A Victim’s Response

We’ve all seen the news. We’ve all had reactions of one type or another to the news that a boy/man who raped an unconscious woman only got 6 months of jail time, with a possible early release if he behaves himself. There has been a lot of press covering who he is, what he’s done in life and the occasion that has brought him to the forefront of media attention. But we need to remember that there was someone else there. There was a woman. A woman with her whole life ahead of her. A life that will never be the same again. He will go to jail, serve his time, likely get out for good behavior and then carry on with life. He may face some discomfort but I am sure that Daddy’s money and influence will pave the way to success for him as if nothing had happened. But the same cannot be said for her…..I would know. I’ve walked a similar road. I’ve linked to her statement in full – I encourage you to read it. Trust me. It will be very hard to read. But you need to. Why? Because it’s the same statement many women around the world could make every. single. day. Don’t be fooled. Reporting rates don’t even BEGIN to tell the true story – for every report there are many that go unreported. I would know. I was one of those.

Circumstances were different but the feelings are the same and it took me YEARS to overcome them. YEARS. I can barely read her words because it makes my own experience come back to mind with a vengeance but I SO wish someone had shared with me that I mattered, that my story mattered, that my CONSENT mattered. Maybe then I wouldn’t have engaged in behaviors that harmed me later on, maybe I would have recognized the red flags of abuse in future relationships, maybe…..maybe I would have known my true worth as a HUMAN long before my 35th birthday. It took 20 years to get to that place after all was said and done….20 years and more energy,courage and strength than I knew one person could possess. The fact that this kid only got 6 months for his CRIME is abhorrent to me and is should be to everyone everywhere. Where is the accountability? When did the punishment stop fitting the crime? When did being unconscious downgrade the seriousness of an attack? When did this world become so fucked up as to allow for this kind of injustice??? And how on earth do we turn a blind eye to it?

Does this topic make you uncomfortable? Do you want it to go away? Yea, me too. I don’t enjoy talking about what happened to me or the repercussions of it. Reading this woman’s words makes me sick to my stomach. Sick and angry. So very very angry. It makes me so angry that she was made to feel like she didn’t matter, like her story didn’t matter, like she must have done something to deserve his actions, that she was somehow responsible for his choices. But her words also made me cry as I read her declaration to women, girls, everywhere:

…to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.

Maybe, just maybe, had I had someone telling me the same thing before my assault and living out the truth of that afterwards, maybe things would have been different. I can’t go back there but I can change how things are for others in the same circumstances. I can teach my kids to respect others, to stand up for others, and that their voice matters. I can tell my story so that others know they aren’t alone. I can support organizations and ministries that work to help victims of sexual exploitation and assault. So can you.

You can read her statement here: Sexual Assault Victim Impact Statement

I also need to speak to abusers, to rapists, to those condoning their actions by inaction & victim-blaming. There is help for you. There is hope for you. But more importantly than that there is forgiveness. Do your actions and attitudes anger me? Absolutely. Rightly so. But you do not have to continue identifying with those things. You can change. My prayer is that somehow, someway, you will see the error of your ways and will seek help, will seek forgiveness and will do whatever you can to redeem your past. Just as there are groups for victims of assault, rape & abuse, there are groups for the perpetrators of the same. Please find one today.