I read your beautiful and heart-filling statement 3 months ago when your trial was at the peak of its media coverage. The fact that your words have not been glossed over like a media trend has inspired me to believe that we as a society are indeed evolving and learning how to listen. Your story has maintained a steady heartbeat, moving others to stand up with posters and megaphones and a well-aimed rage that have already changed the way we look at rape.
So many articles have (correctly) asserted that justice did not find its way to rapist Brock Turner, that Aaron Persky is a despicably immoral judge, and that the insult of this trial's result demonstrates how rape survivors continue to be assaulted over and over again by a justice system with warped priorities. But I want to highlight an equally real and beautiful truth that has not been covered in as much detail:
You are going to be all right.
In your letter to Turner, you say that you are "still learning to accept victim as part of [your] identity." Accepting that "rape survivor" is a part of one's identity is a strange and terrifying beast. Even allies with the most wonderful intentions can make acceptance scarier by painting us as lost souls that will never recover. Often this portrayal seeks to convey the atrociousness of rape itself, but it leads survivors to believe we must forever wear a badge of disgrace and victimization. No one needs ever to accept "victim" as a personal descriptor. You survived. You were not silenced. You fought every day for us. And you won, because coming out of this has made you -- and will continue to make you -- an emotional powerhouse. You have been victimized. But you are no one's victim.
My story was never in the media. No trial ever happened. So ours are two very different experiences. I cannot begin to fathom what you have had to cope with in the aftermath of that life-altering night. I have survived a number of kinds of abuse, though, and the way that I give meaning to my experience is to be, like you, a lighthouse for others. I wouldn't be who I am if I had not fought through those black ocean waves, and though I certainly do not count any survivor lucky for the event that turned her into one, I am thankful every single day for the lessons I learned from it. I wouldn't know how to cope with tragedy if I had not swum through that ocean. I would not know how to listen with unfiltered compassion. I would not know how to let pain flow through me uninhibited and without shame or to open up to the extraordinary strength one finds in vulnerability. I would not have the power to stand up for myself and others or to show people that each of these things makes me stronger. The journey through the darkness and my determination to find and turn on the light have made me who I am. They've made you who you are. And girl, you are a badass.
This letter is not in any way meant to tell you something you don't already know. But amidst all the voices speaking up about the awful injustices in this case, I wanted to turn on a light. Because you are still with us.
Thank you for being a lighthouse. I am with you, too.