Why I Will Never Get Justice Like The Stanford Survivor Did
Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.
I saw this while stuck in traffic, behind a water-tanker, willing the signal to turn green so that I could start moving. Still planning where I’d overtake the tanker so I could go collect my salary and be back home soon. A glance at my twitter-feed and the algorithms had made sure this story was right up there. I felt a boulder drop in my stomach and weigh me down again.
Green. I put my phone away for a second, got out of everyone’s way and parked my car to stare at my screen again for a while. Is there a German word for ‘unwilling to do something, but not being able to help yourself from doing it either’? I knew I could pretend that this letter didn’t exist. I didn’t have to read it. If I didn’t read it, it wouldn’t exist for me. And for today, that could be enough.
On January 17th, 2015… I decided… there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister….
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person.
I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most.
There they were. The words that weren’t mine and yet so intimate to my life. I wanted to scream “How did you know?! How did you know that same exact feeling?” The question was rhethorical.
I read, I couldn’t stop reading. Seven thousand plus words. When was the last time I had read seven thousand plus words? Everything I read now came with gifs. Simple, mind-numbing.
I needed to lie down. My hands were shaking so badly I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive home. So I pulled my seat back, and layed down as best as I could, and let my body shake for a while. I put my fist in my mouth to keep my screams muffled. I jumped when a traffic-policeman knocked on my window to check if everything was okay. I don’t remember what I told him, but I was so scared of follow up questions that I managed to drive back home somehow.
I turned my phone off, the letter still saved offline and I read it again. And again. And again. I forgot to turn on the lights today, first time in 2 years. When I finally woke up to the darkness around me, I was petrified. Panic attacks can kill you know.
It would have been better if I had just died that night anyway.
My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable.
I’m writing this now because unlike that boy from Stanford, you have gotten away. I didn’t report you. I could never report you. Even telling my mother got me nothing except talks about izzat, dad’s failing heart and how you were khandaan ka ladla (family’s favorite). My own version of the 20 minutes of action- defense.
I’m writing this because, I can no longer come home. I had to leave my parents behind because of you. You poisoned them for me. Your toxicity seeped into my life with them, when every eid abba gave you the most eidi, and amma asked me to make chai for you specially. Everything you touched including me, you ruined.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself.
I wanted to be a doctor, but I can’t stand the sight of blood anymore. I can’t look at people in pain. I can’t help anyone. Instead I hide, in this apartment I share with a girl, and I freelance, leaving only to collect my salary. My one great act of independence that feels like I have lost today. Once again, to you.
You are everywhere. I tried to fight, but I had lost even before I began. You feel no remorse and I spend my days worrying who else you damaged in that joint-family living system of ours.
You should have never done this to me.
That letter should have given me hope. I should have become a better survivor, the kind who would use the letter to confront you directly. To confront everybody who allowed this to continue to happen to me while I was under their roof and protection. I should be thinking about sending you to jail for your crimes. Instead, I cry in bed, because you have left me powerless and weak. I am hollow, because you took a part of me away every time you penetrated me, until nothing was left.
You were my cousin. My brother, bhai. My protector. Instead you played games with me that I didn’t understand, continued playing them when I did, and asked you to stop. You hid yourself behind good grades, perfectly combed hair and politeness directed at my parents to turn them against me.
I wish I could tell you that you no longer have a hold over my life. That I left that house and I left you and your power over me behind. But what I walked away with wasn’t enough for me to rebuild with anyway. I am an egg-shell you hold in your hand still.
This letter won’t reclaim anything for me. You will never know I wrote this. You will never care that you did this to me. You are faceless and nameless, and you will remain so. The only one who can never forget is my body.
I have printed the letter out and stuck it above my bed. Maybe one day her words will comfort me, instead of sending me through a spiral again. Maybe I will believe them someday. Believe that there is someone out there looking out for me. Believe in myself again. Believe.
And finally, 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. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “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.
The author of this post has chosen to stay anonymous.
Read the entire letter here.
Originally published at urbangirldom.com on June 6, 2016.