An Open Letter from a Rape Survivor about this Stanford Rape Crisis

mindfulness, Uncategorized, Yoga & Mindfulness

To the man who wrote that travesty of a letter defending his son the convicted rapist,

Before I dive into this, let me introduce myself. My name is Megan, I’m 27 years old, originally from the United States but currently living and working for an NGO in Cambodia. I love cooking, yoga, spending time with my friends, and when I was 18 years old I was raped in a frat house at my University. My rapist, who I had never met before, and about whom I know nothing, could very well have been just like your son. I don’t know. But I do know that I still carry the weight of that night with me today, almost 10 years later.

I want to begin by saying that I understand why you wrote the letter. You are a parent and it is natural to want to defend your child. But that doesn’t make your words true.

From the start, you assert that your son is a good kid with sentences like “he has a very gentle and quiet nature and a smile that is truly welcoming to those around him.” Fine. You’re his father, you are going to see him that way. But your gentle and welcoming son just got convicted, not accused, convicted of raping a woman. Opinion verse Fact.

Your story finishes with an account of your son’s struggles to fit in at school, and how he ultimately “fell into the culture of alcohol consumption and partying”. Give your son some agency, he isn’t a toddler anymore. He did not “fall into” drinking and partying like it was some malicious trap. He chose to go to parties, he chose to drink heavily. Was he influenced by peer pressure? Sure. But plenty of kids overcome peer pressure every year. Most kids at college do NOT rape an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. Your son did. The problem is not drinking and promiscuity. The problem is a lot deeper.

You try to elicit emotion for your son by saying that his “life has been deeply altered forever…he is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression.” And you follow this misguided plea for sympathy with one of the most disgusting sentences I have ever read, asserting that 6 months of prison time is “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

After being raped, I was consumed by self hatred and completely lost who I was. I engaged in so many destructive behaviors, losing myself in drugs, sex, and drinking. Formerly a 4.0 student with a half tuition academic scholarship to a top university, I failed three classes in one semester and lost the scholarship. It took me 1 year to be able to tell my mother what happened. It took 4 years to be able to talk about it openly. I spend those years hiding inside a shell of myself, feeling alone, hated, ashamed, dirty. I thought my body was worthless, not my own. I didn’t think the rape was my fault. I knew it was my fault. Can you imagine how painful that is?

Was that a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action? Do you think six months in prison compares, even a little, to what we have to go through after we are raped?

Ah, but I forgot. Your son now has to register as a sex offender which will “forever alter…how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.”

After I was raped, I avoided classes, I avoided friendships, crawled inside myself, and effectively died. To this day, whenever I am intimate with someone, the rape is right there between us and I have to battle through that. I don’t know if it will ever go away. I live every day of my life in the knowledge that I am a rape survivor. It affects decisions I make. It affects my reactions and interactions. When men follow me or make comments at me in the street, interactions that other women find merely annoying, I find them traumatizing and often end up frustrated and in tears.

But we are missing one important distinction between my life of punishment, and your son’s: I didn’t decide to get raped.

I dressed up with friends, took some selfies, and got drunk at a frat house. I danced all night and yes, I kissed a boy on the dance floor. I was fresh out of high school where kissing a boy at a party was a big deal for me. Having sex? I only did that once I was in a committed, long term relationship with someone. And yet, that night I woke up out of a blackout to find myself being raped by someone I didn’t know, in a room I didn’t recognize. And for the next four years, I thought it was my fault. And I thought I was completely alone.

Your son, on the other hand, made the decision to try to attack a woman behind a dumpster. He made the decision to run away when he was caught. He didn’t wake up to find someone else inside of him, against his will. He willingly did everything that night. That is a major difference. The issue here is not that your son decided to drink, or be promiscuous. Both of those things are fine. Yes, college kids should be more moderate, but they aren’t going to be, they never have been. Drinking is not the crime your son committed, wanting to hook up with a girl is not the crime your son committed. Raping a woman who did not want to have sex with him is the crime your son committed. And nothing at all in your letter makes him innocent.

The fact is, your son’s choices and actions led him to commit a crime, for which he has been convicted and found guilty. He raped a young woman. He should be punished. After he is punished, he should be able to try to recover and rebuild his life. Your inability to understand the severity of your son’s crime is deeply troubling. I hope that you are someday able to see this mess clearly. Your son raped a woman. He should have to think about it every day. And then slowly he should begin to heal from it, to move forward from it, to become a better person who thinks before he acts and delves deep into his psyche to figure out why he committed such a hideous crime against a fellow human.

That you love your son is obvious. And he deserves your love. He will need your love. But he also needs to understand the true nature of his crime.

Drinking and flirting will continue to happen at college. That is not the nationwide epidemic problem we are facing. Plenty of people get drunk every weekend without raping each other. Rape is the problem. And in order to fix this problem, men and women across America need to educate their sons and daughters about consent, about the importance of respect, and of loving themselves and others no matter what.

I’m not going to address the young man that raped a woman and still thinks the only problem is that he drank too much. I want to be level headed and non-violent, so I will not speak what I am thinking and feeling.

To the young woman who has been labelled “victim” in this horror story: don’t listen to their bullshit. We aren’t victims. Someone committed a horrendous, invasive crime against our bodies, but we aren’t victims. We are survivors. Every day that you wake up and breathe, you are a survivor. When you smile, when you work, when you enjoy your life and the feeling of the sun on your skin, you are victorious.

I read your statement and it was the most compelling, well thought out, masterpiece of a statement that I have ever read about the experience of being raped. And I’ve read a lot of them.

I understand that you want to keep your name a secret, I would too. You want to be able to move past this and continue to live your life. But I also think it is a fucking travesty that you should have to feel any shame at all for something that you never asked for.

Just because we were drunk and at a party does not mean we deserved to be raped. Just because we drank so much that we cannot remember parts of our night does not mean we gave our consent. If anything, the fact that we were too drunk to remember should be evidence that we could not give consent.

It does not matter what you wore, it does not matter how much you drank, it does not matter. Rape is rape. And we know, deep in the core of our being, that we have been raped. The verdict of your case is a travesty, and you deserve better from our legal system.

The rape is not your fault. Trust in your heart. You will grow beyond this. You will become stronger for this. Your rape may never leave you. Fine. That is the reality. But you can use it to make yourself stronger. You have overcome something. You have survived.

Yoga teaches forgiveness. And I believe in this teaching. For me to fully survive, to move beyond my rape, I need to forgive my rapist, and let it go. I am not there yet. But I will be. I strive to get there every day. May we all be so strong. Forgiveness is the only way forward. But to reach forgiveness, we must also know the truth.

We are not rape victims. We are rape survivors.

With all my love,