I tried to ignore it. I tried to look away because I knew the pain of looking straight into it was going to be too much to bear. But then her courageous and powerful statement began to circulate, and I knew I could not pretend any longer.
I could not pretend that a horrible injustice had not occured; that another woman had not been betrayed by the very judicial system put in place to uphold the law. To hold offenders accountable. To protect victims. Not to revictimize us.
I could not pretend that this one case was not yet another one of many acts of sexual assault happening every day, every hour, every minute in our country.
I had to honor her by reading her words. Her truth needed to be told. Her agony needed to be recognized.
I wasn’t going to write about it, however, until I came to her closing statement in which she quotes Anne Lamott:
‘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,” she goes on to explain, “I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light…”
I must thank her for her courage, because I did absorb her light, and I cannot stand in the darkness any longer. I must shine the truth, even if it burns like staring straight into the sun, like sitting too close to the fire.
Because, damn it, I cannot stand for another minute to live in a world where women are violated and told we are the ones to blame.
Brock Turner, you are not a victim.
To your father, to Judge Aaron Persky, to every, single person who has ever decimated a woman’s worth and felt as though they were entitled to do so, to take, to force, to destroy, this is what happens to the true victims of rape.
This is what happens when rapists go on unscathed:
The women who are left behind — forgotten — will carry betrayal in their bones. It will haunt them as they try to sleep, it will be there when they wake.
They will hear the attorney’s words echoing in their mind like a menace relentless in causing complete collapse of his prey. The way he picked them apart on the witness stand, firing bullet after bullet into an already bleeding heart; that secondary rape will never go away.
Are you sure you didn’t just ask for this? Because I think you might have deserved it. The sheriffs, attorneys, judges and juries — the skeptics — their collective voice seems to say.
They will begin to wonder if perhaps they could have stopped it. Could have walked away. And that outrage turns to guilt. That sadness turns to shame.
They will bow their heads as insults are flung at them like punches, knocking out the air and the color in the world.
They will sit behind closed doors and listen to the people who love them as they say, “This does not define you.”
They will try so hard to believe it to be true, but spend years wondering what the new definition of them is supposed to be. They will struggle, agonize, claw their way to rebuilding their identity. Because they will never be the same.
That night will linger on forever.
They will close their eyes and shake their head to try and dispell the memory.
They will cut away at the pain. They will dig down deep and try to bleed it out. Try to cry it out. Try to scream it out. But it never goes away.
They will hold their breath and pray that they will not ever again see their attackers. They will live in constant fear. Please God, they will say.
But they will see them again, because no court of law held them captive. No sentencing destroyed them. They were never sent away to pay.
And they will wonder, how are those men living free, when I am trapped in my own cell of shame?
“Twenty minutes of action” turns to twenty years of reactions.
It never goes away.
They will choose people who hurt them because they have come to believe they deserve it.
They believe they are too soiled, dirty, ashamed.
Love looks like corruption, life feels like destruction. If only they could undo that one fateful day…
And though they eventually heal and keep living — they grow joyful, grateful, forgiving –now long forgotten, they still carry it with them, because those scars never fade away.
Until one day when they read the story of a brave girl — one brave girl — standing up to say that although the she was brutalized by a pitiful person, though she was failed by a dispicable sentence, she is refusing to go away.
Then it will rush back like a hurricane, because the anger never truly goes away.
To their knees they will collapse as they sob in agony; all these years, and the injustice has not gone away.
They will weep for their daughter.
They will weep for their sons.
They will weep for a world where the broken girls must be the bravest of all.
They will weep because something has to change.
And when their son reaches up to hold onto their hand asking why Mama is so sad today, they will explain that they are heartbroken for a girl and for the world and for the perpetual cycle of pain.
For a society where men can make poor choices and be allowed to just run, just swim on, away.
But then they will wipe their tears and pull those children in so close. They will love them fiercely. Teach them wisely. Lead them fearlessly.
They will breathe deeply from the reservoir of courage, which has sustained them for so many years.
They will adamantly refuse to live in silence for even just one more day.
They will be the change.
The world may be vicious and ugly and broken, but the beauty of a woman’s strength cannot ever be taken away.
If somone thought they could silence you, trample you, desecrate you, violate you, crack and break you, steal the life from you, rise up with me now and proclaim, “You may try to shroud us in shame, but our sacred light remains — it will not ever go away.”
Because, listen to me now, that very fire inside someone tried to put out — that courage, that hope, that shining, self-love greater than any and all doubt — it will never, ever, ever go away.
To the broken girls of the world lost in darkness, I urge you, turn toward the lighthouses. Let the light keep you. Keep your heart forever open to our flame.
We stand with you.
We are united.
We refuse to let them fade us away.