An Open Letter To The Guy Who Raped Me At A Concert in 2003

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Dear Rapist:

Hey! How are you? Sorry for not personalizing this letter more, but it’s not like you ever introduced yourself to me, or even said a single goddamned word to me before you violated me. Funny how that worked out, right?

Maybe you’ve forgotten who I am. From the speed and dexterity with which you jammed your hands down my baggy jeans and into my vagina, I got the idea that maybe you had done what you did before, many times, to many vaginas. It’s definitely a thought that has filled me with terror as I have quietly held myself responsible for anyone else you may have assaulted over the last decade or so.

Or, a more frightening thought: maybe you don’t even realize that you are my rapist! Maybe you don’t know that what you did to me is rape. Because, funny thing: I didn’t know it, myself, until just a few months ago. You see, our current president is a big fan of your power move, and that resulted in a lot of internet conversation about sexual assault. Thanks to a quote from the  Department of Justice, I found out that they expanded the definition of rape to include what you did to me over a decade ago. I learned that I was raped on Buzzfeed, of all places. Can you imagine? The same website told me I was a Gryffindor, a Samantha, and a rape victim in one emotional rollercoaster of an afternoon.

So because of that article and my subsequent Googling, I learned that what you did to me is called “digital rape”. That is the official term for what happens when you shove your fingers up inside someone without their permission. Since you’re a rapist who victimizes vulnerable people at skeezy music venues, you might be too busy to keep up with the latest legal definitions of violation and consent. It’s cool we’re both learning stuff. Also, you’re a fucking monster!

I’m not going to go into the graphic play-by-play of what you did, because we both know it already. I’m sure you’ve discarded any details about me except the most broad, the most vulgar, the easiest tidbits to be turned into a sleazy joke between you and your dirtbag friends. But ah, there’s the beauty of sexual assault from your perspective: the assailant gets to forget. Maybe you didn’t know this, but the victim does not.

I will confirm the following identifying details for you, just for fact-checking purposes: I was wearing a Fiend Club t-shirt and jeans, I was dancing on the edge of a mosh pit, and you were taller and bigger and older than I by an order of magnitudes in every direction. I can confirm that you did what I said you did. I can confirm that I fought you, but my voice and flailing was covered by the general noise and flailing all around us, and I was only concerned with escaping you. I can confirm that I punched you right in your fucking face. And I can confirm that I am not, and will never be sorry about that. I hope I deviated your fucking septum, you disgusting piece of shit, and I hope sleep apnea kills you someday. Or I hope you try that on someone a little stronger than a 19 year old girl and they straight-up murder you next time.

I haven’t told many people what you did to me that night. On the way home, I did tell my friend. I tried to sound cool and tough, even as my voice shook, and I strongly emphasized the part where I broke the bridge of your nose with my little knuckles. She snorted and said something that still breaks my heart whenever I think about it:

“It was a punk show. What did you expect?”

What did I expect? Also, what did you expect? This is a fair question. You apparently expected to be able to rape somebody. My friend, perhaps from previous experiences with people like you, expected to be assaulted and punished for the crime of being visibly female and wanting to see a band she liked in person. Perhaps I missed some very obscure small print on a notice by the door, but my expectations for the evening were quite different. I had the same expectations I have every time I do literally everything else in my life: not to get raped! It may surprise you to know that everywhere I go, regardless of what I am doing, I expect to not be raped by a stranger or acquaintance. I realize that’s a high bar to set, but hey, you have to shoot for the stars. I’m worth it!

One more thing I want to make sure you know, you fucking pile of garbage: I was a virgin when you did that to me. I was a late bloomer, thanks to a traumatic childhood and a complete lack of self-esteem. Going to punk shows was my awkward attempt to grow up a little bit and maybe meet somebody cool. I was hoping I’d meet a cute boy to bring home and ruin Thanksgiving in a sit-commy way. Instead, you happened to me, and all the baggage and terrible shit that came with you too. My first sexual experience didn’t happen with my permission, or for my pleasure. It happened for yours and it fucking traumatized me for years. Just because I didn’t have a word for what you did for a long time doesn’t mean it didn’t mess me up. Are you proud of yourself?

Just kidding. I know you’re proud of yourself.

So why am I only reckoning with this now? The reasons that it took me so long to come to terms with what you did are myriad and predictable: I didn’t want to be a victim. What happened to me wasn’t a “real” rape, so it didn’t matter. I got away from you. You weren’t a friend or acquaintance, so I was free to move on.  I was one of the lucky ones. I had no right to complain.

Here’s the thing though: I wasn’t lucky. I was raped. It happened to me, and it was real, and just because it didn’t look like an SVU crime scene afterwards doesn’t mean I wasn’t violated in a terrible way. Like it or not, we’re both statistics now: I am one of those one-in-six women who get raped, and you are one of the many, many men who rape them and go unpunished. And I am the only one who has borne the consequences for that, and it might just be me but that kind of feels unfair.

For example: it took me a long time for me to lose my actual, consensual virginity after that. For some crazy reason, I was terrified of anyone who showed sexual interest in me, so I threw myself at dudes who were super-obviously not interested in me because it made me feel safer. You took something so deep and profound from me that I can never get it back, and for what? A couple of seconds of fun? Something to jerk off to in the parking lot? I will never know, because I broke free and you ran for it and we never really got the chance to catch up after that. Are you on Facebook? I know you love poking people.

Ouch, that was a rough joke! I know, I know, but I am so sick of taking you seriously. I feel like I have the right to laugh at you, if it makes me feel a little better. I’m tired of the anger and sadness attached to your presence in my life. I resent the hours and days that I’ve lost to nightmares and crowd anxiety and panic attacks and  the years it took me to feel safe in sexual situations after what you did to me. It’s like you gave me the world’s shittiest part time-job, and I’m ready to tell you where to shove it.

I thought I had managed to forget all about you, until our president was on the news bragging about his victims and his graphic descriptions of what he’d put them through forced me to connect those dots. And then all of a sudden things like the thing you did to me became the zeitgeist. Brave women, far braver than I have been up to this point, have come forward about powerful abusers from all walks of life. This has ignited a public discourse that is both empowering and upsetting and, if you’re a victim, impossible to escape. I feel like I haven’t been able to take a normal breath since last November.

But hey, good news: you’re trending right now. Congratulations! You have something in common with Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, and every other powerful man who assaulted a woman and was protected by her shame. And I guess I have something in common with all those models, actresses and other victims that those men bullied, shamed, and threatened into silence.

Celebrities! They’re just like us!

No, but seriously: You are a rapist. I am not willing to debate this with anyone. And yet, I  have gotten into terrible, hours-long fights with men who I care about very deeply who do not agree I was raped, or that women have the right to call their nonconsensual sexual experiences rape in the first place.  They hem and haw with me, and linger on details like mutual intoxication or implied consent, always looking for a way to prove that some woman, somewhere, somehow, lied or was confused about being raped and therefore no woman can be trusted to define their violation.

Some men get furious when you disagree with their definitions of rape, by the way. These dudes act like rape is a theoretical construct instead of something statistically likely to have occurred to me, their unwilling debate partner. I often wonder what they hope to accomplish with their shouting and pointing, and why they are so angry at me when I disagree with them. I don’t see how these conversations could possibly be for my benefit. Does renaming my trauma heal it somehow? Would it give me back all that I’ve lost if they could convince me that the fingers pushed inside me weren’t the fingers of a rapist? Also, for fuck’s sake: why am I expected to humor anybody so desperate to play devil’s advocate for the men who have violated me!?

And yet! Rape apologists feel entitled to my headspace. So hey, shout out to the folks who have picked arguments with me about rape over the past couple of years! Thanks for making me relive a terrifying experience over and over so you could use me as a human prop to resolve your guilt around drunken hookups and roofie jokes. You people are the real feminists. Just like Hugh Hefner.

That’s the other reason I’m going public with this, though. These arguments have led me to believe that I might be friends with a couple of rapists in denial, and that’s pretty fucking awful. I want to think that they just don’t know better, because consent is not a well-understood thing among men my age. But ignorance does not erase culpability for a crime, and  women do not rape themselves.

So, Rapist, I decided to write you a letter after all this time because I need you and everyone else to understand the thing I’ve been repeating over and over throughout this letter in hopes it will finally be accepted as truth: you raped me. It doesn’t matter one bit whether you meant to actually rape me or not. It happened, and you made it happen, so the responsibility for my assault and the resultant trauma is yours. You’re a rapist, and you should have to live with that forever. I have to live with what you did to me forever, so it’s only fair.

Some people might say I’m being unkind or overly dramatic, but that’s bullshit. It isn’t a punishment to be labeled a rapist if you raped somebody. It’s just a statement of fact. It doesn’t matter if you’re a friend or a stranger or a “nice guy” or a celebrity or the president of the United States- you’re still a rapist.

If you don’t like being called a rapist, too bad! I didn’t like getting raped, dipshit. You are owed no understanding, absolution or forgiveness by me or anyone else. It is your responsibility to understand and accept the reality of what you did. Deal with it. Atone. Seek help. Redeem yourself. Or go fuck yourself. I don’t really care. Just get out of my head.

If you think that’s harsh, maybe you could consider what it’s like to be the person who got raped. Don’t worry, I have a great therapist. I’ll be OK eventually. At least, that’s what she tells me when I talk about people like you.

Eat shit and die,

A Victim