Kausar,

What happened to you was horrible. You have every right to blame your parents for sheltering you, for letting you be naïve and innocent even at 20. You aren’t wrong to begrudge them everything because they thought keeping you in a gilded cage was the best way to protect you from the evils of the world.
What happened to you is so vile, so tragic, that you cannot even use your real name when writing this letter, because no one can ever know. You tell people you meet casually, you make jokes about it, everyone sees a strong survivor. But you know you cannot let this information be ever put down in public. You know you must always speak the words, never write or record them, so they cannot be used against you. Because you come from a country where it can be used against you. Because you have had friends who would use it against you.
Sweetie, I know you struggle almost every day with the knowledge that you can never tell your family. You fight back tears thinking of how they would only blame you.
I know you’re good friends with someone who knew Him. I know that when you first found out, you almost ran away from that friend, but told yourself it wasn’t fair. I know you sometimes want to confide in this friend about Him, because that’s what you do, you confide in friends. You never do it because you think Friend won’t believe you. How could he? Even you don’t believe you most of the time.
I want you to know I have always believed you. I believed you when you yourself denied you had been abused. You didn’t see me, but I was always there in the room as you wept because he had slapped you, or was emotionally torturing you. I want you to know I stood and watched and wept for you the first time he wrenched your arm back simply because you teasingly snatched away his phone and refused to return it. I want you to remember that I held your hand when you screamed hysterically because he had kicked you in the thigh and you didn’t even understand that you were having a panic attack.
I know you’re still so confused about what happened. I know you think the lines were completely blurred. I want you to know and understand that they’re not. He had no right to cause you pain sexually. You were not as fault for going from pleasure to weeping because he wasn’t gentle or careful with your body. Your body is your temple, it holds the power to create life. How could he not respect that? Respect your boundaries? You weren’t over-sensitive for flinching from certain sexual acts, or letting out your physical pain. You don’t owe it to him to not “ruin” his pleasure simply because he can’t be careful and considerate. It isn’t demanding to ask that, and it is abusive of someone to keep causing you physical pain in the middle of sexual intimacy and just expect you to deal with it. Sweetie, this is not okay. Sex is something that is personal and intimate between two people, it requires mutual trust and respect on both ends. The second one person does not respect or trust their sexual partner, it becomes an unbalanced relationship. And you were always on the receiving end of that relationship, you were never the one with the power, it was always Him. It is so horrible that your first sexual relationship was so dysfunctional. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m so sorry the first time you were physically intimate with someone, it was the kind of person who would tell you that they could easily rape you if they wanted to. I can’t imagine how frightening it must be. It’s horrible. What you went through was horrible. The sexual demands he made of you were horrible. You were in an abusive, incredibly dysfunctional relationship, and it’s so tragic that you suffered as much as you did.
All around you, people see who you are. You’re so sweet, and beautiful, and bouncy. You have a remarkable ability to be sunny and cheerful even when you’re absolutely miserable. You process your pain into humour, and people criticize you for being self-deprecating, but you manage to cope by laughing at your own pain. You’re so unbelievably smart and intelligent and wise. Young people flock to you, seeing a guide in you. Children run up to you, feeding off your unending supply of love and compassion. Those older than you see so much potential in you, a fiery young woman poised to become one of the leading activists in the country.
The way you have recovered is so remarkable. Two years ago, a flashback would have you on your knees, weeping hysterically, unable to move. You would damage the body you loathed by shoveling food inside, trying to fill the void within with food. Now, you simply stop for a second when you remember an old memory, say to yourself, “oh, that happened too?” and then carry on with whatever you were doing. This is such a remarkable recovery from the broken young woman you were. It is unbelievable. People spend years recovering from loss and pain, and they are strong and resilient and remarkable people as well. But you are also so special because you have come so far, in such a short time, at such a young age.
You were so beautiful and perfect when he met you, and you are so beautiful and perfect even after he broke you because you remade yourself. He wanted to destroy you, that was why he belittled you constantly, got his friends to call you and message you with obscene, offensive things. He thought you were worthless, that’s why he didn’t give a shit about causing harm to you, he thought your only value was in the pleasure he derived from your body.
Honey, I understand how the sex would give you some relief from your pain. I know you wanted to hurt because you thought no one cared about you. I know you were reeling from the loss of a beloved friend, the only person who mattered to you. I know you are constantly questioning yourself about whether these are valid excuses or not. Sweetie. They’re not excuses. They are the plot points of a story about a sad young woman filled with so much pain and hatred for herself. It was your story. It was a work in progress. Don’t you understand love, you were the only one who was writing that sad story, other people were only giving their input. You are the one who changed that story, made it a tale of empowerment and resilience and strength. When you look back at the previous chapters, can you believe that sad, unhappy, lost girl was you? I can’t believe it either. But I can believe in the fact that you, and only you are responsible for changing that narrative, because I have always believed in you.
I know you feel like there is something dark and toxic inside you. I want you to know I’m not like everyone else, the people who tell you there’s nothing wrong with you. I believe in your darkness. I have seen it myself. I know everyone is wrong to tell you it isn’t there. They don’t know you. They’re not you. They have no right to tell you any such thing. I understand that you cannot even put into words the pain you feel, or the despair that you can no longer even cry over your pain, because you are so used to it, so resigned to the darkness being ever present. And you are so beautiful for it. I can’t believe how strong you are, that you have this constant weight on your shoulders, and you are still such an incredible creature. I can only marvel at your existence, because if I didn’t know you intimately, I wouldn’t believe such a person could exist. Only you and I know that you battle the darkness every single day. And I am so in love with you for winning the battle every single day, for knowing you will always win the battle even when all seems lost.
Kausar, you are such an incredible, beautiful, vibrant young woman. No matter what, I will always love you even in the times when you hate yourself. I will never begrudge you for the moments when you lack strength, or simply cannot stay positive and empowered anymore. You are my light, and you can never dim out. You are spectacular, and nothing He ever did could change that. You don’t need to confront Him, because by building your life on the remains of the girl he destroyed, you have proved that you are so much better, so much more superior to Him. You can be afraid to say His name, I’ll never judge you for it. You can shudder when you think of Him, I’ll be there holding your hand when you do. You can cry at the most vicious of flashbacks, and I will hold you as long as you need me to.
I will always hold on when you need me to.
With all my love,
Kausar.

Tani Ikedasurvivorloveletter