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”A letter apologizing to my 17-year-old self” is a story of change written by one of Quetzal’s beneficiaries. She answered questions, reflected on her healing journey, how it helped her after 26 years to finally find peace. At the end of her counselling sessions, she wrote a letter to her 17-year-old self apologising for blaming her for what happened.

We want to thank the beneficiary who wrote this piece for giving us permission to share it on our website. We invite you in turn to read and share her story.

And if you would like to share yours, fill the form here.

What were the main things you struggled with before counselling?

26 years after the assault, I suddenly started getting flashbacks. Awful, intrusive memories were filling my days, making rest, sleep, concentration and work very difficult. I was anxious and on edge. I felt physically sick and scared each time I had a flashback.

What was your experience of the counselling process?

The process was, as I expected, difficult and challenging. However, my therapist was amazing and she helped me through the hard times and out the other side.

What change did you see after your counselling journey?

For the first time in 26 years, I finally felt at peace. I feel free of Him and the way he made me feel.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Because of quetzal I have my life back. I feel like “me” again. I didn’t realise until I’d been through therapy just how much I’d been affected all these years.

Space for your story in your own words

As the final part of my therapy journey, I wrote a letter to my 17 year old self, to apologise for blaming her for what happened :“If I could go back in time and change things for you, I would – in a heartbeat. It is beyond unforgivable that it has taken me this long to acknowledge what happened to you, let alone the fact I placed the blame squarely on your shoulders.You were only 17.He was not a good man. He was manipulative. He was physically powerful. He knew what he wanted and he was going to get it. Regardless of what you chose. He was an adult. You were only 17.You were always suspicious of men. You hated the attention bestowed upon you by them – the looks, the comments, the touching, the grabbing.You were afraid of getting into dangerous situations, so scared of someone spiking your drink that you always kept your glass with you, even in the toilets. You should have been care free. You were only 17.Accepting a drink off someone should be possible, without the consequences you then faced. You knew it was a bad idea but, for some reason – one that we will never know – you relented that night. I have encountered many of these men over the years. I undersatnd what they are capable of and how relentless they can be when someone catches their eye. If you had said no to the drink, he would have found a way – if not that night, then another night. I know the signs to look out for, what to be wary of. I can usually tell who is dangerous. But I have 26 years of life experience on you. You stood no chance. You were only 17.I had no right to judge you. I had no right to blame you for your decision to accept a drink off him, despite your reservations. I had no right to make you feel so ashamed of what happened that you buried this awful secret for so long. You were grown up in so many ways yet you were still at school, you were just a kid. I can not blame a child for being hurt by a grown man who knew what he was doing. You didn’t make a mistake. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not to blame in any way for what happened. You never were. The only person who this falls to is Him. The blame lies squarely with Him. You were only 17.I can not change what happened that night. I can not take away the memories or the feelings. All I can do is say sorry. I’m sorry your path ever crossed with his. I’m sorry he chose you as his prey. I’m sorry for the shame that you felt. I’m sorry you didn’t feel able to tell anyone what had happened. I’m sorry I made you doubt your memories. I’m sorry I allowed you to think it was your fault. I’m sorry that I blamed you for being 17. If you forgive me, you forgive yourself, and then we will both finally be free……”

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