I’ve been trying to write this letter for nearly 3 years, ever since I was 16, and I have yet to be able to get anything but a few words down before I convince myself it’s not worth it. But it is. It’s always been worth it to say what I need to say to you. What I went through, how it has affected me, how I’m recovering. Everything. I deserve to have my voice heard.
What finally pushed me over the edge was a few months ago when news of the Stanford Rapist began rapidly gaining attention across news outlets and social media. It started that week – in the news, on Facebook, on Twitter, all over, everywhere I went, all I could see was the news about the Stanford Rapist – Brock Turner. My roommate brought me the letter the survivor wrote to him and I couldn’t read past the first few lines. In the news, on Facebook, on Twitter, all over, everywhere I go, all I could see was what you’ve done to me.
I never thought that I could be raped. I knew it happened to people, I knew it was fully possible and awful, but still, I never thought that it would happen to me. Maybe because I considered myself to be a defender of sexual assault victims, a passionate advocate for change and justice for people. I distanced myself from them, removed myself from the realities of what had happened to them. I never thought that I would be raped. I thought I was “stronger” than that.
You took so many things away from me, I can’t say that one was more painful or shocking than the other, but the most devastating was how easily my security in my own strength disappeared.
Being alone with grown men began to scare me in ways it hadn’t before. I shrunk into myself, forced myself to be thinner and thinner to have some sort of control in life; to change the body you had violated and controlled and bring it back fully to my own control.
I avoided places I thought you would be in, I was sure people were watching me when in reality they weren’t, and felt as though I would never overcome what had happened to me like I would never get better. You took away my comfort, my ability to express myself. I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened to me. How would I even begin to explain what you, a
How would I even begin to explain what you, a forty-year-old man, had done to me? My friendships and relationship reached breaking points because I felt misunderstood, felt like no one truly knew me.
And that was the worst part – you had become a part of me, a part of my story. In order to know me fully, people had to know you and know my pain. In order to understand why I couldn’t drive down that one street, go into that one restaurant or smell a certain cologne, they had to know what you had done to me in a house on that street while wearing that cologne, after buying my dinner at that restaurant.
I had to explain on a perfectly normal date why I couldn’t stop shaking and begged my boyfriend to pause the show because a rape scene was unfolding before my eyes. I had to sit my friends down and tell them with my head hung about why I’d been such a mess the past year and break myself open again and again just to keep from feeling totally and completely lost and unknown.
In the years since I have even tried to consider the things that you have given me. I tried desperately to think of something positive that could come out of the ugliness you put me through, but I couldn’t. I can’t. What you did was wrong, nothing can change that.
When I realized this, I thought I’d never get better. If I couldn’t see the silver lining, I was doomed to be stuck in this darkness forever, right? It’s only now that I realize, that there are positive things. But they don’t directly stem from the pain and violation you caused. They didn’t come from you. They came from my healing. They came from my strength. They came from me.
My passion for supporting and working with victims of sexual assault, my desire to encourage and even draft legislation to combat violence against women, my inability to ignore and my refusal to perpetuate rape culture, and my willingness to share my story, even if it’s anonymous for now, all came in time with my healing. You did not give them to me in exchange for what you took – I gained them on my own. I regained the strength I thought I’d lost.
I never thought I’d need to write a letter to my rapist. In my healing, though, I realized something; I am not strong despite being raped, despite being a victim. I am strong. Period.
My strength does not need to be measured by what other people have done to me. You assaulting me was not a manifestation of my weakness.
We’re always taught that we have to get over bad things, that eventually they won’t affect us anymore and when they don’t, we can finally be recognized as strong. But I don’t think that applies here.
What happened to me still affects me, and truthfully, it always will. But I’m realizing now that that’s okay. I’m telling this story because it’s a part of my healing. And because I know other people need to hear it. I wasn’t really sure where to start or how much to tell, but I knew I needed to tell it.
So truthfully, this letter isn’t for you, actually. It’s for the people, the women, the victims, who need it. It’s for those that need to heal, to know that they aren’t alone.
It’s not for you, it’s for me.