Dear Jane Doe,
I thought of you yesterday. In fact, you’ve been on my mind so frequently since just before the New Year. My husband and I knew your story was going to go National before others did, and I just wanted to wrap you in a protective bubble of love. But yesterday, just hours after the verdict came down that two of your attackers were, in fact, guilty, I drove through your town. I cried for you.
Despite the fact that the legal system brought about some form of justice for you, my heart still breaks for you.
Today, you’re supposed to go about the rest of your life. Despite the death threats. Despite the wicked ignorance pervading twitter and other social media sites right now. Today is supposed to be it for you, isn’t it? The trial is over. Your attackers are going to pay for their crimes. Today you get to start over, right?
Except it doesn’t work like that, does it?
Today you wake up and the world is the same. In fact, the world might even feel worse this morning. The verdict didn’t magically remove the hurt and pain you have endured. Your attackers’ light sentences don’t magically take away the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the questioning, the self-blame, the what-ifs, the nightmares, the pain, the hurt, the wondering if it was all worth it in the end.
But let me reassure you, Jane Doe: You did the right thing.
It doesn’t feel like it right now. Not this morning. Not tomorrow morning. Maybe not for years, and years.
But you did the right thing.
For yourself — and for every girl and woman who come after you, who endure what you endured, who wake up in the morning and question what happened. For every young girl, for every older woman, who isn’t sure whether or not she can endure the process of pressing charges against her known attackers. For every young girl, for every older woman, who won’t be able to press charges against an unknown assailant. For every young girl, for every older woman, who — on the morning after their trial — doesn’t feel the swell of victory and instead is overcome with defeat.
And for every young girl, for every older woman, who couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t or was threatened if they did come forward. And so they sat, silent, dying inside. You did what we couldn’t, Jane Doe.
When today feels too hard… when tomorrow feels even harder… when the coming days and weeks and even years leave you questioning yourself and this awful violence — both in action and in legal proceedings — you have lived through, please know that there are legions of women standing by your side, loving you, supporting you, living in awe of your strength and wishing we would have had one little iota of your chutzpah, your support system.
Despite what it feels like today, Jane Doe, please know that you are a hero.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
One Who Couldn’t