Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault, Suicidal Ideation
Hey there, it’s been a while since we’ve talked. The last time I addressed you, I was angry, hurt, and quite honestly, confused. Now, I can safely and confidently say that I’m in a healthier place.
Nearly two years ago, I launched my blog, and for the first time, I told the world that you raped me. I have to admit, it felt good. Penning that stream of consciousness directed to you wasn’t for you; it was for me. Putting myself on front street like that wasn’t about you reading it, me tagging you or even adding you to my mailing list so that it’d be at the top of your inbox. I wrote it as a means to heal. I said everything I wanted to say to you without looking at you, hearing your voice or possibly hating myself for even putting myself in a position to allow you a chance to redeem yourself. No, sir. I did that for myself and I’m back here writing this letter to you at ESSENCE for the exact same reason – me.
When what happened, happened, I didn’t know it was rape because I thought people could only be raped by cold-blooded strangers who had no regard for the human body. It took a minute to wrap my head around the idea that it could be a friend, let alone someone I considered more like an older brother. To be honest, I don’t know exactly when it clicked in my head, but when it did, it clicked hard. I didn’t feel a sense of safety or worthiness anymore.
Because you took the power of choice away from me that night, I didn’t feel like my body deserved to be loved, honored or cherished by any man. I started drinking more, which is something that you introduced me to, and I even became promiscuous. I couldn’t trust anyone, my relationships were trash and I couldn’t take any guy seriously. I wanted to take my own life. I attempted to take my own life. Yeah, you did a real fucking number on me.
After I wrote that letter to you, I didn’t feel anything. No sense of relief, no closed throat, no tears flowing – nothing. It wasn’t until my phone started blowing up with Instagram notifications, Facebook messages and texts that I felt the impact of my words. People expressed their sentiments and sympathy about what happened to me but when people told me that the same thing happened to them, it struck me differently. Unfortunately, you raped me but I was still blessed to find a sense of community in women – and men – who are rape survivors and wanted to support and uplift me however I could.
I knew I was beginning to heal when I felt something similar to growing pains. I knew I was growing into my own voice and recognized the power of my story. In sharing my story, I allowed others to know that they weren’t alone and didn’t have to go on this healing journey by themselves. Speaking on panels, podcasts and even at schools helped me heal because I knew that I was not only building genuine relationships with others but I was being the friend that I needed and wanted when I was grappling with my rape.
In doing this, I had to also indulge in self-work for my own awareness. I couldn’t continue to be there for others if I wasn’t showing up for myself. Therapy came in handy (shoutout to Dr. Kathleen Jackson) and I allowed myself to feel all of the feels that I was feeling. Crying, screaming, silence – all of it. As someone who isn’t the strongest communicator, even though I’m a writer, I’ve learned to acknowledge my feelings and be more self-aware of my mind, body and spirit when I’m feeling triggered, scared or unsafe.
Truthfully, it took me years to accept that it wasn’t my fault. You took advantage of me. I was drunk, I wasn’t sober enough to consent, I blacked out and I trusted you. That’s what hurts me the most – I trusted you. I looked up to you. I confided in you. Now, I don’t think of you at all. I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you. You don’t take up space in the file cabinet of my mind.
I’ve come to accept that forgiveness, while it doesn’t come easy, only truly exists when you forgive for yourself and not the person at fault. For years, I tried to forgive you because I knew you weren’t a bad guy; I still don’t think you are. Now, I’ve forgiven you because that’s how I’m choosing to move forward. Forgiving you allowed me to forgive myself for blaming myself and thinking that what you did to me was my fault. Forgiving you allowed me to find a man who loves me. Forgiving you allowed me to come into own as a writer and not censor myself. Forgiving you allowed me to tap into my own strength as a woman. Forgiving you allowed me to fully love myself.
Again, this letter isn’t for you. It’s for myself. Even though you didn’t ask, I wanted to let you know that I’m doing well. I’m not great, but I’m not horrible. This healing journey will never be over, but I’m glad that I’m here. This is a letter about how I’m getting over.
For every Black woman who reports a rape, at least 15 do not. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you’ve been assaulted and need help, click here for a list of organizations and resources with immediate support options.