My dearest little girls,
Right now you are happily watching Octonauts while I silently fume and cry a little bit. I have been going down a Facebook comment rabbit-hole for the past hour and I just can’t hold this in anymore.
I wish I didn’t have to write this letter to you. But there are things that I need you to know, and that I need you to hear from me. When the time comes, I will ask you to read this letter and my personal story of surviving. And you will learn that I was raped. That I am part of the 1 in 4 women who have been sexually assaulted or abused- a club I pray you will never belong to.
Some people might not understand why I would tell my daughters something so personal about myself. Why would I put this story out in the world so publicly? It is because I want you to know this about your mom. Because I need you to know that no matter what happens in your life I will always be there for you. That I will always try and understand. I need to tell you so that if, God forbid, something ever happens to you, you will not spend the years that I did hiding the truth in terror and shame. I want you to know that I was raped, and I am not ashamed of it.
I hope that being open about my pain can help make this world a little safer for you.
In the past few years, there have been too many news stories about sexual assault to even list. And every time I see another one, I get a knot in my stomach. I know what I will find when I read the comments section: “Why would you wait so long to report sexual assault? This person is clearly lying.” Today, the one that set me off was, “Make your claim at the time or shut up. If an accuser did not think it was important all those years ago it is not important to me now.”
I made the classic mistake of engaging with this person (mom advice here: a Facebook comment war is rarely productive) and shared my personal story. His response was, “Not coming forward allows a criminal to get away with it. That may seem cruel but I cannot forgive anyone who allows a criminal to permanently get away with a crime.”
He cannot “forgive” me for being too young, and scared, and traumatized to report my rape. I was furious, absolutely fuming. That is until I realized it does not matter one tiny bit to me what this random internet stranger thinks. I am a grown woman now, and certain enough of myself that I don’t care about his approval. What was infuriating me so much was the thought that I am raising you girls in a world that still victim-blames so horribly.
When my assault happened, I was frightened that if I told anyone they would judge me and claim it was my fault. After all, I had been drinking, I was wearing a short skirt, and I had been dancing at a bar. And even worse, there would be those who would doubt my story. Who would side with my rapist. I did not think that anyone would believe me and I kept that soul-sucking secret for years. And it was the loneliest I have ever felt.
Girls, I am writing this letter because when you are old enough I want you to read these words and take them to heart. I will always believe you. I will always be on your side. Sadly, we live in a world where too many women I know have been sexually abused or assaulted, or have narrowly escaped this type of situation. And most of them don’t talk about it.
It breaks my heart that I have to tell you these things, but here is what I want you to know: Your body is yours and yours alone. No one should ever touch you, or grope you, or grab any part of your body without permission. And if they do, you have my permission to scream, punch, and immediately tell someone. I hope that person is me. And I promise you that not only will I believe you, but that I will defend you fiercely.
If for some reason you don’t tell anyone — if you can’t — no matter how long it takes, I will still believe you. I will never blame you. I will never judge you. And I will always love you with a passion I never knew was possible before you little miracles became a part of my life.
I pray that you grow up to be women who not only fight for yourselves but also for other women. When you hear men talking inappropriately about a friend or colleague, be brave enough to call them out on it. When a friend seems suddenly upset or withdrawn, make sure they know that you are ready to listen.
I am already prouder of you then of anything else I have accomplished in my crazy life. I see the strength, and independence, and spirit, that each of you possess. Don’t let anything or anyone crush that. And remember that no matter what, I will ALWAYS believe you, I will always fight for you, and I will always love you,