Photo by Peter Hellberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Karen Durrie was ten years old when her mother’s boyfriend began to molest her. At The Globe and Mail, Karen examines the years of abuse and the fear, shame, and feelings of complicity that not only kept her silent, but encouraged her to correspond with her attacker over the period of a decade.

Here is the strangest mystery: I came to like John, back then, at least when he wasn’t touching me. Our relationship existed in two separate rooms in my mind. The gross, secret stuff I wanted to forget and pretend didn’t exist was on the dark side of the door; the fun, cool stuff like making art and joking around was on the light side.

I read, and I saved. I had a big secret, and the letters were proof of that. I wanted that proof, even if I never shared it with another soul for the rest of my life. I also hoped the letters would contain clues that would help a future me figure out what had happened. Why he’d done what he did.

Although I had asked for the correspondence, sometimes I would finish reading the letters and whip them across the room, leaving them there till I calmed down. Some of them bear evidence of being enthusiastically crushed into balls, then smoothed out. I felt the same rush of anger, violation and shame after reading a letter as I had all the times his hand had been down my pants. In some ways, I was allowing him to do the same thing to me now, only psychically, long-distance. And I hated myself for allowing it.

Read the story