I’m with you….today and always. I know your fears. I know your pain. I know your doubts. I’ve felt the same misplaced shame. I’m walking the path you’re on. You’re not alone. I’m in front of you to guide, beside you to strengthen, and behind you in case you fall, as so many others have done for me. And, I am so, SO sorry for what you’ve endured. But, I want you to know it doesn’t have to be what endures. It doesn’t have to be what defines, confines, maligns, or resigns you to a life without joy. You are NOT what happened to you. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are enough. You ARE a survivor. And, you matter. Yes, YOU….you matter!!! You deserve healing. You deserve to get your voice back. You deserve to break the shackles of shame and silence and secrecy. You deserve FREEDOM! I want you to know I believe you and I believe IN you, too. None of this was your fault. And, NONE of this has to be your future. You are capable of not only surviving, you are capable of thriving. You are capable of living a life of beauty despite the brokenness and a life of peace despite the pieces. And, that is my hope for you….a mind full of beauty and a soul full of peace – and, hope….always HOPE! Deep, deep breaths, courageous friend. You can do this. You can do this hard thing. You can overcome….just as you have already overcome much to get to this point so far. And, one day, you can write a letter just like this – a LOVE letter to other survivors, yes….but also to the one survivor who has lived within you all along. Take care of that precious one and take care of you too!
Love (and Hope!) Always,
Your Sister in Survival,
You don’t know me. We may not have a lot in common – maybe only one thing: We were raped. But I want you to know that I love you. I do not judge you. I do not pity you. I respect and admire and hurt for you. I understand your pain. But, I also know that you are stronger than you realize. You are an amazingly imperfect human being doing the best that you can to live your life. I love you so much that I want you to believe you can have a full life, an open life, a free life. You don’t have to do everything alone. You may be afraid to accept love and or you may not even be confident that you know what love is. But being brave is not being unafraid. Being brave is doing what needs to be done despite being afraid. And being brave can come in small steps, just like your healing. You are on a journey now, but you are not alone. I will be with you, loving you, believing and believing in you, and supporting you however you need it. We will make this journey together and it will be a beautiful up and down trip. I am grateful for you and love you infinitely and will not leave you.
I wanted to tell you to remember you are not alone. I thought I was for almost 29 years. I was so afraid to speak my truths until this year. I want you to remember that you are valuable. That you did not do anything to deserve this. Your life matters. I want you to remember that no one can steal from you the value you hold. And whether you were a child, or a young woman, This is not your fault. You are not labeled by your abuse. It does not take away the significance you hold. You are not only a survivor but You are a warrior!!! You have come this far and Your light still shines brightly. You are not what happened to you. You are not the rape. You are not the sexual abuse. You are not less then a woman. You are a beautiful gift and No one can take that piece of you away. I stand with you. Be proud of yourself. And remember you deserve to be loved, cared for, and protected, You are a warrior. I will always support you. I believe You and I believe in You. You are loved as you are. I am sorry for the pain you have endured. I just want you to remember that no matter how difficult things have been that you are Loved, You Matter, and You are Worthy. Most of all, I will stand by your side always.
We are not different, you and I. Because I have survived, too.
But I need you to know that I see you.
My trauma encompassed my soul for so many years. I was not a person. I was an empty shell, drifting through life, running from a moment in time that had already happened. I felt the further I buried myself into the ground, if I could just disappear, it would all go away. That I could just go away, and that no one would be given the opportunity to get to know me or see me, because in reality, there was no one to know anymore.
This is what an assault does to you. And you need to know that I understand. And so many of us understand. And that you are not alone.
And you are still there, I promise you. You are still living and breathing and beautiful. You will someday, when you come up for air, catch your breath, and you will find yourself again. Because as lost as we feel, we are not gone. The trail in the forest always leads out; we just need to find the right trail again.
And just know there are so many of us here to help you, who understand, who are walking along on our own trails. Who still hit bumps on the way, who struggle with the navigation, who take so many steps forward and sometimes take a couple steps back.
And that’s okay.
Please keep going, because you deserve to. You are a beautiful human being, deserving of the life you always wanted and dreamed. No one deserves to take you from you.
And please remember, always, I see you.
Dear Elizabeth on October 25, 2015,
I am writing this letter from a place of pain, but also from a place of strength that I did not have a year ago.
First of all, I want you to know that I am with you. I was with you that night when Jackson robbed you of your autonomy. I was with you on the night when you were so brave to report and seek justice. I was with you on those nights in January and March, when Jackson once again took advantage of your vulnerability and low self esteem. I was with you every day in class when you couldn’t focus. I was with you in the courtroom as you shook with fear. I was, am, and always will be with you.
Nobody is entitled to your body. Jackson took something that wasn’t his. That’s his fault and nobody else’s. Your black skirt was not consent. You letting him touch your leg was not consent. Nothing you did or said that night indicated consent for him to do what he did. Whether you could have prevented the assault or not is irrelevant. I need you to know that I don’t blame you for a single thing that happened that night. You were young, you were afraid, and you reacted in the only way you knew how - by freezing up. That’s okay. You did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing.
Don’t listen to the people who propose alternative actions you could have taken. Given your mental health and your assessment of the situation, you did what you could, and that is enough.
You are enough. You are wholly, unconditionally, unapologetically enough. Remember that. You are enough. And you are brave.
Even on days when you feel weak, afraid, and vulnerable, you are still enough. You are still brave. You are brave for getting out of bed every day. You are brave for having fun, and trying new things. But most of all, you are brave for speaking out.
You could have let this kill you. You almost did. But I know you better than that, Elizabeth. You won’t go down without a fight. You still have so much left to do and share with the world. You have so many people left to touch. You will raise your voice, and tell not only your story, but the stories of the millions of men and women who didn’t report. You will be heard. You will make such a difference in this world, and that is brave. Jackson chose to mess with the wrong girl, didn’t he?
I want to remind you to be kind to yourself. You did nothing wrong; why all this hate? Care for yourself. Love yourself. Please, I’m begging you. You deserve so, so much better than what you have given yourself.
So to the Elizabeth on October 25, 2015, please hear me. You have so many wonderful things ahead. In the next year, you will grow so much. And to the Elizabeth right now, sobbing as she writes this letter: so will you. You will do even better than your past self. You will have your good days and your bad days, and that’s okay. You will be okay, eventually.
I am so proud of your incredible resilience and bravery. I am so proud of the emotional growth you’ve done this summer and have yet to do. You deserved this all along. You deserve happiness. You deserve life. You deserve help. You deserve everything good in this world.
Even on days when you feel weak, or afraid, or broken, remember that you are brave. You don’t need to always act brave, or feel brave, but you ARE brave for getting help and for helping others. That can never be erased. I am with you always.
With infinite love,
*my name has been changed*