To the editor:
This is a thank-you letter to the rape survivor in Steubenville and all those who have supported her. For each voice that has harassed you, know that there are many admiring your bravery.
My hope is that your experience will help others to better understand date and acquaintance rape. You had the courage to seek help and risk embarrassment, when many victims do not. Less than half of rapes are reported. In the majority of those reported cases, the victim knows the attacker and alcohol is involved. There are many more stories like yours, especially for young women. You have helped other victims by sharing yours. In the months since your rape occurred, there are now hundreds of other girls, women, boys and men who can identify with being forcibly raped.
Our society allowed this to happen. We are not helping you or other young adults by telling you not to drink, but then have a culture that says it's OK to drink under 21, as long as you don't get caught. And, if there are sexual consequences, the loudest voices scream that it is the girl's fault. Your trial is evidence this is not true. Decades ago there was a push for the awareness of drinking and driving. I hope our culture can become better at responding to any inappropriate behavior that is under the influence.
You have been through a horrible situation and have courageously pursued a criminal trial. Now you need to take care of yourself. Rape isn't just the act of forcing someone in a sexual act - it includes the after affects. Victims of rape are more likely to suffer poor physical and mental health, including anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, and higher rates of asthma and diabetes. There is a lot of support out there, even if sometimes it seems like it is hard to find or that it's not worth it. Don't stop asking for help or believing that things will get better.
Ignore anyone that talks about blame, and that includes your own negative thoughts. There are many inspirational survivors who would tell you to focus on your purpose and leave behind the suffering. You have a future that is waiting with joyful events, travels and continuing to help others.
No one would want to be in your place, or even that of your rapists. Once you are in a better place, try to forgive the boys who assaulted you and the witnesses that stood by. It will help you to move on, and build your compassion for others. Any hate that you hold onto will only hurt you.
Thank you for sharing your story.