Feeling the Love

Your notes to me are like Valentine's Day cards. Really.
At least once per week, I am approached by someone who has read my story and wants to thank me, encourage me or tell me how it touched their lives. I consider these moments little gifts – like mini Valentine’s Day cards hand delivered – and cherish each and every one. [Photo credit] Last week was a tough week for me on a personal front as I have many and vast changes coming in my life right now. But God finds a way to remind me not to focus on the temporary things that would consume my mind, and remember the greater things we are called to do in life. Two women took time to write me last week. And I wanted to share some of what they wrote as a window in to why I believe writing about what happened to me and putting myself in front of others for judgement was the right thing to do.

One woman wrote: “Thank you for your story and your blog.  I was sexually assaulted here but never pressed charges… I was too scared and ashamed…so thank you for your strength.”

Instant tears. I woke up, read this as I got ready for the gym, and I stopped everything to reflect on this woman and what she suffered and how she might still be suffering or struggling. And I said a prayer for her. I had a wave of guilt that I was so lucky to get away. Then, I felt good at the thought that possibly she might – might – become emboldened to finally speak about her experience.

The second woman who wrote me, reminded me that it’s not always the big decisions and actions that prevent sexual assault, but the little ones too. She was traveling for a work project and had read my story right before leaving the States. She wrote:

“When the project ended, I had decided to travel individually throughout Southeast Asia. I have traveled alone briefly in the past, but it was in a generally safe country where woman are regarded as equals. Anyways, I am a fairly confident traveler and after 3 months of work abroad, I didn’t have any hesitations about going on the next leg of my journey.

A couple of days before I left for my solo trip, a fellow coworker sent me the USA Today interview & Marie Claire article about your experience “How I Escaped My Rapist”.  At first after reading the article, I was a bit nervous (something I haven’t experienced as a traveler in the past) but I am really grateful for the timing. I was maybe a bit overconfident and it just made me reassess the journey, be simply more careful and make wiser decisions. I can definitely think of a few different moments where I made decisions differently because of this mindset.

I wanted to send you an email soon after I read the article thanking you for sharing your story but I also wanted to wait until the end of my trip to let you know the journey was great, I’m back safe and the trip was very enjoyable! Thank you for your courage, I know it may not be easy coming out into the public with such a story,  but it’s important. ” 

Again, I was so humbled by this and grateful she wrote, and grateful for what she wrote. I never deluded myself to think that my efforts in this arena will change the world, or cultural beliefs about women, power and sex. But I had hope that my efforts would maybe reduce the number of future victims by at least 1. At least one woman. I will never know if I have accomplished that, but when I hear that women made different decisions – better ones – because of what happened to me and the mistakes I made, I feel purposeful and blessed. And I feel an indescribable love toward each and every person who writes to me, and shares their experiences with me.

Editor’s Note: Valentine’s Day is not a favorite of the editor’s. In fact, as an adult, it holds no significance, unlike when she was a kid eagerly awaiting her friends’ cards. Now, it serves only as a reminder that chocolate should be eaten in small quantities.

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