To the Brave Young Woman
By now, over 8 million of us have read the statement written by the convicted rapist, Brock Turner’s, victim whom I’ve named – the Brave Young Woman. The statement Brave Young Woman wrote and read directly to her assailant in court, has become a proclamation on behalf of all rape victims. I am one of them.
I have thought a few times about writing something on this deeply buried trauma that happened to me many years ago. But I have always decided against it because I have been too afraid. And I am still afraid. But I am facing my fears head on. I have to write about my experience because when I was in tears last night by the end of reading the Brave Young Woman’s statement, I knew that I owed it to her. And to the countless others who have silently lived with this shared trauma. Referring to the severely lacking six month sentence given to Turner, the Brave Young Woman said, “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”
I posted the Brave Young Woman’s statement on my social media with the word “COURAGE” in all caps because, wow, that took some serious ass courage to write, and then to read, and then to share with the world; that letter, that laying bare of her soul while skewering the system with such directness and grace.
What’s more, is the courage it took for the Brave Young Woman to go through with the trial. As her proclamation shows us, in case you didn’t already know, the judicial system, our society no less, is set-up to blame the victim. Particularly, if the victim is a woman and it involves a crime that is sexual in nature – the deck is stacked against us women. Which is exactly why I decided against trying to prosecute the person who raped me. No way was I gonna be re-victimized by the system.
I was in college, I was drunk, I knew him. All of these facts still make me hesitate now to share this information. So many aspects of the Brave Young Woman’s assault were similar to mine. I was passed out, in my own bed and not conscious of what had happened to me. It wasn’t until the morning when I woke up in the bathroom and one of my roommates asked me if I was ok that we realized something was wrong. My roommate said she would help me back to my bed when I said I didn’t want to go because my attacker was there. My friend was shocked to hear this because it made no sense at all that this person would be in my bed. She went and found him naked in my bed. She forcefully kicked him out of our apartment. Confusion, both internally and externally ensued.
There was a long period of time that followed when I went into a deep depression. I would wake up screaming from nightmares. I was afraid to walk on the street alone. My grades dropped and I trusted no one. Before being raped, I had the philosophy that I trusted a person until they gave me a reason not to. After being raped, and to this day, I do not trust you until you given me a reason to trust you.
I wrestled with blaming myself. Maybe I drank too much? But then I remembered that I had gone to bed for the night, by myself. I was done for the evening. The man that raped me came into my bed later in the night. But, why? Why did I even doubt myself? Because the trauma of being raped is one that is so severe that my brain did not want to believe it happened.
After a very difficult time and with the help and support of some friends, I decided to go forward with filing a formal complaint with my University. I knew it was a risk but I also knew that the anxiety I felt everyday caused by the fear of running into the man that raped me was too much. I was unable to function normally and I wanted my life back. Either he had to go or I had to go. In the end, after a full investigation, I won. I mean, I didn’t win anything (for fucks sake, I was raped). But he was gone.
Anytime a big news story is circulating social media, especially when it has to do with racial injustices and/or rape, I normally take a while to steel myself before reading any of the articles. Because my heart can’t take it. Truly. It can be difficult for me to remain optimistic in light of these traumatic occurrences in our everyday society. Furthermore, usually if it is a rape case, I don’t ever read any of the articles because it’s too much. It’s emotionally triggering and maddening beyond what my psychological capacity can handle on a daily basis. But when I saw the headline, “Here’s The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker,” I thought – what? A media source is sharing something that puts the victim in a position of power?! Hell yeah, I was gonna read that. And so, to the Brave Young Woman who shared her power with all of us other victims who have remained silent for far too long, I personally thank you. In fact, here are your own words (with slight change) from me back to you,
“And finally, to Brave Young Woman, 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 (writing) 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 Brave Young Woman, I am with you. Thank you.”
Julie Young is a former litigation attorney and currently works full-time in the nonprofit sector. Additionally, Julie is a writer and speaker. She serves on the Board of Nazdeek and is an Advisory Board Member of All Together Now. Julie holds a B.S. degree in Psychology from Fordham University and a J.D. degree from Cardozo School of Law. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and twins.