Dear 14 year old me,

I see you. I know you are hurting and that the people who you thought would help you are confused, angry, or not present. You were pushed to report and you didn’t know or realize what options you had. I want you to know that you deserved to have someone talk you about your choices, you deserved to make an informed decision. I also know that the police treated you inappropriately and asked you inappropriate questions and the detective was even worse when he doubted your sincerity. You deserved to be listened to, believed, and supported. I know that you expected your friends to join you when the detective pushed you to get them to testify with you and speak out about their abuse too and that you were confused as to why so many people refused. You deserved to have had an expert explain that the detective shouldn’t have put that responsibility on you. I know that since your friend knew and admitted in the past that his dad was a creeper that you thought that he would believe you and support you after he assaulted you. You were so confused when he was angry at you and when your mutual friends turned against you. You deserved to have someone teach you about victim blaming and name that for you. I know how alone and misunderstood you feel and I want you to know you aren’t alone-I’m watching and I’m on your side. And I understand what you are going through. I can see those guys at school taunting you, calling you a slut at lunch, and from the passenger sides of their cars as you walk home. I can see proctors laughing with them and at you. I see you looking for help and finding no support. I want you to know I support you. I also want you to know a little bit about your future. It takes you awhile, but you go to college and even grad school and you learn about feminism and gender inequality, and violence against women. You find words to describe what happened to you and you learn about slut shaming and victim blaming. You learn about survivorship and you learn to respect and honor survivors as experts and you learn how to advocate for and empower survivors and their allies. You become an expert in all of those skills you didn’t have back then: boundaries, consent, social justice and change, community building, assertive communication, community organizing, healthy relationships, and the dynamics of abuse. You use these skills to help others so they don’t have to go through what you did. You have a purpose. You turned your pain into empowerment. And when you turned 30 you even attended a survivor support group for the first time and learned to help yourself. Your journey isn’t over but the effects of what happened get less and less powerful over time and your resilience only strengthens. You finally learned how to treat yourself in the way you deserve and demand that others do the same. You love you. And I love you.

With the most love and support,

31 year old me

Tani Ikedasurvivorloveletter