The Kids Aren't Alright

For teens living in abusive homes
by Victoria Lee and Arfa Khan
art by Arfa Khan

To all the kids that feel like a stranger in their own homes,
It is real. This fear you have for summer is real. The reason for your heart to start racing when you hear footsteps walking to your door is real. What they said to you is real. What they did to you is real. How you feel is real. The touches that bleed long after they have healed are real. The words that repeat through your mind long after the conversation has ended are real.
Your abuse is real.
I know it is summer, and I know that days pass by slower without school to take you away from it. But let me tell you: you deserve all the good in this world. You deserve safety. You deserve happiness. You deserve unconditional love.
Do not doubt what you know is happening. Do not feel guilty for your reactions. This is not your fault. This has never been your fault. This will never be your fault.
People will tell you that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. That is a lie, you did not give consent for this sick, twisting feeling in your gut to taint your vision. This is not your fault.
In the movies people will punch their way out of this. They will finally “stand up” to their father, their mother, their teacher, the bully and because they have become “strong” they find freedom. Happiness. A future. These movies should never make you feel like you are any less than. You are the strongest person in this world for living in an impossible situation. This problem should never have been yours to fix, it is not happening because of a lack of strength. This is not your fault.
Your abuser will tell you that this is nothing compared to how bad others have it. Your abuser will look you in the eye and make you forget. Your abuser will apologize and cry, twist your mind into believing them, and then they will do it again. This is not your fault.
No matter how others have it, you are still allowed to feel pain. There is no shame in mourning for your innocence, there is no shame in grieving for your childhood.
You are allowed to feel pain. You are not bad for wanting. You are not bad for lashing out. You are not bad for doing simple things that make you a child, like talking back when you can’t help it and making mistakes like spilling a glass of milk or forgetting to take out the garbage. You are not bad. You do not deserve pain for your imperfections.
I know they have made your sole purpose in life to strive to be “good”. This unachievable word that will always be out of reach. But you already are. My god, you do not need to stretch yourself any further than they already have. You are good. You are soft. You are someone who deserves love.
You deserve kind hands, you deserve kind words. You deserve gentleness and people who understand. You deserve soft smiles. I would do anything to give these things to you.
And I know there is little I can offer you, there is little I can promise. Because I know there will be bad days and unending nights that make you feel as if this is all your life will ever be. I am all too familiar with the cycle of guilt and pain and sadness and regret and anger.
But you are not going through this alone. And other people have survived this. There have been people that made it out the other side. People have found ways to love again, ways to trust again, ways to smile and have it reach their eyes again. And that, that is what you deserve.
So when summer days move sticky like molasses, when you feel trapped in the one place you were always supposed to feel welcome in, know that I believe in you. This is not your fault. You deserve all the good things the world has to offer. You deserve love. I am in awe of your strength. I am proud of you. There is nothing wrong with you. I love you.
I love you.

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