you kicked a child in the stomach? Even if I didn’t blame you for everything, wouldn’t just one incident of violence have been bad enough? And for your reference, a few things about apologies: