To my 15 year old self,

The most important thing you have heard thus far is that this is not your fault. No matter what happened in the days leading up to the rape, it is not your fault. What he did is his fault, and even though the criminal justice system is flawed and that detective was against you, his day will come. Just trust in a little thing called karma. Stop listening to those negative thoughts in your head, and start listening to your family and your therapist. Don’t just listen with your ears, listen with your heart and with an open mind.

You need to take a step back and stop for a moment. Look in the mirror. Look beyond the tears, beyond the heartache. You see those scratches? They are not just an outcome of the panic attacks, but a part of your story. You see a depressing story of loss, pain, and tragedy. I see a story of a young woman whom, despite the odds, rose from the ashes and blossomed into a magnificent woman. Though you may struggle with small things in everyday life like making eye contact, being in large crowds, or meeting new people you never let it get the best of you. I wish I could say those struggles subside, but they don’t. So, always remember this: You are strong young woman. Don’t ever let what happened define you or map out your future. No. Instead, find peace in the fact that you are still standing here. Your mind is still in tact, while he very easily could have ruined it. Trust the fact that you will overcome this barrier, and come out stronger and wiser in the end. Believe in your heart and your good will.  

I need you to remember that your family loves you. No matter how small and insignificant you may feel at the moment, you are the most important thing in their eyes. They are yearning for you to reach out to them and let them love you…the right way, the way you deserve. Remember that the familial bind is one that will never break. Go to them. Allow them to hold you while you crumble, for they will help put you back together again. They will help you see that you don’t need to center your life around a man. You and your family are all you need in this world, until you can fully trust a man again…and you will. You will find a love so incredibly beautiful and deep, a love that you never knew existed. He is a remarkable man, and you will see why you waited as long as you did for him to come along. 

The bravest thing you did was to remove yourself from that school, admitting that you could take the harsh stares, the snickering, and the isolation no longer. Look at you! You finished your last 2 years of high school in 6 months, with straight A’s, through a homeschooling program. You did that! You, and you alone! Success is by far the best form of revenge, is it not? I want you to know that you don’t stop there. College and your dream job as a Zoologist are in your near future as well! The more successful you become, the sweeter the revenge. 

You are not alone in this. There are others fighting the same fight. It’s a big bad world out there, and we’re losing sight of the fact that we need each other. You can help put an end to this! Stand by your fellow man, shoulder to shoulder, and let your voices be heard. No means no! No matter the circumstances!  No excuses!

“You are kind, you are smart, you are important.”

All my love…always, 

Your 26 year old self