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A Letter to Survivors of Sexual Assault



by JOHN PAVLOVITZ

To every person who has survived harassment, abuse, or violation:

Dear Friend,

I’ve been thinking about you and wanted you to hear a few things today, in case you never hear them for anyone else. I so hope this reaches you.

I imagine these days must be difficult for you.


Not that every day isn’t difficult given what you’ve endured, but I imagine these are especially painful times— to see the headlines and the hashtags, and to be continually reminded of the personal hell you’ve walked through; to watch people debate the veracity of accusers, to see survivors cross-examined by strangers, to hear supposed adults suggest a child’s consent, to listen to professed Christians defend predatory politicians using the Bible, to see lawmakers take the side of the victimizers, to witness admitted offenders, being rewarded.


I can’t fathom what it all must feel like to bear the brunt of such enmity and violence. The chronic pain it all manufactures must be more than your heart can handle, the rage it generates within you, immeasurable. I imagine it all causes you to silently relive the nightmares over and over again—and I wanted you to know that I’m so very sorry.

I’m sorry for the first time you had your story so terribly altered by another human being—and equally sorry for the countless times others have knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated that moment after the fact; for the way we have further preserved your pain and prolonged your grief.


It’s likely that you quietly carry much of this burden alone, and that must make the strain tremendous. I imagine it further confirms your decision to stay silent and to remain in the shadows; seeing what those who speak out are greeted by—the ridicule and minimizing and condemnation.


I know that you alone have specific proximity to this pain. I know there isn’t anything I or anyone can do from a distance to step into that pain and sit there alongside you in it—though I so wish I could. I know there’s little I or anyone can say to fully lift the weight from your shoulders; to replace the things you’ve lost, to rewrite the sickening plot twist you’ve had to live through—but I hope these words lighten the load enough today for you to keep going. I hope they send a sliver of light to you there in the darkness of sadness or silence, and that it makes a difference. I hope you find in these words, something that feels like love—and that you rest in it.


My friend, I’m sorry for both your initial injury—and for the way the world causes you further damage when you take the risk of stepping forward. You deserve far better.

Even though I can’t walk in the shoes you’ve walked, know that I am standing beside you as closely as I can, and that I am for you.

And above all, know that you are loved and valued and respected and believed.

May you be greatly encouraged today.


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