An Open Letter To Emma Doe

An Open Letter To Emma Doe
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I am sorry to be addressing this to you this way, labelling you only by the worst crime that has been committed against you. You are so much more than an assault victim – from reading your letter alone it’s easy to tell that you are a loving sister, a devoted employee, and a compassionate individual, to say the least. But with each and every open letter written to your assailant, his family or his friends I felt that something else needed to be said.

This case, your case, has infuriated so many. The petition circulating to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the bench has gained 775,704 supporters as of this writing; a number that will only grow. Rape apologists who have spoken out in favour of your assailant are being banned from music festivals, and a growing number of people are feeling increasingly comfortable calling out rape culture as they see it happen. People across the world are speaking out, trying to prevent people like your sexual abuser from getting away with a crime like this again.

I read his letter, the letter of his father, and the letter his friend wrote, and had more questions than answers. How much talent does a person need to have before they can receive such a lenient sentence for a crime they were unequivocally guilty of committing? Does this talent need to lie solely in the area of sports or can an exceptionally skilled writer or programer or doctor have his potential weighed more favourably than that of his victim? I mean, I like to think that I have huge potential as a writer, does that entitle me to spend less than six months in jail after committing a felony? Why is it that the judge cared more about how this case would impact your sexual abuser than you, the victim?

It’s at this point, however, that I stop thinking about him, because, to be blunt, fuck him. He made the decision to rape you and would have gotten away with it were it not for the interference of two observant men on bicycles. He obviously cares more about the impact his horrific decision will have on his future than yours, and still can’t see that what he did was wrong.

When I get to this point in thinking about this terrible situation I start to wonder about you. I completely respect your desire to remain anonymous, and admire your desire to represent “every woman“; to prove that a victim doesn’t need to be labeled or named to be worthy of respect. I admire you so much for speaking on behalf of those without a voice, for putting into words what victims feel in such a hauntingly elegant way.

I am a survivor of sexual assault, and have been following your story. The lenient sentence imposed on your assailant sends a strong message that it’s okay to rape, as long as you have a future. I’ll admit that when I read the verdict, when I saw how little consideration a victim is given in sexual assault cases, even after her assailant is unanimously found guilty I myself felt defeated.

Your strength has given me the ability to find my own. Your letter has empowered me to face the overwhelming emotions that being a survivor can often induce. I may still never report what happened to me, but your letter helped me deal with it. Your strength and resilience have helped inspire me to keep going, even when the nightmares get too bad or the memories too severe.

I hate that this happened to you; I have unparalleled rage towards a system that has seemingly forgiven your assailant even before he’s spent a day in jail, and I can’t even begin to fathom how this must make you feel.

I do want to thank you for providing your statement to BuzzFeed, for coming forward about how this assault has affected you, and will continue to affect you, in such a public way. I found strength in your words, and inspiration in your message. I do know what it’s like to be violated, and I admire you endlessly for finding the courage to sit on that stand and endure those questions. Releasing your statement may have made you more vulnerable, or may have reopened that wound, but it was such an incredibly powerful move. I, and other sexual assault victims, will be able to review your words and know that we are not alone; that sexual assault is all too common; and that the perpetrators will use any excuse they can find to get away with it.

My hope is that you will find peace, that you will be able to heal and carry on with your own hobbies, your own passions, and your own skills. I know you have helped me, and many others, and words are not enough to thank you. The justice system failed you, and there is no way to make that better. I do hope that you know how many other women you have inspired with your strength, courage, and determination. You have helped us all see that we are not alone.

Ashley Perna is a writer from Ontario. She currently works as an Office Manager, pop culture writer/editor for PopWrapped, and a freelance content writer. She loves comic books, Doctor Who, and helping others. She is passionate about mental health issues, and enjoys writing and reading about the interplay between geek culture and mental health concerns.

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