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I Deserve This Open Letter
By Novni Community Member
As I sit and reflect on my life, there is always one instance that sticks out. Some things are just so deeply burned into our memories that we can’t forget them even if we try.
I can go back to that day so easily. I can see you, and I see the young teenage girl I was then. I see the 18 year old boy who stood before me. Later I would find out that you were man more than boy. I see it as if it happened yesterday. It was just two months after my 16th birthday. That was the day that split my life into two halves, the before and the after.
The days before seem so cloudy, foggy, and unclear as if that moment caused a cloud so thick that I’ll never be able to see through it again. What happened that day set my life up for a trajectory that I couldn’t have set up myself. Although then, I didn't understand why I was where I was or why I started making the decisions I did or why I even felt the way I did. I didn't understand what had happened.
Not only did you rape me, you took away the only thing I had to give to whoever I chose to. The one thing you can choose to give away, but never get back. You took my innocence. You took my virginity. I didn't realize the depression I had fallen into. I failed classes. I couldn't look in the mirror without being totally disgusted. I distanced myself from my family and friends and I started despising the areas in my life I should have been enjoying the most. And it hasn't stopped taking effect.
My husband couldn't understand why I had moments of tears and anger when it came to seeing myself, and why I couldn't say one good thing about my image. He didn't understand why I couldn't enjoy being out at a bar or enjoy drinks with friends, because I couldn't trust anyone around me. There were things I didn't understand too. Why did I shudder at the thought of being touched by a man? Why couldn't I enjoy being a teenager anymore? Why on that day when I cried and begged you, did you not stop? You kept telling me it would be okay, but would it be? Turns out, that's the one truth you ever told me.
But the hand of God helped take me from the darkest time, transform me, and catapult me into a better life than I could've ever imagined in fact. Looking back, I know that I would not have my life today without having been a victim of that rape at such a tender and painful age. I still fall into sadness every once and awhile, but when I do I think of all the ways that I am better for having that experience. I think of the parts of me that I am thankful for and the parts of me that did not exist before that night.
Although it took this long to figure out the extent of what you did to me, the time has also showed me what you showed me. Yes, you showed me these things that existed inside of me. Don't get it twisted though. You did not give me anything. You simply showed me what had already been there all along.
Strength - First I want you to know you didn't break me. I know now that someone like you could never break someone like me. I am stronger than I ever knew. Of course I didn't feel this way at first, because I fell face forward into a darkness that can only be created by such an evil. Self pain began to feel good. Maybe because I was numb and that was a way to feel again or maybe because it was a short relief from the internal pain I felt. But however low I felt, however low I got, I kept moving forward one foot in front of the other until one day I realized it didn't hurt so badly. I pulled myself out of that hole and made a life for myself that my teenage self never could’ve imagined. I am strong.
Compassion - In the lack of compassion that I found around me in my own storm, I found inside myself an overflowing wave of compassion for others. I believe that we all deserve second chances, kindness, and to be free of judgment. Some might say I have too much compassion, that I get taken advantage of, but I know now that compassion can save a life and I intend to show compassion all the days of my life. I am compassionate.
I am a better mother - I am a far more kind and patient mother than I would have been had I not walked that path. My soul feels many years older than my body. I hope that I can always be an open and welcoming place for my children to come, even on the worst days of their lives. I hope the day when I have to sit my daughter down and tell her about that day and those years that she'll see strength, courage, and how much I loved her dad. That she won’t look at me and see a weakness or a scar. And I pray to God she never has to endure the pain that I endured. I pray that her first touch from a man she loves (hopefully her husband) will be of love, joy, tenderness, and most importantly will be her choice. I am a good mommy.
Forgiving - If I can forgive you, I believe that I can forgive anyone. There are not many worse things than what you chose to do that day. I chose to forgive you and I choose to forgive you each and every time the memory washes back up. I forgive you as I live in fear that the same thing could happen to my children. I forgive you even as I am still angry at the man who stole the last moments of my childhood. I am forgiving.
Strong-willed (according to my husband) - I refuse to turn my head to any injustice of any kind. Your brutality stripped me bare and brought out the Mama Bear that lies within me. I can no longer be held down from railing against maltreatment. I have a heart for the downtrodden. I am strong-willed.
Shameful - How is this positive? You can't talk about rape without talking about shame. So many people shame the victims of sexual assault. Of course my greatest shame came from within myself though. From the dozens of showers I took the days following the rape hoping the memory, and disappointment and shame, would wash down the drain with the water. To the shame I feel when someone new learns that I am a victim of rape. Also the shame I feel after choosing to stay with the same man who raped me. Shame that I wake at the sound of a pin drop because for years while asleep I let a man continue to have his way with me. Shame shame shame. Shame has permeated my life. In fact it dictates this letter, these words. The thing about shame though is it can only exist in the darkness. So, here it is brought to light. Put into words. I have hidden this part of my life for many years due to shame. I am ready to be free of this dark secret and ready to make peace. I will use my years of darkness to help others to come into the light. Though shame might not be a strength yet, it will be. So I'm thanking you for the work that I haven't even done yet.
I am thankful for what I have become and who I am, but I am not thankful for your actions. I hope this letter is another beginning that breaks down the person I have been for the past eight years. A woman who tried to do good in the world, but lived in the dark shadows of shame at night. I hope this letter reminds me of the woman I will be tomorrow. Free of the heavy blanket of shame that has weighed me down in immeasurable ways. I claim myself with this letter. I step into the light with full knowledge that I never deserved to carry this burden. You tried to burn me, but I was stronger in fire than I ever had been before. Thank you for showing me my strength.
I started this thinking it would be a thank you letter, but I have to realize that's a little naive. This letter that I've pondered for years is a love letter to that little scared girl that climbed her way out of the darkness, and that has carried this burden by herself for years. She and I are of course the same person, but in my mind I see her as a separate girl. After all, the woman I am today could not be more different than that girl. And tonight I sit here writing this, tears down my face hoping to send a message back in time to that wounded girl. Without that girl, the woman I am today would be nothing.
I am so thankful for her strength.