April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. As an abuse survivor myself, this topic has become an important issue to me. As part of my desire to reach out to other victims as well as to increase awareness of this topic to the world, I would like to begin this month by sharing an open letter I’ve written to fellow victims offering my thoughts, grievances, and hopefully, some encouragement. Please understand that while this letter is specifically addressed to women, my message and prayers extend to all victims of sexual abuse.
Dear #MeToo Women,
The year of 2018 has certainly been the breaking of a new dawn. The media has followed many gut-wrenching stories of brave sexual abuse survivors who are taking a stand for the first time. We’ve watched with a sense of victory as court sentences have unfolded and victims have finally received their validation.
As the #metoo movement stormed the globe several months ago, I found myself on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and feeling the somber weight of relating to the myriad of stories that flooded social media. As millions of women were finding their voices for the first time, I found myself, alongside 17 fellow victims, approaching yet another anniversary of a long drawn-out legal battle filled with sexual abuse allegations. My hope and prayers for justice never ceased. I became emboldened as the movement of strong and courageous victims grew. The thunder of their powerful stance was exhilarating, and the energy was contagious. That energy was transmitted into my own fight for justice. Perhaps, I thought, I will finally receive my validation. Maybe I will have my power handed back to me, as well.
But then, the crushing news: the decision was made to dismiss my case. My chance at justice was gone in the blink of an eye. How can this be? I live in the United States of America. I am a #metoo woman. How could I not receive the justice I so eagerly sought?
As the world hears more and more stories of brave victims taking their stand and successfully putting their abusers behind bars, it can be all too easy to forget that for every one success story, there are countless other victims who will never receive that bitter-sweet ending. Sadly, our U.S. justice system so highly praised — “innocent until proven guilty” – has, more often than not, forced victims into a spiral of revictimization rather than helping them transform into survivors. Victims who come forward will fight hard, and unfortunately, they will all too frequently leave the fight devastated and full of regret. Not to mention fact that these victims often receive harsh backlash and rejection from their very own family, friends, and communities, and some will even be shunned.
Though we live in the breaking of a new dawn, it is just that: a dawn. A beginning. We have far to go. Reform must be enacted in this country to protect victims. It should never be so costly to stand up against evil. We must come alongside the voices of #metoo and fight FOR them, not against them.
And so, I want to speak to my fellow #metoo women.
First, I want to tell you this: Your story is important. Your story matters. Your story is also your story. Own it. Grieve through it. Grow through it. Give through it. Don’t be afraid to show your scars. They are there to be a reminder, not of how much you were hurt, but of how much you’ve healed.
Don’t be silenced and falsely shamed by those who tell you to “forgive and forget”. Forgiveness is not forgetting the pain someone has caused you. It’s not excusing evil deeds or letting someone off the hook. It is not staying silent and relinquishing a call for justice. Forgiveness simply is taking the burden of the pain, anger, and bitterness off your own shoulders, placing it onto God’s, and then choosing to live your life under the sweetness of freedom.
Second: Never stop believing in justice. I fully believe there is always justice in the end. For those of you who attempted to take a stand only to be shot down, my heart breaks for you. I am in your shoes. I wanted to see justice on this earth, too.
But I believe in a God who is not only good, but also just. In fact, His goodness is what requires that He is just. I fully believe that one day the abusers of this world will stand before God and feel the crushing weight of their actions and the encompassing grief of what they have done. They will experience God’s full wrath and righteousness.
I also believe God has a tender heart for victims. Jesus did not come to this world for the pompous and arrogant, the self-righteous and the dictatorial. He came for the wounded. The broken hearted. The oppressed and the shut out. He came for you.
This past January, I went to see the “The Greatest Showman” in the theater. As the rising anthem in the middle of the movie started to play, my eyes welled up with tears. These so-called outcasts were singing one message, but my heart sang another.
The lyrics read:
“I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me”
Since I came out as a sexual abuse survivor, people have tried to silence and shame me. “Why brand yourself with an embarrassing label?” “It’s wrong and disrespectful to accuse someone.” “You should move on.” “No one will want you if they knew the truth.”
Here is the truth:
This is me. I am a sexual abuse survivor. I’m not afraid to be seen; I make no apologies. I have scars, but I am still worthy of love. When people tell me to hide and be silent, I will stand firm. I am brave. I am bruised. I am glorious. This is me.
And so, to the millions of fellow survivors out there I have one final thing to say: This Is Us.
~ Emily Jaeger