On December 31st 2011, New Year’s Eve, a young woman was raped and beaten in my neighborhood, and left in a coma on the sidewalk. I usually do not address an event so specifically, but in this case it seemed necessary to use text, and to be as direct as I could. I wrote a letter to both the woman that as raped and to the men that raped her. I posted the letter on the fence adjacent to where the woman was found.
The letter is reproduced below:
I don’t know your name, I just know that you were raped and beaten just a few days ago right around here. I know you are young.
I also know that there is nothing I can do that can take back what was done to you. I am so sorry that this happened. Sorry is not strong enough of a word. This should have never happened. I will keep you in my thoughts, and I hope that with time you can heal from this horror.
As a survivor myself, and a gender violence prevention advocate, I feel for you deeply. I hope you know you are not alone, and that there is a community of people there for you, if you ever want it or need it. I hope the people around you make you feel supported and safe. I hope someone tells you everyday that it is not your fault, and that you did not do anything wrong.
To the men that raped and beat a woman on New Year’s Eve.
I wish I could have been in your heads to see how you came to the decision to rape, beat and leave a naked, bleeding woman on the sidewalk. When did you stop seeing her as human? When did you relinquish any sense of compassion or empathy? It is exceedingly easy to hate you right now. To stop seeing you as human, to only feel disgust, but I am trying not to. I imagine your lives are pretty miserable for you to do something like this. Where did you learn to objectify women? Was it TV, your family, your friends? Do you think that
hurting her made you more of a man?
It did not. Violence is cowardly. Six or eight of you against one? It is a lot tougher to have a real relationship with someone, to see them as your equal instead of having to prove your capacity for overpowering them. You must be very weak and very insecure to have done this.
The truth is that we are all partially responsible for what happened. For not having been able to stop it, for laughing at the sexist jokes, for blaming the victims, for still living in a society where women are second class citizens, and for not teaching to our kids how to be compassionate human beings and modeling that behavior ourselves.
I hope you can get some help, and take accountability for what you have done. I hope you are able to create loving, healthy relationships with the people around you instead of being horribly destructive, as you have demonstrated you can be.
Know that what you have done will affect her for the rest of her life, and that you have not only hurt her, but all of us that have to walk around scared for our own safety, for our daughter’s, friends, and family’s safety. You have damaged further how man and boys are perceived, and you have broken our collective trust as a neighborhood and a city.