An Open Letter to My Rapist and Former Lover
by Mona El-Haddad
It has been quite some time since we talked. I remember a time in my life when you were more than just a rapist to me. You were someone I knew, someone I loved, and someone I deeply cherished. You had a name once. It is really hard to believe that only a few years ago, if I were writing out this letter to you, the letter head would have read “Dearest Boyfriend.”
It is funny how much I loved and trusted you back then; although I am not sure now, if it were just love and trust. I think it was arrogance, as well: you know that arrogance we all experience in our late teens, that arrogance that makes adolescent lovers believe that their love is incomparable. I think it was that arrogance that made me feel like I were somehow exempt from someday being a survivor of sexual violence, and abuse.
How young and foolish I was once, when I thought that a woman’s mind and education, can exempt her from the inevitable consequences of being a woman residing in a sexist society, or can somehow mitigate the impact of walking around with a female body. The truth is, nothing exempts a woman; no money, no career, and no amount of education can truly ever exempt a woman from being subject to rape.
I do not think I am mad at you anymore, but this does not mean that I have fully forgiven you. While making mistakes are a natural part of the human condition, I cannot say the same about forgiveness. In my case, I am left to believe that fully forgiving you – my rapist- seems to be a feature possessed only by some divine and saint-like being; I will leave your forgiveness to God, and possibly to his angels. I do have a lot to thank you for, however.
I want to thank you for teaching me so much about myself. I remember that night you raped me. I went home, and threw myself under the shower. I was attempting to wash you off of me. I cried and cried. It was confusing at the time to differentiate between the water coming from the shower head, the blood coming from where you held my wrists down, the marks you had left on my face after placing your hands on my mouths to keep me from screaming, and the internal turmoil I was experiencing. All these things were intertwined, so much so that I was unable to move.
I felt like I would be in this permanent state of paralysis, like I would forever be a prisoner of my intertwined pains. I thought you had broken me, and that I was already grieving my own mortality.
Every time you texted and called afterwards, was just a reminder of this mourning. Soon enough, summer was over, and I was back in college. You know that term “revenge body”? Well, looking at it now, I had a “revenge mentality”. Every time I got an A in an assignment, it was proof that I was not just alive, but rather that I was still capable of excelling. Every time a professor or classmate applauded my eloquence while giving a presentation, served as a solid reminder that I still had a voice inside of me that was loud enough to keep me going.
I was eventually strong enough to come forward with what had happened, and I even manged to disclose my narrative to a few loved ones. Although I do still have a very long way to go, I have come so far. I now know that nothing can truly break my will to live; I will get upset, I will get depressed, I will get mad, I will cry my eyes out, but I will never let anything break me. Thank you for letting me know this.
There is another reason behind my decision to thank you; I do not fully blame you for what you did. This is much bigger than you. I realized this when I felt ashamed of being a victim of rape; if my phone had been stolen, I would have ran to the police, I would have shouted what had happened to me from a rooftop. The truth is, however, because I am a woman and because I was robbed of my power through my body, society and legal precedent have told me that I must feel ashamed of myself and remain silent.
These things are much bigger than you, so I can’t fully blame you for them. I mean, how can you truly blame someone for merely using the mere fact that is their gender privilege? How can you blame someone for merely using what society, history, politics, law, and history has come to understand as his right to exercise power, by means of satisfying his sexual desire?