Dear You,

You probably don’t remember me. In fact, you probably don’t even know me, but you probably know of me. This may not make sense to you now, but give it some time. My name is Katelyn and I met you at a party thrown by a friend of a friend in August 2005. I remember the moment it happened, as it has constantly played throughout my mind since we linked eyes. I thought we had chemistry and we hit it off that night. It wasn’t until I foolishly kept drinking the drinks you handed to me until I couldn’t stand straight without the help of someone. You were there for me as you lead me to a room so I could lay down after bonking heads with another person. That’s where it began as you laid a kiss on me. I recall my heart fluttering, giving me butterflies in my stomach. I had a crush, but then things started to go awry as you continued.

You probably heard me say the word “no”, as I repeated it multiple times, even though you never asked if it was okay. You never said anything to me besides the kisses, which soon turned to touches and progressed from there. I shudder at the thought of it. You were bigger than I was, much stronger. There wasn’t much of anything I could do to stop it. The rest of it was a blur. The next thing I remember is waking up to a blurry, unfamiliar room with no clothes on, a pounding ache in my head, and a used condom stuck to my leg. I cried, feeling like garbage. You probably never realised what you did, but what you did caused me so much pain. I didn’t know how to deal with it.

I used to wish the worse upon you. I’ve suffered through depression, through eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress. I hated sex for such a long time. I hated the thought of someone touching me, which was the cause of me to lose a couple of partners during that time. You probably moved on, not thinking you did anything wrong. I was too afraid to even speak to you when I did see you again. It hurt. It made my heart hurt. I barely even remember you name, so I couldn’t turn you in. Then again, I felt like I was at fault here. I didn’t tell anyone for weeks. It wasn’t until I snapped at my family when the truth finally came out. Please know that I have always been close to my family. We never keep secrets from each other. As much as I wanted to tell them, I knew I couldn’t. I felt ashamed. I’m thankful for my family.

I got the help I needed, but even that wasn’t enough. One day, five years after this took place, while I was working with someone for a little television show you may have heard of, I had to get close to someone sexually. It hit me hard and made me uncomfortable. My thoughts started to overwhelm me and I broke down in front of my scene partner, the director, and the rest of the wonderful crew. With their help, I got the help I needed and helped myself to acknowledge the problem. I learned how to deal with the situation, even if it did take me a while.

When I fall into sadness for that time in my life, I allow myself to think of all the ways that I am better for having had that horrific experience. To think of the parts of me that I am thankful for, the parts of me that did not exist before that night.

I am stronger than I ever knew. I didn’t know this truth at first. In the weeks and months after, I found myself blurring the pain with large amounts of alcohol. The respite from the pain was always so very brief. There are no words to tell you how low this point in my life was. I was standing at death’s door begging her to let me in. However, I kept moving one foot in front of the other, day after day until I realized that it didn’t hurt so badly anymore. I crawled my way out of that hole by my bloodied fingernails and have made a life for myself that my teenage self could never have imagined. You could not possibly know how strong I had to be to do so.

I have become a more compassionate person. In the lack of compassion that I found around me in the wake of my own hell storm, I found inside myself a well of compassion for others. I believe that we all deserve second chances, kindness and non-judgment. I know now that compassion can literally save a life and I intend to live out the rest of my days showering compassion on others.

I am a more forgiving person. 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 night. I choose to forgive you, each and every day that the memories come washing back up. I forgive you as I live in fear that the same thing could happen to one of my children. I forgive you even as the PTSD comes creeping back into my life every so often. I forgive you even as I am still full of fiery anger at the man who stole the last days of my childhood.

I refuse to turn my head to injustice. I refuse to turn my eyes away from injustice of any kind. Too many eyes turned themselves from me when I needed them the most. Your brutality stripped me bare and brought out the queen that lies within me. I can no longer be held down from railing against maltreatment of any human beings. I have a heart for the downtrodden.

Shame and I are now on a first name basis. This one doesn’t seem too positive, does it? However, we can’t talk about sexual assault without talking about shame. There are so many people that shame victims of this. The greatest shame, for me, came from within myself. I am still, 12 years later, dealing with the shame. From the dozens of showers that I compulsively took in the first days after the incident to the spiral of thoughts I feel when someone new learns that I am a survivor—shame has permeated my journey. In fact, it has taken me years of thinking of writing this letter to actually do so because shame has always talked me out of it. It is exhausting. I am bringing my shame, the shame that I have no reason as a victim to feel, into the light. For the thing about shame is that it can only exist in the darkness. So, I am bringing it all out into the world, as painful as it is. I have hidden my assault for so many years due to shame. I am ready to be free of this dark secret, ready to make peace with the dark beast. So far, befriending shame and being brutally honest in my writing about it has helped me reach others who are struggling. This journey is just beginning. I will use my years of shame to help others into the light. This may not yet be a strength of mine but it WILL be. I’m thanking you for the work that I haven’t even yet done.

I’m writing this to you and wondering if you will ever read it. I’m not sure if I want your eyes to see it and for you to feel my pain or if I hope upon all hope that you will never see these words. I hope that I never see your face again. I hope that you have never hurt anyone else the way that you hurt me. I am thankful for what I have become but cannot lie and tell you that I am thankful for your actions.

May this letter be another fissure in my life. A great fissure severing the person that I have been for twenty years, a woman who tried to do good in the world but lived in the dark shadows of shame at night, and the woman I will be tomorrow, free of the heavy blanket of shame that has weighted me down in immeasurable ways.

With this letter, I claim myself again and I step into the light, with the 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. You are no longer needed here.

As the 12th anniversary of this event is coming up, I’d like to thank you. Why thank you for all of this? I’m not the same naïve little girl as I was back then, even though I do have the tendencies. I’ve grown up and learned to accept the things that has happened to me and turn it into something more positive. While this event was not a positive experience for me, I took what you did and how you’ve changed me, making it into something to make me a stronger person, even if it was a struggle for years after. So thank you.


P.S. In writing this letter, I realised that deep down in my soul this wasn’t a thank you letter to you at all. It was probably naive of me to think that it ever could have been. This letter to you that I’ve pondered for years is truly a love letter to that little, scared girl that climbed her way out of the darkest place imaginable and has carried this burden alone for years. She and I are, of course, the same person, but in my mind… I see her as a separate being—after all, the woman I am today could not be more different from that young girl. I thank her. And tonight, I sit here, tears streaming down my face, hoping to send a message back into time to that young, wounded girl. She was wronged in the most horrible of ways and she rose again from her own ashes to find her way again as phoenix. Without that girl, the woman that I am today would be nothing. I am so thankful for her strength.|