Dear Survivor, I Know How Much The Abuse And Loss Of Control Was Terrifying…

You look at all the happy memories you share with the person who abused you, and wonder if you imagined the abuse. Or if you overreacted.

You look at all the happy memories you share with the person who abused you, and wonder if you imagined the abuse. Or if you overreacted.

Dear Survivor

I am sorry that someone hurt you. I am sorry that they disrespected you. It should not have happened. You did not deserve it.

I promise this won’t be a long letter. I’m sure you’re tired of all the advice and all the questions – and yet I’m sure few people would have asked you the question that really matters – what do you want?

What matters is what YOU want

Because at the end of the day, it is what you want that matters. You don’t owe anyone strength, courage or resilience. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to fall apart. Trauma, fear and grief are sneaky. Even if it has been years, they know when our guard is down, and they know exactly how to hurt us best. But that’s okay.

You decide. Whether to go to the police or not; whether to name and shame your abuser; whether to put your energy into healing or into pursuing justice – there are no universally right or wrong answers, and no one has the right to force you to do something you don’t.

You don’t need to perform ‘being a survivor,’ by sacrificing your vulnerability.

It is okay to feel the hurt. It is okay to cry. It is okay to feel paralyzed.

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But once you’re done breaking down, for your own sake, put yourself back together. Because you are precious. You are important – even though you have been made to feel like you are not. You are loved.

I am sorry that your light was obscured – but I promise you, that light isn’t gone. You deserve to shine.

You feel, even though you know it is not true, that it was somehow your fault. Maybe if you had said something differently, or done something differently, you wouldn’t have to bear these emotional and physical scars now.

It is not your fault

If you were hurt by someone close to you, you may find yourself making excuses for them. You look at all the happy memories you share with that person, and wonder if you imagined the abuse. Or if you overreacted.

Like me, you may even feel that what happened was not as bad as what has happened to many others, and so maybe you have no right to complain.

I also know that you have heard a thousand times that it’s not your fault; that you are not imagining things, and that trauma is trauma, no matter its level of severity. I know that even though you know and agree with all of these rational statements, a small, hurt part of you, still rebels – because no matter how negative, those feelings help you make some sense of what happened.

It’s okay. I know exactly how scary it is to think of the fact that what happened to you was intentional cruelty that you had no control over. Because if that is the case, then what happened once, can also happen again.

I wish there was some reassurance that I could give you that would make that thought less scary. I wish I could tell you that a time will come that you will never experience these complex feelings. I wish I could tell you that everything will be fine.

I will stand by you

The truth however, is that I cannot make those promises. The only promise I can make, is that whatever happens, we will deal with it together. You are not alone.

Our pain binds us, but we are more than that pain too.

So, we will stand in the warm sun, and embrace the cool breeze. We will walk on beaches, and watch sunsets that are incredibly beautiful. We will taste and enjoy every one of our favourite dishes. We will read all the books we want, see all the movies, and dance to every song. We will celebrate our life. We will be awesome.

We will not just survive, we will thrive. We will emerge, our wounds a little unhealed, our self-confidence perhaps a little dented, and our hearts raw – but with an unbridled sense of love, and life. We will own the fear, anger, chaos and pain, and not let them stop us anymore either. Not because we owe it to the world, but because we deserve it.

A survivor of gender based trauma is affected in ways that go deep, and their worldview can get permanently damaged. It can be really crippling in their day to day life – whether in the personal or public sphere, and sending some comfort their way can help.

We at Women’s Web are collaborating with the Saahas App for Survivors of Gender Violence to reach out to women who need to be heard, and healing, as survivors of gender based violence. Letters to the survivor from our authors will be published on Women’s Web in the coming 10 days, and also on the Saahas website, in a series called “Dear Survivor”.

If you would like to participate, please upload your letter on your Women’s Web dashboard, and if chosen, it will be published.

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish

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