An open letter to victims of sexual assault
[This is kind of obvious, but trigger warning for discussions of sexual assault]
Dear Jane Does,
I hope this finds you well. Sadly, it probably doesn't. What a terrible few weeks, huh? Ugh. So horrible.
I don't need to update you on Steubenville, Rehtaeh Parsons or Audrie Pott. You've heard about them. You've read about their stories on every Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, news story, etc. Sure, it's great that their stories are getting coverage but damn, you wish they'd talk about something else, right? Listening to that stuff is tough as fuck. Hits way too close to home.
Thankfully, some people are getting the story right. Melissa Harris-Perry, a rockstar in her own right, penned a beautiful open letter to Steubenville's Jane Doe. If you want some extra support, you can check it out here.
I want you to know that I am sorry, too. To echo the powerful words of Melissa, I am so fucking sorry that we live in a world in which the heinous things you experienced are a reality. I send you a thousand apologies every single day.
You are not alone. Not just because there are tons of people in this world fighting for justice for you, but because there are tons of people in this world just like you. Conservative estimates put 1 in 4 womyn in the category of sexual assault survivors. 1 in 4. There are people in your school, at your workplace, in your synagogue who carry the same weight that you do. Sadly, some of the people who've reacted badly to your disclosure are probably carrying that weight, too.
But I want you to know that I respect you.
I respect what you did then and what you've done since. I respect your decision to punch him out, to not have screamed, to have told everyone you know, to have told no one. I respect your decision to report it to the police, to have not reported it to the police. I respect your right to have your experience(s) define you; to reject the very notion that it's a part of who you are.
I respect you. I respect your right to navigate this world in whatever way feels right for you. You have rights. You matter.
Your experience matters, even if the police said it didn't; even if your family didn't believe you; even if your friends weren't there when it mattered.
Your life matters. You matter.
I don't want you to think that we only care about Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons or Audrie Pott because they're dead. People cared about them when they were with us. People care about you. Yes, you. Right now. This very second. There are people who care very, very deeply for you.
You are entitled to justice and there are people in this world who spend every waking second fighting for that justice.
I want you on this Earth. I want your abusers brought to justice and I want the pain to stop. And I commit to doing everything in my power to ending the bullshit that has traumatized too many of us.
I'm sorry for what happened to you. But an apology means shit without action. So, please know that I commit to keeping up the fight for justice. That means I will commit to talk about sexual assault, even when it makes people squirmy. I will call out people who argue that rape jokes are funny, that womyn lie about their rape and that rapists are 'good dudes who make poor decisions'. I will call out journalists who care more about the 'ruined lives' of our perpetrators than the trauma they've inflicted on us. I will educate those in my life on how to be an effective bystander and what it means to be an ally. I will continue to speak the truth about rape culture and will always refuse to be silenced.
You deserve that much.
The world need not be this ugly.
We deserve better.
So please, hold on.
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”- Arundhati Roy
In solidarity, rage and love,