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As her rapist was sentenced to prison decades after victimizing her, this author reflects on how he impacted her life. Trigger warnings galore.

Dear Rapist,

Were you scared, I wonder, as the proverbial noose tightened around your neck and you, a wanted man, realized that you no longer had anywhere to run and hide? Did the thought of going to prison terrify you, as you desperately attempted to stay one step ahead of the law? Did you ask yourself what being locked up would be like, and were you afraid that the stories of what they do to people like you, people who rape children, in prison, were true? 

Your lawyer, I heard, described you as an upstanding and law-abiding citizen who merely had a problem with sexual attraction to children. That last bit reveals that you were driven into such a corner that you weren't able to charm her into believing that you weren't a rapist. You did plead guilty, after all. The evidence against you was overwhelming. She probably justifies defending people like you by convincing herself that even child rapists deserve a fair trial, but how it's possible to describe someone who has clearly broken not just the law but also children's souls as law-abiding is unclear to me. Does it bother her at night, I wonder, effectively selling herself to a robber — a robber of bodily autonomy and emotional health, a robber of people's destinies? 

They don't give you internet access in prison, do they? I am glad you can't read this, because you'd laugh your head off. You always did. Showing weakness amused you, and it has taken me a few decades to reclaim that ability for myself, to work towards becoming human. 

Today, as it happens, yet another friend "came out" to me as a victim of child rape. "I was OK. I was really OK. I kept telling myself that but now, now I am not OK," she told me as even those powerful defense mechanisms of numbness and denial crumbled and her brain told her she could no longer cope. We put on a brave face to keep ourselves safe, but also for the rest of society. People, you see, get really uncomfortable around those who openly talk about being rape victims. 

"Have you had the unfortunate but all too common experience of being raped? Healing after rape is difficult, but not impossible. With the right steps, you can do more than survive — you can thrive! Rape isn't the end of your life," an only barely snarky paraphrasing of numerous online articles "to help rape survivors" would read. We're meant to be strong, and get over it, and even forgive those who wronged us, and tell the world that we are fine. That's how society likes it best. 

Like my friend, I too was fine until I wasn't. Knowing that I had nobody to rely on but me, I did what I had to do. I endured.

Everything you did to me, I endured by emotionally and mentally detaching, letting go of the things that make us human, things you wouldn't know about because you could never have possessed them in the first place.

A Letter To The Man Who Raped Me

I recently heard the word "rape recovery plan" thrown about, as if it's like intensively training for a marathon and then, after you cross that finish line, you're fixed. 

Reality, for me, was much different. The years you took from me were some of the years that shape a person's path most, those years of transition between childhood and adolescence. While you were robbing me, I sought solace in books. After I escaped, literally to another country, it was studying and alcohol that kept me afloat. In a bid to convince myself that I was still "normal" and not "damaged goods", I did some things I regret. After what you did to me, the message that I could actually say "no" to men who wanted me had been lost, and gaining it took time.

It wasn't until after I had kids that I realized there was something seriously wrong with me. I was unable to feel that maternal love that everyone talks about, I realized; there was a wall in my heart that you had erected and that needed to be demolished if I wanted to be a decent mother. That's when I sought therapy, when I tried to process what had actually happened and how I felt about it. Mentally returning to that time was hard, but necessary. 

Recovering from rape isn't like recovering from a cold. You violently removed me from the path I was on and sent me down a whole other path without ever asking me.

"Rape victim" will always be one of those core parts of my identity, now. Being fine and breaking down goes in cycles, something that will be familiar to anyone with PTSD. When I heard that you had been caught, this time, I was relieved, but also sent down another of those "trauma processing sessions" that leave me unable to function well for a while. I was a child, I know, but I never reported you and because of that, because of me, you got the chance to do the same thing to many others. The guilt has been unbearable at times.

Fair trial? I understand why the justice system works the way it does, don't get me wrong, but we, victims of you and others like you, were never given a fair trial. You were free to do what you wanted for decades, while I and people like me were handed down life sentences the moment you or your sick "colleagues" set your eyes on us. No lawyers. No prosecutors. No witness stands. Just summary sentencing, a life sentence of brokenness. While you get the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to be let off on technicalities or receive reduced sentencing because you have a crafty lawyer, we never got that chance. 

I am OK. I am OK, today, and also not OK. I am happy in the knowledge that because you are behind bars, you are not raping others right now, and perhaps hope that your lack of freedom is painful to you the way the mental prison you built for others was painful to your victims. 

Yours Sincerely? How would you end a letter to your rapist? I have no idea. Yeah. Yours, that's a part I can't quite escape, anyway, so as unpleasant as it sounds, Yours Sincerely.

Your victim, one of many.

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