I thought long and hard about posting this because it's something I wrote a few days ago, after reading “Emily Doe's” statement for the third time and needing to do something – anything – to get my feelings in order again. But then I read it again tonight and I just...I don't know. I just felt like I needed to put it out there. It's addressed to “Emily Doe” but, really, it's for anyone whose past may have come back to haunt them because of the Brock Turner case and the publicity it's received...
You don't know me at all and, clearly, I don't know you; not even your real name, the one your parents gave you twenty-three years ago when you came into this world and were placed into their arms for the first time, no doubt blinking and squalling like the rest of us. However, thanks to the actions of one individual on one night last year, it must feel like half the world currently “knows” you and this particular part of your story.
Like many people I first heard about what had happened to you when the internet exploded in fury about the pathetically-lenient sentence handed down by the trial judge, and then again when the friends and family of the man responsible for the events of 17th January 2015 made statements proclaiming how his life had been “ruined” without acknowledging, even for a second, the trauma you and your family were going through as a result of his actions. I read, in stunned disbelief, as more and more victim-blaming and shaming poured from their words, without so much as a thought for you. And I have read, over and over again, the words you read out in Court during his sentencing and I have cried every time: I have never, ever read anything so eloquent, so powerful and so, so heartbreaking.
And that's why I wanted to write to you, “Emily”, whoever and wherever you are, because in most of the media coverage of what happened on that night it's been about him: HIS losses, HIS pain, HIS ruined life. And that's not right.
It's a simple enough statement but it's true:
That's. Not. Right.
I don't want to say anything which makes you relive your trauma any more than you must be doing already, but it felt important to me to acknowledge you; to acknowledge YOUR loss, YOUR pain. In your statement you said you had no power, no voice...”Emily”, with those words you read out in Court you took BACK some of your power because you made people, from all over the world and from all walks of life, feel something for someone they didn't even know. People who've been through similar situations to you. People, like me, who haven't. It doesn't matter. Your words, your voice, come out clear and strong in every single line of that statement and that is something no one can EVER take away from you.
Like I say, I don't know anything about you other than from the words you read out in your statement. I know you have a sister, a mother, a father; that you have a boyfriend; that you have friends and co-workers; a job somewhere, doing something which you enjoy or at least tolerate because it pays the bills and buys you shoes or chocolate or yellow flowers on grey days. I know, too, that you live somewhere in the region of Stanford University; perhaps you've lived there all your life, perhaps you moved there more recently. I'm guessing, as I can only do, that growing up you fought with your sister but would always be the first to defend her; that you fought, too, with your parents but knew that, no matter what, they would always be there for you even in the throes of your teenage “rebellion”. Maybe your Dad was the one who taught you to ride a bike, or maybe it was your Mum, or maybe one day you just scared them half to death by saying 'look, look at me; I can do it!' before crashing to the tarmac and scraping your knees. There is a whole life behind you which we can never know about; there is a whole life, too, in front of you; one which I hope you will be able to face day by day, step by step...
What happened to you cannot be undone, nor can any one presume to “understand” what it is you're going through, or how long it may take you to be able to finally sleep without the lights on. But I hope one day you will be able to look back on this and say: 'I am a survivor, not a victim'. Because you are, “Emily”; you ARE a survivor and it is THAT which I hope will one day replace 'victim' as part of your self-identity. You are an incredibly courageous young woman who has touched thousands of people all over the world with your bravery and your dignity. He didn't take that from you. You're a survivor.
I don't expect for one minute that you'll ever read this but I wanted to put it out there into the ether, just in case. I wanted to tell you something which, actually, I could never put any better than you did in your own words: you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you.
There are many, many little boats on this ocean of the world looking to your lighthouse and taking in those little pieces of light, but never forget that boats can reflect back light as well. We are with you, anonymously, quietly; reflecting back the beacon you cast from our wooden or shiny surfaces and telling you the same words you gave us in that courtroom:
“I am with you”.
Wherever you are, “Emily”, in the face of the storm which has raged online these past few weeks, know that we are with you too. We are not afraid. We will stand with you. You are not alone. And, one day, I hope that you will be able to find some sort of peace...
“A Friendly Boat”