Think you know all about how abuse feels? Take a look from the other side.[Editor's Note: Laura Cowan is a survivor of domestic abuse, and now conducts educational programs about victim awareness and understanding abuse. After conducting one such program in a state prison recently, she received the following letter from one of the inmates spoken to. It is presented here with permission, with identifying names and details omitted for privacy. Spelling and grammar errors are in the original.]
Dear Ms. Cowan,
First off, my name is _________, and I want to take this time to thank you for coming to _______ and speaking to us in the “Victims Awareness Class.” I am going to be honest with you, when I first started this class, I thought it was going to be like all the other classes that I have taken in different programs. This class so far has helped me tremendously. Thank you for coming and changing my life.
I always thought of myself and not of my victims. I couldn’t see past my own needs and desires. But when you came, you and shared your story, you really opened my eyes to the whole picture, the picture of my victims. I had no idea what exactly I put them through. let me say that I guess I was really acting out what had happened to me as a child. When I was six years old, I lost my father. My mother remarried later on, and my step-father would beat me for no reason and when I clean the floors to the house, if I missed a piece of paper, he would tie me to a chair and beat me telling me the whole time not to cry, and then make me sit there staring at that piece of paper or whatever until I would tell him that I would not do it again and mean it sincerly. Come to find out, I needed glasses.
In order to keep away from his abuse, I would spend more time with my uncle. We would go out and fly a bite out in the back pasture, and when we were winded from all the running, we would sit down under a tree, and he would have me masterbate him, and he would fondle me. I would also spend nights over at my grandmothers’ house when my cousin came to visit from Michigan. At bed time he would wait for me to got to sleep and he would sexually molest me. I would never tell anyone any of this, because when I tried to tell them, they would say I was imagining it. Well, needless to say, I am in here for 2 counts of rape. I acted out what was done to me when I was young. I would never bring this up to anyone here or at the parole board, because they would say that I was only trying to make excuses. Well, I have taken responsibility of my actions, and I understand the hurt that I have put my victims through. I couldn’t face this fact until you came and shared your story with us. I am not one to cry easily, but your story really brought tearss to my eyes, and opened up my heart to the hurt that I have caused my victims.
When I went to the parole board last month, my past was brought up for the first time in 10 years. While talking to them, the past came upon me and I broke down in the parole board hearing. I feel they brought this up for a reason. I don’t know quite yet why, but it will be revealed in time I guess. Not only was I a predator, but I was a victim living with this demon inside of me. I have finally faced my darkest fear, and I couldn’t have done it if you haven’t shared your story with us. Thank you for caring about us. Thank you again for your trust in us to come and want to help us see that what we have done has had an impact not only on our victims, but others as well and wanting us to change our lives so that we can be more productive and not destructive.
PS. Please continue saving the lives of the ones needing saved, and want to open up their ears and hear the change they need, and a second chance at correcting the wrong and making a positive input on the community in which they live. You have a very meaningful message. Too bad alot of people won’t be able to hear it.
[Editor's note: We wish again to emphasize that Ms. Cowan has suffered horrific abuse in her own past, and that her contribution of this narrative should not be read as condoning the author's actions, but rather as the extension of empathy by a person who has every reason not to extend it. Please leave comments in that light.]