An Open Letter to An Amalgamation of Friends:
It’s been a while since we talked. You’re busy and I’m busy and I’m not a bundle of joy these days.
“I’d love to catch up,” we say whenever we pass each other, but it never seems to happen.
As you may or may not know, it’s been a year since That Thing. During the last conversation I had with the police, I learned that the charges laid are Sexual Assault With A Weapon, Causing Bodily Harm, and that unless K. ever comes back here, he’ll never know those charges exist.
“People go their whole lives without visiting the Yukon,” I said.
“Lots of people visit the Yukon,” the officer replied. He told me warrants are extended only when harassment is ongoing, but that doesn’t seem to be true. The deciding factor, as far as I can tell, is cost. These things are expensive.
“I know it’s not your fault,” I told him, “but I’m a little frustrated. The man beat me until I passed out. He hurt me badly. He’s currently advertising for young women to star in his hardcore porn. I am deeply uncomfortable about this.”
The officer didn’t know about the porn, and he wouldn’t meet my eyes. I asked him, “So from what I can tell, there’s no circumstance that would lead to him getting attention from the police other than him returning to the Yukon?”
“I can’t answer that,” he said, “because I can’t see the future.”
So there’s that.
There’s also this.
Maybe you know it, maybe you don’t, but every day when I drink my morning tea I put one of these stones at the bottom of my cup. The black one is courage, the white one serenity, and the beautiful swirly one is wisdom. They represent bits of the AA prayer: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. That prayer has always meant a lot to me, and every morning as I wake up I think about which one I need the most right now, what form it’s taking in my life.
You definitely don’t know this, because nobody does: I haven’t touched the serenity stone in over a year.
I leave wisdom alone as well, and although I drop that black stone into my cup every morning, it’s come to mean something a lot closer to anger than to courage. I wake up furious, and every day I shape that fury into something I can use, because the alternative is to accept the unacceptable.
When I was nineteen you told me I liked being a martyr. That it was something to watch out for.
Maybe you were right.
When I told you I’d reported you said, “Good. Now he’ll see some consequences.”
It’s been a year. His life rolls cleanly ahead of him and mine is a snarled knot in a filing cabinet somewhere.
“Consequences,” you told me.
I know you believed it; you aren’t in the habit of handing me empty platitudes.
I know you believed it, but what I want to know is: do you still?
What I want to know is: the next time a friend tells you she’s reporting a rape, will you be able to look her in the eye and say “Now he’ll have consequences”?
There are other options. “This will not be healing,” I’ve been told. Also that some women find it’s worse than being raped in the first place, and, “Don’t expect justice from the justice system.”
Can you say those things?
They were said to me by well-meaning professionals. A representative of victim services. A police officer. A lawyer. They were said with flat acceptance and not a trace of anger. They were said, I guess, with the kind of serenity I’ve been rejecting.
Do you have that?
Two days ago, on the anniversary of my assault, I woke up ready to reach for anger. I had a list of numbers to call that morning – I’ve been trying to figure out how many other women in the Yukon are in the same boat as me, given what a transient population we have, but it’s not an easy stat to find.
So I reached for that sustaining anger, but I didn’t feel it. I felt calm for the first time in a year. It occurred to me (and how is this a revelation I’m only just having?) that I don’t have to do this.
That maybe I can’t make a difference here.
It’s appalling that the man who assaulted me will never be subjected to a criminal trial, but maybe it’s time to allow myself relief that I won’t be subjected to it either. To admit that I’m tired of agitating for the right to be let into a deeper level of hell. I’m tired of all of it.
I don’t have to do this. I can stop.
But I want to know what you’ll tell that woman.
Maybe it’s unfair of me to turn this on you; maybe you didn’t do anything to deserve it; maybe you don’t feel like it’s your fight; maybe you’ve already got too much on your plate. Maybe you haven’t a clue where to start.
Hey, me too.
It’s possible I won’t really walk away from this – you were right about the martyr thing – but it’s nice to know that I can. I’m going to bask in this feeling a while.
So while I’m sitting here, while you’re deciding how you feel about me giving up and walking away, let me ask you some things. You and all the other men who were so pleased I was going to the police. Look: I did my duty. I did the thing you all thought would be so helpful. Where are the consequences you assured me he would have?
What are you doing to bring about those consequences? What are you doing about rape culture, about consent education, about the impossible, twisted labyrinth of our justice system?
What are you doing to fix this?
Because until you have an answer to that, what can you possibly say to that next woman?