updated 08/22/2013 AT 7:00 AM ET
•originally published 08/22/2013 AT 7:45 AM ET
Less than two weeks after her dramatic rescue, Hannah Anderson pushed back on Thursday at critics who have questioned her relationship with her abductor, James Lee DiMaggio – saying the letters and text messages she sent him were completely innocent.
On the very day she was abducted, Anderson, 16, reportedly sent as many as 13 texts to DiMaggio, who is suspected of killing Hannah’s mother Christina, 44, and brother Ethan, 8, before being killed himself during an arrest attempt by the FBI.
But Hannah says the texts can be explained.
“He was picking me up from cheer camp, and he didn’t know the address or where I was,” she said on the Today show. “So I had to tell him the address and tell him that I was going to be in the gym and not in front of the school, just so he knew where to come get me.”
Anderson also wrote letters to DiMaggio, but says he was just helping her when she was having troubles.
“The letters were from like a year ago, when me and my mom weren’t getting along very well,” she says. “Me and him would talk about how to deal with it. I’d tell him how I felt about it, and he’d help me through it. They weren’t anything bad. They were just to help me through tough times.”
Though she finds herself on the defensive, Anderson says her critics just don’t have the facts.
“They don’t really know the story, so they kind of have their own opinion on what they hear,” she says.
She adds: “You are who you are, and you shouldn’t let people change that. And you have your own opinion on yourself, and other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter.”
Aside from defending herself, Anderson did find time to thank those who helped search for her, which eventually led to an FBI tactical agent killing DiMaggio while trying to arrest him on Aug. 10.
“I would like to say thank you, because without them, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” she says. “I want to thank the horsemen and the Amber Alert and the sheriff and the FBI, with everyone that put in time to find me, and my dad and my friends and my family and just all my supporters that helped spread the word.”