I shared my story last year, but it still doesn't feel like enough. What would be enough? What would satisfy me? I wish I could have recognized what you did to me for what it was when it was happening, instead of surrendering to fear and confusion. I wish I would have told someone the very next day, instead of resigning myself to secrecy. Most of all, I wish I could tell it to your face (shout it in your face): you RAPED ME. Physically, psychologically, emotionally. It was never what you thought it was. I lived in fear of you for a year! And for what? I try to view life as a learning experience, but I have learned nothing positive from you. All I learned was never to trust anyone again the way I did you. I never want to let anyone in again, like I did you. I regret it every day.
The worst part is having learned, in the time since, that I am not alone in my pain. There are women in my family, women who are close friends of mine, women in the news, women whom I admire and love, all with a history that threatens to tear them apart. I've seen a woman carry fear in her heart for fifty years, which, when she brought it up again, was still as fresh as if the man who hurt her had just walked out the door. This kind of pain doesn't disappear. In silence, it thrives and lives on. I see the signs every day... and for what? No matter how hard I try to educate myself, I still can't understand why cruelty exists in this world. Why do some people think that they can take what doesn't belong to them --another person's innocence, liberty, physical integrity, safety --without consequence? Why do others let them get away with it? Why did I let you get away with it?
These questions continually haunt me. I console myself with the realization that, even if I cannot erase the past, speaking out in the present is a symbol of hope and strength --even of change. Marches like Take Back the Night and events like SpeakOut are invaluable. Some feelings we try to hide out of shame or fear, but those feelings in fact need voice. By staying silent, we let our attackers get away with their wrongdoing. By pointing fingers, shouting back: YOU DID THIS, YOU WERE WRONG, we get a chance to reflect blame upon those who really deserve it. Speaking out is powerful. It's not just a slogan. Speaking out reveals fault. It empowers survivors. It gives us a chance to scream and cry and beat our chests with the fury that social constraints may never let us express in other contexts. If I've learned nothing else, it's that silence solves nothing, but speaking out can be an impetus for change. It lets us feel the deep-seated anger that we must express in order to feel whole again. It lets us share our anger in the service of educating others. Maybe we can't undo what has been done to us, but we can stop it happening to people like us. That's the real power of sharing your story. For me, it's the ultimate comfort.