By Beatrix Mortimer
This is letter written to you. I didn’t know anything about you until 2 days ago when someone flippantly told me your surname, like I should’ve known it. In the same way you probably don’t see me as a real person, I hadn’t seen you as a real person. You were a darkness to me. A darkness with eyes is all I see. It was easier to imagine you like that because I want to have faith in men. I want to believe that they are not capable of taking such advantage of a woman in possibly the most vulnerable position they can be. I did not want you there, I told you to leave, to go away. But all you saw was an object and that object happened to be a real person with a life, with a boyfriend, with a family and with a lot more to give. So I am writing this to make you understand that I am a person.
All women are people with decisions and thoughts and objectives. You took advantage of that and used your strength to overpower me. I thought I was strong, physically and mentally. You have made me stronger, physically and mentally. I know that I can fight now and survive. Yet at the same time I’m not strong. You have taken over my life. I may still be fighting but you have chipped something away which I may never get back. I want to be able to breathe again, I don’t want to wallow in self pity anymore, I don’t want to feel different from my friends anymore, like the distance I feel because they can never understand fully what I went through.
I guess then strength isn’t always the best. I want people to understand, I want them to see my pain, to create awareness. I don’t want people to hear my story and immediately say ‘well you should not have gone to the toilet then’ and ‘why didn’t you fight back’. But then I feel empowered. Those people that are quick to judge empower me because then I feel strong and I feel like a woman. I feel like a woman who can do anything because I survived and all I want is to tell others that they can survive too. I am allowed to walk down the street alone, hell if I want to go to the toilet I can. I did fight back. I used my instinct and I fought back. But then I didn’t. I can’t. I can only fight in my mind. In my mind I can go anywhere and do anything and no one can stop me because I’m fearless.
This is not reality. My reality is not fearless; you took that away. I cannot go anywhere by myself. I have a constant fear if I’m alone at night, a constant fear. No one can really experience that fear. You made me want to succumb, to get it over with. What would have happened then? Would I feel worse than I do now? Would I feel less guilty about my feelings and anxiety because something actually happened? There’s another male view of it – ‘Nothing actually happened’. Another ignorant person who can never understand what happened. Yes nothing actually happened but what’s worse is that sometimes I wish it did, because my feelings feel inferior. But how can one measure feelings or experiences. Sexual assault is exactly that; sexual assault. It is using power and violence to force women to do something against their will, and that has no scale.
You affected me, did I affect you? Did I make you feel like the weight of the whole world is crushing down on your chest every time you think or talk about that night? Did I make you form a thick shell around you when new people come and talk to you? Did I make your body tense up and remember what it felt like to have another’s weight crushing down on you whilst you are struggling? The marks may have gone but the body never forgets. The mind never forgets. You have affected my body, my mind, my relationships. Maybe I have affected yours. I hope I have. I hope that you think about your actions from that night while you spend time waiting in prison. Was it worth it? For just an iPhone and a bit of prey. What did you think whilst walking down that road? What went through your mind as you saw me crouching there? ‘Oh I know I’ll just quickly have sex with that’ Did you see me as a person or did you just see a body? You tried to kiss me. Did you think if you pushed me to the ground hard enough or suffocate my screams enough I would reciprocate? Did you think I wanted that? Did you think I was asking for it? I really hope that now you understand the meaning of consent. It has affected your life too, let this be a lesson but it’s disgusting that it took affecting my life so dramatically for you to be taught that women are not objects made for men. Seriously though what was going through your mind? Did you brag about it to your friends afterwards or were you ashamed? Did you tell them how you got this brand new iPhone 6? Was that just it for you; a missed opportunity and a brand new phone. Look where that has got you. You are not brave, you are not a fighter, you are an ignorant boy.
While you are waiting in prison, hopefully forced to contemplate your actions. I am here, outside free in the basic sense of the word. I am free to walk around at night, I am free to have fun with my friends, I am free to have fun with my boyfriend. You may have destroyed my nerves but you have not destroyed my love. I love. I love my friends, I love my family and I love my boyfriend. You have not rid that of me. I love and it is the best feeling in the world. Do you know how that feels? I love and I am loved. I am loved for me and I guess you have added to that. You have made me capable, you have made me realise that love is the most important thing to me. Happiness and love above all. To love now means so much more because I can feel this even though you showed me the opposite of love. You showed me hate and menace and the abuse of power.
I am safe in love and I know that you cannot have that. I am safe with my boyfriend, with my friends, my family. They make me safe. They make me happy. They empower me. I empower them. I show them my strength. I show them that I can succeed. Although they may never understand I show them that I can survive this unimaginable ordeal and that empowers me.
I am empowered. I am safe and I am loved.