Friday, August 15, 2014

Sexual Assault, Mental Health, and Robin Williams

"The less whole we feel on the inside, the more we need things outside ourselves to make us happy." --Dr Joe Dispenza

This week as been difficult for me. Stressed about going back to the city of the crime in 2 weeks, starting a new program, furnishing an apartment, then a flare up of my chronic pain and PTSD ... it's been a lot.

But, there's another reason why my chest has been a little tigher this week, why I've been a little more emotional than normal, why I've been thinking more about a few specific dates over the past few years of my life.

As I heard of the news of Robin Williams' death on Monday, I felt a part of my soul turn dark. My chest tightened up, and my heart rate increased every time it was mentioned or we talked about it. Maybe it was because of that day in 1996, when I was just 6 years old, that I heard my uncle had died and a gun was involved (only years later would I learn it was because of suicide). Maybe it was because of that day in May 2012 when I got the news that another one of my uncles had killed himself by hanging. Or maybe, it was because of the beautiful girl that I played soccer with, who, at only 15 years old, jumped off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle in May 2006, and sparked an outrage in the community to do something, finally. The public nature of her suicide, the hundreds of people who gathered with flowers and candles where it happened the day after, the community coverage ... this weeks outpouring from the world was reminscent of that week in 2006, a week I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Or maybe it was because of me, and my own struggles that I've dealt with. And how on December 24, 2010, i had my own attempt.

Depression and suicidal ideations are issues that sit in the dark, barely untouched, right alongside other mental health issues, eating disorders, and sexual assault. And myriad conditions can cause them, ranging from purely clinical depression to PTSD/trauma to eating disorders and everything in between. These are issues that need to be talked about.

And I talk about this from the perspective of not only losing people that i cared about to suicide, but because of my own struggles. I had one suicide attempt at the height of my eating disorder, in 2010. Or, how i made a pact with myself that if my chronic pain wasn't better by the time I graduated college, I would end it all because I couldn't bear to keep fighting. And how, in the aftermath of my sexual assault, I truly wanted to die when I got diagnosed with the STD, as well as when my entire world collapsed in November with the SVU/NYPD/friend issues. For a moment, i never thought it would get better.

But it can always get better.

Robin Williams death has sparked a conversation much like my friend Maren did when she killed herself in 2006. It brings a chilling realization into the forefront of everyones mind -- that no matter what 's going on on the outside of that person, we have no idea what's going on in the inside, what silent battles we each are fighting day in and day out.

Maren was an incredibly smart, brilliant, talented student and athlete who had her whole life in front of her. The week that we found out about her death, one of my soccer teammates embraced me and said, "It could've been any one of us."

And she's absolutely right.

A smile, an "I'm ok," a bright future, or four decades of genius comedy and making the world laugh and having the world at your finger tips ... they don't indicate what's going on on the inside. They never do. And the more broken we are on the inside, the more we need on the outside to make us happy and keep convincing our selves and the world that we are ok, because that'll work ... won't it?

But it doesn't. Not all the time. It didn't for Maren. It didn't for Robin Williams. And it almost wasn't enough for me.

I was lucky. I somehow found it in me to keep fighting in the midst of my chronic pain. I grossly missed the mark of my first attempt (or else I wouldn't be here today). My sexual assault nearly killed me and I never thought I would get better. But I was able to slowly pull myself out of the hole i had been left in, the blackness of my soul that encompassed me so strongly in the aftermath.

my uncle Nick and my Uncle Mike couldn't. Neither could Maren. And now, neither could Robin Williams.

But the people who end their lives this way ... they aren't weak. The fought a battle for the longest that they possibly could. And it's heartbreaking that they couldn't push on longer to find the reason to stay. But it's not their fault.

Just like sexual assault isn't the victims fault, the way that depression affects people isn't their fault either. They didn't fail; their brains did, society did.

Suicide is a world I've been living in since 2006, a cause that I worked hard to support ever since Maren died. And if one thing can be gained from Mr. Williams death (which Im sure he would've wanted) is that suicide needs to be talked about and more prevention is needed. And, especially, the underlying causes need to be addressed. Better mental health resources. Better treatment for eating disorders. Better support for sexual assault and trauma victims. But, most importantly, removal of the stigma.

Depression -- whatever the cause -- is a silent killer. There are a million facades a person can hide behind to give the illusion they are whole, free, and happy. But no one knows what goes on behind those masks. Even our most beloved people in society -- Robin Williams -- had demons that no one knew the extent of, even despite his openness with his struggles.

One of my favorite things that my chiropractor says is, "The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention." And that IS the greatest gift we can take from the loss of Robin Williams -- to turn our attention to suicide prevention and mental health issues. It's a stigma that goes right alongside sexual assault and is something that cannot stay in the closet anymore. And not only that -- but to truly listen to people. Everyone fights some sort of battle that we know nothing about. The greatest gift we can give as a fellow human being is our attention, our love, and our support.

My uncles were two troubled people, but kind, compassionate and fun. Maren was a spark of color that stood out amidst everyone else. And Robin Williams was a kindhearted, generous, genius of a man who treated me very kindly and nicely when I met him and made the world laugh for 40 years.

These people shouldn't have died. They will never be forgotten. And now it's our turn to do something. It's time that the shame in asking for help is lifted, the shame in being suicidal disappears, so that people can ask for help without being stigmatized, and that people can talk openly about their struggles without being made to feel weak, ashamed, or different. Because these people are no different from you or me. It could've been any one of us.

So as this week has unfolded, that heartwrenching pain and sadness I felt in 2006 slowly crept up and reminded me of the profound impact suicide has on people ... especially when it is someone as beloved as Robin Williams was.

And to Robin Williams -- thank you for being you, and blessing millions of people with your talent and laughter for so many years. And despite your traumatic death and the hole it's left in your family -- and the world's -- hearts, thank you for bringing this issue into the forefront of society.

It's time to talk.






Friday, May 30, 2014

A Letter to Mariska Hargitay

I have many posts that have been floating around in my head lately, but this is one that I feel like I want to get out.

Knowing that the JHF gala was last night stirred up an incredible range of feelings for me. Knowing the work that Mariska has done to put the issue of sexual violence in the spotlight is profound; watching MSNBC the other day speak about the rape kit backlog was incredible, knowing that Mariska was has been a huge force behind this movement.

But knowing that the gala was last night brought up a rage and heart break I can hardly put into words.

The other day, I came home from dinner with my boyfriend, the JHF on my mind. Mulling over what they did to me. How betrayed I felt. And I walked in from dinner, and my boyfriend put his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said to me, "I see what you're doing to yourself. These people failed you. I can see how you're blaming yourself for this, when it wasn't you. It was them. They failed you." And then I broke down.

So this leads me to this post. A letter i wrote to Mariska weeks ago, while still in NYC. I hope she reads it some day.

TO MARISKA

Dear Mariska,

It's Rachel. You know, the weightlifter from 2010. So many emotions when I think about you it's hard to sort them out.

First, I never meant to hurt you or anyone else or make anyone else mad. I've had nothing but love and admiration in my heart for you since the day I first met you back in 2010, the epic "SVU Summer" I call it. Any of my friends could say how much my face lights up when I used to talk about you, the dinner I got to share with you in 2011, and the help that you gave to me in the aftermath of my rape. So much love for you in my heart.

Yet now, I'm incredibly heartbroken on how all of this with JHF has unfolded. I see now how my actions could've been perceived negatively, yet there was never a moment in my mind where that was the case. The truth is, with the way that all of this was handled by Danny and JHF -- I have never felt more ashamed in my entire life. Ashamed to have shared my story, ashamed to be a survivor, ashamed that JHF was questioning whether this really happened to me or if I was just saying all of this to get attention. Heartbroken doesn't even accurately describe how I felt, when I've been nothing but a loyal supporter and advocate for JHF since I first learned of them in 2009. The way Danny threw my story back in my face, and what Sherisa said to me later, how Monica lied to me when I called her number (she said she wasnt there, when I actually had her on the phone), how Sherisa's words indicated she questioned the validity of my story ... it is the worst I have felt since Dan assaulted me, and the subsequent horrific treatment of the NYPD.

I see everything you continue to do for survivors, and in the back of my heart I swell with pride and love at the fight that you have taken on. But now, i also feel an enormous amount of heartbreak. And mostly because I have no idea what your involvement was. Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about at all. Maybe you were the one who said I couldn't be a part of any JHF events anymore. If that's the case, then this is my apology. If that's not the case, then I'm just writing to you as a scared and heartbroken girl who was let down by JHF. A girl that has shared a few special moments with you, that has some of the same friends that you do, that has attempted to show only love and support for all that you do, the purest love for you that any survivor could ever have for their hero. And that is still there. But behind that is the fear and the heartbreak, the heartbreak of fearing the worst, of questioning, of wondering if you really believe I was making this up for attention. And that scares me the most, out of everything.

So dear Mariska, I still love you. From the first time I met you with Carlos and my boyfriend and awkwardly shouted "I LOVE YOU!" To the dinner conversation we had in 2011 to the gala in 2013 ... I have had nothing but love and admiration for you, even despite the anger and heartbreak and betrayal I feel now. I just hope that one day, I can maybe tell you this, and understand the love I feel for you despite the heartbreak. and that one day, you can forgive me.

Your fellow fighter always,
Rachel

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Heroes Fail, Part 2: The SVU Version

So I wasn't gonna do a blogpost on this but I decided I wanted to because of the feelings I have if I run into the Svu set (intense panic and fear and total PTSD reaction). I've been afraid of backlash, but I also know that my experiences are important and valid and I don't like keeping silent or harboring anger alone.

I'm structuring this post in 2 parts -- first the exact events that happened with JHF and the feelings I felt immediately; and then my thoughts/analysis on what happened (because I don't want the analysis to cloud the actual events).

This isn't bashing anyone or anything. This isn't embellished. This is only my true, 100% honest experience with what happened, the feelings I had, the way I felt.

I know a lot of you know my background and history with the awesome experiences I've had on SVU, so I'll be brief with those, but will need to go into detail about everything that happened from the gala onward.

Here it goes.

As most of you know, I had been in contact pretty regularly with JHF since last year. Ever since Mariska emailed me and put me in contact with Maile, I had been in contact with the clinical director of JHF. She was wonderful and id have periodic checkins with her throughout the year (about once a month). At one point I emailed Mariska again to give her an update that I had been diagnosed with another STD. JHF called me immediately and tried to talk me through it.

In the months that followed, I would have periodic check-ins with JHF. I obviously went to the gala in May, and had posted a video of the gala on YouTube. I got a call soon after that I needed to take the video down (Mariska had a glass of wine in her hand). I didn't even know how they knew my YouTube account, and it unnerved me a bit because I felt like I was being watched almost. But I didn't think anything of it at the time.

Because of the gala, I decided to report my rape.

Throughout the reporting process, JHF was sorta involved. I'd talk to my go-to person (the clinical director) and she was always super supportive. If i had a question about anything I'd call her and she'd always talk with me for however long I needed.

In October, (after all the drama with the NYPD had happened) I had to come back to NYC to do the controlled call. It was the last attempt to nail the guy. I was staying on the upper east side in NYC with a friend, and the day I had to do the controlled call, SVU happened to be filming literally right around the corner from where I was staying. My friends and I were gonna go do stuff in the city, but we decided to hang around and talk with the teamsters (I knew a couple of them). They were all super cool, and we became friends with Mariska's driver. I was having a good time trying to distract myself (the NYPD were picking me up in an hour) but when my legal advocate called me from Seattle, I lost it. The teamsters kinda didn't know what to do, but Mariska's driver tried to be supportive (and he was). I was in a ball sobbing on the ground, when all of a sudden Mariska came out of her trailer. A bunch of fangirls (young) kinda swarmed her and I didn't wanna bother her but my friends wanted me to say hi. So I was bawling and she saw me and made eye contact and got concerned (went all Olivia-Benson). She had to go tho, so I didn't really talk to her. I told her quickly what was going on but she started to leave. Gave me a quick hug and that was it. That was the last time I saw her.

We were walking down the street (me sobbing) when all of a sudden Danny Pino came out of his trailer. A bunch of girls swarmed him too and he was taking pictures with them. He saw me and got really concerned and then came over. We had an incredible moment -- he was so incredibly supportive and said words to me that lifted me up and guided me through the process that I needed to do. We talked for about 10 minutes and he was just incredible. It was seriously meant to be and I was eternally grateful for that, especially because it gave me the strength to do what I needed to do. The next day I went back to the set and gave him a thank you note. He saw me from across the street and actually started to cross the street, but I went to meet him, and he yelled at me to be careful. He was wonderful again. He said he hoped everything went well and that he wished he could stay longer to talk but that they had more filming to do. So he wished me safe travels back to Seattle.


I left New York worn out, exhausted, sick -- but feeling so hopeful and grateful at all the kindness I had experienced.

Now, fast forward to the hard stuff.

In November, I was back in NYC for a college interview for grad school. Danny had been so supportive that I was inspired to write down my entire story (which  I had never done before). I communicated to him how amazing it was to have men like him in the world fighting for this cause, because we needed more of that. And how i found salvation in his character, because of the failure of my own detective and the subsequent trauma that resulted. It was a truly heart-felt letter, and I opened up my soul on that paper.

The day I flew in, they were filming in the Bronx. I had promised a younger survivor that I would go with her, but I was so exhausted from traveling all day I almost canceled. But she was waiting for me there so I went, begrudgingly. We got there, and it was freezing but I knew a couple of people on set, so we hung out with them (teamsters and Mariska's driver). Mariska's driver was so funny and gave us water, and gave us NO MORE magnets. It was fun. It was emotional for me to be back in NYC after the failure of the legal case, but it was comforting to see the people that I knew and to re-ignite the positive memories I had of the SVU set from 2010. I had an awesome moment with Dann Florek (who recognized me and my silly Facebook name) and it was just great fun.

They were about to go film, so Mariska's driver told me to go give my letter to Danny, that this was gonna be my chance. The other girl I was with wanted to go see Mariska so I told her to go. I waited for Danny, and he came out.

It was horrible.

He was extremely rude cold and abrasive, the complete polar opposite of what I had seen in October. I identified myself, and He said, "Yeah I know who you are," really pissed off. I told him I had been inspired to write my story down for him to read, and gave him my letter, and he said, "Well it's a busy shoot, I can't promise I'll read it." I asked him if he could try, and he said, "Yeah whatever," took my letter and stuffed it in his pocket. I felt so extremely small at that point, I didn't even know what to do or say. He then just walked away.

I was upset but didn't want to go into it, and just chalked it up to a bad day for Danny. After that Mariska's driver was worried about our safety in the Bronx, so he gave us a ride in her car to the train station. It was risky because he could getting huge trouble for that but he told us to get in and he'd make sure we were safe. So he dropped us off at the train station and sent us home.


Later that night he emailed me and said that security had been watching me the whole time and saw that he had given us a ride in her car (for some reason they were only noticing me and not the other girl that I was with) and that he had gotten in trouble. I was freaked out because I didn't want to make any trouble for anybody, it was the last thing I wanted. I felt pretty crappy that night and didn't sleep well, thinking I had gotten people in trouble and that I was in trouble too. I talked to my teamster friend about Danny etc and he said not to worry about it, that I don't know what's going on in his life etc. But it still really upset and unnerved me.

The next day I was with my dad, and I tried to forget about Danny. everything was fine until the evening. That night we were at dinner and I received a call from Joyful Heart, a woman named Sherisa. When we were at the gala and had a meltdown she was the one Mariska called to talk to us so I remembered her. She called me and said that they had gotten the letter that I had given Danny (not sure how they got it -- that unnerved me from the start) and that I was having "too much communication" with the actors. She then told me that I was to have no contact with the SVU actors anymore because my communication was "misplaced," that it was "too much" (wtf does that mean?). That I was banned from the set and all JHF functions, that she was confused why I was still writing the actors even though I had a therapist since they had given me resources, and that there is too much communication with them. I explained that i was telling them how much their cause meant to me and that I wanted to be heard. She said she didn't get it because JHF had listened to me and that it wasn't right for me to talk to them because I was distracting them (when other girls have gone to the set repeatedly to give letters and get pics -- I inow a few who have gone REPEATEDLY over the past year and I'd gone only 3 or 4 times -- why me?). I was really confused as to what that meant especially because I hadn't been to the set all that much considering some other girls that i know (especially bc I don't even live in New York), but she said that they had been given EVERY single thing that I ever wrote to them (they had a folder of the letters/emails I'd sent Mariska). And they had everything filed away in a little folder. That unnerved me even more and confirmed the fact I felt like I was being watched.  I was very upset, because I thought Mariska knew about me and knew me at least a little bit and that she cared a little bit to see how I was doing with the case etc. since i had met her in a different setting than most fans. So I would send her updates, I told her about the NYPD and how I thank her for the work that she does on the TV screen etc. but Joyful Heart didn't like that, even though I had never sent anything that illustrated I wanted THEM to help me (which is what Sherisa said) -- it was an appreciation, but JHF didnt get that. So they banned me not only from the SVU set and contact with the actors, but they banned me from all Joyful Heart events, things that are supposed to be incredibly healing.

And not only that, but Sherisa said something that implied I was doing all of this for attention. That maybe this hadn't really happened to me (my assault). When she said that, I completely lost it. It was awful. To say that I was low is the understatement of the century. I was heartbroken. I had been nothing but supportive of JHF over the years, and only appreciative of the actors and so much love for Mariska and all work that they do. And then this happens.

But it got worse.

when I got home I started receiving anonymous hate texts from a texas number who wouldn't ID herself. She claimed she was part of JHF and knew details of my story that only my best friends knew and JHF and Mariska knew. Anyways, long story short my friends and I did some detective work and discovered it was some random girl from Texas who my ex -best friend  (ThePaigeEverett on twitter) had told my DETAILED story to behind my back and she was pretending to be some important person in order to put me down and tell me how awful I had fucked up etc. It was horrible, especially on top of the betrayal of JHF.

A few days later, after I collected myself a little bit, I called my contact at JHF (the clinical director), on her direct number that she had given me 9 months earlier (sometimes she didn't answer the phone but 90% of the time she did). She answered the phone but I asked to speak with her (her name is Monica), just in case she wasn't there. She said that Monica wasn't in -- but I knew it was her because I knew her voice. I identified myself and she said that she couldn't talk to me, that I'd have to talk to Sherisa. So even the person who I had been sharing intimate details with for the past 10 months, who was there for me during the case when I needed someone to talk to ... she LIED to me and said she couldn't talk to me.

To top it all off -- the guy who assaulted me found out that I had reported him somehow and emailed me and intimidated me, called me a liar etc.

ALL of this happened within the span of the week.

November was officially my bottom. I went home could hardly get out of bed for a week. Because my heroes had literally failed me. To have someone you look up to -- someone you admire so much and appreciate more than words can comprehend -- turn around and throw your story back in your face (Danny) ... It's one of the worse feelings I have ever felt as a survivor (tied with the betrayal of my survivor friends).

In the following weeks I tried to piece together some of what happened, think about what Sherisa said, and try to make sense of it all.

One thing was made obvious to me -- JHF does NOT care about individual survivors. Yes they UNDOUBTEDLY care about the cause, 100% ... but don't confuse that with the integrity of a single individual. And it's not just me: I've talked to a few of you who have had similar experiences with JHF. Individually we are just collateral. They share our stories that we give Mariska -- things meant only for her eyes. JHF gets and reads all of it. Logistically I understand and don't blame Mariska -- she gets SO much. But it was unnerving to see that they had all of my communications tucked away in a folder, again as if they were keeping an eye on me.

Another thing that I am firmly starting to believe has to do with what a friend of mine who was an actress on SVU back in the day said to me. I was telling her about who had assaulted me and how he was a writer on the show, and then what had happened with JHF. And what she said really captured the essence of what this situation was: 

"I hate what he did to you, but would I go around and proclaim it? No. If he offered me a job, I'd still take it from him."

That's how show biz works. Hearing her say that broke my heart, and watchin how JHF was almost watching me, I'm starting to believe that the reason they kept talking to me and pushing me away from Mariska was because it was a conflict of interest. The guy who assaulted me was an SVU writer -- know what that would do to their image? And my friends words echoed that, so clearly. Mariska's actions never demonstrated that -- but even the few short times I got to talk to her she never referred to him by name or what he did to me. It was always in general terms -- even though when I emailed her, and she responded, I had written his name in the subject box and that he had raped me -- so I knew she knew. Now this is all PURE speculation -- I have no direct evidence to prove this is the case -- but with things that JHF have said it has crossed my mind more than once and it has started to point in that direction.

Lastly, I was fortunate enough a few weeks ago to talk to someone who's very close to Mariska. I told her everything that happened (fearfully). The biggest thing that she said is that she is 100% certain Mariska had nothing to do with JHFs decision. That they are protective of her, and have had to make decisions like this when girls have threatened to kill themselves if they don't talk to Mariska, so now they make extreme decisions in ALL cases -- even small ones. Better to ban a survivor even if she is telling the truth than to risk it. Know how much that hurts when you ARE telling the truth?

I write this because I live in New York now and I walk by the court systems twice a week. I have not only passed multiple tv shows filming (once Blue Bloods -- which is where the writer who assaulted me works now; talk about a heart attack), but when I see SVU is filming I have a panic attack. Or I'm filled with such anger and rage and I want to hit something (or myself). I can't even bring myself to watch the show anymore. I can't be angry at Mariska, because I have no idea what involvement (if any) she had ... and from the looks of it, she had none. But JHF? Yes. Rage. and same with Danny. But mostly I am just purely heartbroken.





In hindsight, I see how my actions could've been perceived negatively. But part of it is that in 2010, when I was a part of the "pack," the dynamics on set were SO different. I could go and hangout behind the scenes all freakin' day and socialize with everyone. it's not like that anymore. And it kills me to know, and SEE, how many other fans/survivors out there go to the set SO MUCH MORE than me ... and I'm the one who gets burned. I wouldn't want anything like this to happen to anyone ... but I'm justified in thinking it's not fair.

So, JHF and Danny Pino ... I don't wish death threats on you. I don't stalk you, waiting to make my move. But I don't support you anymore. I'm heart broken beyond all belief. Never have I EVER regretted sharing my story more than when Danny Pino tossed it back in my face, and when JHF made me out to be doing this only for attention. And that is the exact polar opposite of what JHF's mission is -- to heal, empower and educate victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Well let me tell you this: they failed with me. I have never felt more ashamed of using my voice than I did in November, only tied with the fallout with the NYPD. And that is incredibly sad.

These people are human. They are not their stoic, unwavering characters on TV. JHF isn't the 100% failure-free pioneer in healing survivors. They are human as well. Angry and heartbroken are the only words I can use to describe SVU and JHF now. Confusion, as well. But couple all of this, with the fact that my rapist wrote for the show ... it's hard to ever watch it again, as I'm sure is understandable.

I don't judge those of you who still love and watch the show, who think Danny Pino is the sweetest person alive. I did, too. Hell, I've tried to block out the positive experience i had with him in October because it's so damn painful to see how wonderful he was, and then relive the November experience.

Maybe some day I'll get some answers. Ill never support JHF again, at least in terms of money. But I am hopeful that maybe some day I will get some closure. Maybe have a conversation with someone, Mariska, Peter. I don't know .... it's possible.

All I know is that SVU and JHF has lost someone who would've supported them til the very end. I can't change what happened. I also can't live and re-tell this story, because I know that it does no good. but for those of you who wanted to know, this was it. This was my part of an incredibly painful few months this fall, something that I'm only now able to talk about (this happened 4 months ago and I haven't been able to talk about it at all).

All I can do is try to forgive and move on. To love despite the hurt. And that's my plan.



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

If You Were My Sister


If you were my sister, I’d call you into my arms, and hold you tight.
If you were my sister, I’d let you cry and wipe the tears away from your eyes.
If you were my sister, I’d let you pound with rage on my shoulder at the horrible crime committed against you.
If you were my sister, I’d help you tear up every piece of memory of him and burn it with you, releasing the energy into the night.
If you were my sister, I’d hold you tight when you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, screaming from the nightmares.
If you were my sister, I’d help you get out of bed every morning, and find joy in something, even if it was only a piece of chocolate.
If you were my sister, I’d sit by your side if you went to the police and hold your hand through the whole process.
If you were my sister, I’d be the first in line to stand up for you if the police did anything wrong.
If you were my sister, I’d let you come into my room at night and cry in pain, knowing that your case had fallen through and that no justice would be given.
If you were my sister, I’d promise you I would always be there for you, even when all of your friends deserted you and left you in your pain.
If you were my sister, I’d smile in your eyes and promise you that it does get better.
If you were my brother, I’d tell you that you do not have to hide in silence.
If you were my brother, I’d take you in my arms and promise you the shame is not yours to carry.
If you were my brother, I’d tell you how much I loved you every day, and promise you that you are worthy of only the most beautiful love, and that what happened to you will not deter any woman from seeing how beautiful you are.
If you were my sister, brother, niece, cousin, friend – I’d take your face in my hands, look you straight into the eyes and say, “What happened to you was not your fault. You are beautiful. And you are SO strong. And I love you.”