Disclaimer: This letter is primarily addressed to female rape victims, as it includes some reflections on femininity and a commentary on societal messages aimed specifically at girls and women. The essential core of the message however applies to all rape and sexual abuse victims, regardless of gender. I hope ALL victims will be able to receive the essence of my message, as it is not my intention to disregard the legitimate pain and violation experienced by male victims of sexual assault.
First of all, I want you to know that it was not your fault. Period. Nothing you said, did, or wore justifies a person choosing to rape you. Whatever mistakes you may have committed does not make rape your fault. This culture assaults young girls almost from the moment of birth with sexualized toys and clothes and repeatedly sends the message through advertising and media that the worth of females is directly contingent upon their sex appeal. It also tells us that our power is to be found in stimulating and sexually tantalizing men. I want you to know that even if you have internalized these lies, dressed and behaved in the ways you were groomed, and you were assaulted, the rape is not your fault. In fact, you are a greater victim. The first assault is that you were raised in a culture that did not honor and nourish your authentic femininity. Secondly, a person or multiple persons desecrated your innermost core in the act of raping or sexually abusing you. Then, as a final assault, society blamed you for behaving and dressing the way in which they taught you.
Baby step by baby step I hope you will question the lies people tell you about yourself, your worth, your blame, your power, your dignity. I hope you will take steps toward knowing who you are and that you will not stop your journey before you have an unshakable conviction about the real truth of your inherent and undefiable dignity. You are amazing and you are a survivor!
Finally, at the risk of sounding like a street-corner preacher, I must assert that people are God's holy and chosen dwelling place. This is true for all people, but especially true for women, in whose bodies God creates life. It has been said that the female gives the egg, and the male gives the sperm, but only God can give the immortal soul. God touches the body of woman in this act of creation, a dignity which is denied to men. If some think that women somehow don't matter, are somehow less-than, or that it is God's will that we are subjugated by men, I must repeat that we are temples of God. To anyone who has desecrated such sacred ground--that is, entered a woman without the proper respect and reverence that is her due--to such a person I must warn you that for each of God's temples that you have desecrated and for each time that you have desecrated them, you WILL have to give an account before God.
To the rape survivor, I know these words may take you some time to believe. I know that after a sexual assault, the self esteem takes a huge hit. I know you feel ashamed, worthless, and dirty. But you must pay attention when I say that the rape is not your shame! You have a dignity. You have a sanctity that no one can take away by any means of force or any act of manipulation or degredation. This is the truth. I know that you may have to go on a long journey before you can believe these words. I hope you will make that journey.