An Open Letter to My Abuser

Content note: domestic violence, physical & emotional abuse

It is hard to put into words all that you put me through. This letter is, I know, another vain attempt to master the chaos within me. But trying is always a better option than quitting, I suppose.

Sometimes I wish you could go through the pain and struggle you put me through, but really I know there’s no way I’d want another soul to go through it.

I’ve held onto this pain for so many years because I genuinely believed that some day it would stop. I always believed you were something more than you appear to be. But you continued taking advantage of my innocence until eventually, you destroyed it completely.

You thought you were powerful because you played an attacker? You thought I was weak because I played a victim? The truth is, your victim is always superior to you in every way.

I would be lying if I told you I never thought about revenge. My mind wandered but my demons never got the better of me. Maybe I was simply too young to retaliate, or maybe I was too wise. I knew that if I were to sink to your level, you and I would be no different. One thing I’ve known for sure for all these years is that I never want to become a reflection of you.

I’ve wondered to myself, “do people always do these things to the ones they love?” I’ve thought that maybe I just don’t know enough about love.

If you hadn’t made me so angry, I wouldn’t have hit you or said those things,” you’d say. You would always make an excuse. Over time, I started to believe the fault was in me.

But today, I choose to stop blaming myself. It was never my fault to begin with. There is nothing I said or did that made it okay for you to hurt me with your words or your fists.

I am not an excuse for your incapability to control your emotions. I am not the cause of your outbursts. I am not your rage or your hate. I am not your false pride or fragile ego. I am not the weakness you always claimed to see in me. I am not the names you called me.

You don’t define me. I define myself. I am much more than the marks you’ve left on my body. I am innocence. I am dreams. I am hope. I am forgiveness. I am the person others always want to have around because I am laughter and I am love.

I hope the scars on my heart heal faster than the ones on my body. But the wounds within you? Whatever caused them, I hope they heal even faster than mine. And when that day comes, I will be long-gone from your life and it will be too late to reach out to me to tell me that you’re sorry.

But today I forgive you, because today I want to be free.

From,
The Young Woman Whose Life You Changed Forever

*Author’s note: any resemblance to specific individuals or actual events is purely coincidental. Here’s to the survivors of all sorts of abuse and those who are still struggling, I hope you find peace.*

Remembering Micaela García

Back in April, I saw on Facebook that one of my high school friends from Argentina was posting about a missing friend called Micaela García. Before long, my social media was flooded with posts from other people asking for information about her – asking if anyone had seen her recently or knew where she was. But my friends’ posts were the most shocking to me.

She knew Micaela. She wasn’t just helping look for a stranger, she was looking for her friend.

Micaela García was missing for an entire week before her body was found. She was an activist in the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) protest movement against femicides that emerged in Argentina in 2015 and spread across the continent all the way to Canada. Micaela was a part of the movement for years. She would travel from her home in the province of Entre Ríos to Buenos Aires every year for the Ni Una Menos march on June 3rd and would organize activities to raise awareness in March each year for International Women’s Day. She had dedicated herself to ending this violence yet ended up as a victim herself.

Micaela’s murder lead to protests for justice. Then it became public knowledge that her attacker had been jailed for nine years in 2012 for raping two women in 2010, but a judge had ordered his early release in July 2016 after he had completed only half of his sentence. The entire country was furious, and rightly so. Suddenly there were two men responsible, Sebastián Wagner and the judge that set him free.  

Wagner was sentenced to life in prison in October this year. It was too late for Micaela though. I don’t believe he should ever have been sentenced to just nine years in prison in the first place, never mind been granted early release. His victims shouldn’t have had to live knowing that their attacker would one day be released.

The case left a lasting impact in the country. Micaela’s loved ones created the Micaela García “La Negra” Foundation to continue her activism and volunteer work in Villa Mandarina, a low-income neighborhood where she would feed children, help them with homework, celebrate their birthdays, and participate in programs to reduce poverty rates and inequality.

There were also 13 laws proposed regarding violence against women, including sexual violence and femicides. They are known as the ‘Micaela García laws’ and they tackle both prevention and reaction. They are designed to help victims and their families recover physically, psychologically, and even economically. They also focus on improving the government’s attitude towards victims by trying to make employees in the public sector take courses on gender violence. Regarding the general public, these laws are trying to educate all people, no matter their gender, not to be violent towards women.

I’ve talked to my friend, Micaela Villa, about how losing Mica in this violent way has affected her. She says Mica had already inspired her to become involved in the Ni Una Menos movement, but now that femicides have reached her on a personal level, she is more committed than ever before:

“Gracias a la violencia de género perdí una amiga. Hoy en día no dejo pasar por alto ninguna situación que tenga que ver con la violencia, que capaz antes si lo hacía. Y desde lo profesional, como estudio derecho, para en el futuro ser una abogada con una mirada sobre la violencia de género, empecé a tomar cursos, leer libros, ir a marchas, etc. Pienso que es lo que Micaela hubiese querido, y yo lo quiero hacer por ella y por todas. Las que fueron y las que lastimosamente vendrán.”

(“Because of gender violence I lost a friend. Now I don’t leave any violent situation unattended, which maybe I was doing before. From a professional standpoint, since I study law, I’ve been taking classes, reading about the subject, going to protests, etc. so that I can be a lawyer with a gender perspective. I believe that’s what Micaela would’ve wanted, and I want to do it for her and for everyone. Those who were victims and those who sadly will be.”)

I hope that Micaela’s suffering won’t be in vain. Real reform needs to happen, both legally and socially.

Too many women and girls have suffered. Too many lives have been lost.

We don’t want to have to keep fighting for justice. We don’t want to be scared when walking alone or taking a cab. Micaela would be proud to see her loved ones continue her activism against violence against women. We’ll keep her in our hearts every time we march for her cause, our cause.

Because Micaela is all of us. #NiUnaMenos   

Speaking Out Against Violence…Today & Every Day

25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the first day of the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of the most pervasive and persistent violations of human rights in the world. It reaches into every country, every community and every corner of our planet, rearing its ugly head in an ever-shifting range of guises.

The focus of the 2017 #16Days campaign is to ‘Leave No One Behind’. It’s an opportunity to raise greater awareness of GBV and its impact, but also a chance for us to reinforce the global commitment to creating a world free from violence for all, reaching the most marginalized – including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters – as our first priority.

For each of the #16DaysofActivism, Girls’ Globe will be publishing opinions, ideas and stories from within our global community.

The voices of the individuals and groups with the Girls’ Globe network highlight some of the most pressing issues related to GBV in the world today, as well as some of the most inspiring examples of advocacy and activism.

But it’s not just during #16Days that Girls’ Globe provides a platform to speak out against violence and injustice. We do so all year round, because violence – or the pervasive threat of violence – continues to hold girls and women back, every single day, and so we’ll also be crowdfunding the $20,000 we need to keep girlsglobe.org raising voices in 2018.

To kick off the 2017 16 Days of Activism, we’ve rounded up the year’s 16 most-read GBV blogs on girlsglobe.org. We hope you enjoy reading or re-reading your way through the list, and stay tuned for brand new content published each day until 10 December. Together, we can end violence against women and girls. Together, we can #orangetheworld.

  1. How Martial Arts Helped me Get Back on my Feet

    by Miia Yliaho

    “Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that, like many martial arts, is just as much a way of life as a way to get fit. To succeed in taekwondo, there is only one opponent you have to beat: yourself. You need to accept your limits and turn them into advantages. You need to accept failure and see it as learning: another step towards your goal.You need to accept pain (in a healthy and controlled way), and you will learn that you can endure more than you think.”

  2. Healing from Sexual Trauma: a Therapist’s Perspective

    by Farah Mohammed

    “Victims of assault can have counter-intuitive reactions, which can in turn exacerbate their trauma and cripple recovery efforts. When we broached the question of maladaptive reactions, Wasil was unsurprised, having worked with clients who turn to chemical painkillers like drugs and alcohol, as well as those who develop internal ones, like sexual addiction or gambling. She says that trauma can do more than alter a person’s behavior, it can also decimate their emotional capacity.”

  3. The FGM Conversation has to Change

    by Lorna Andisi

    “It’s been roughly 100 days since 2017 began. Reflecting on the past year’s campaigns against FGM and early marriages, it is true that all who are involved have come a long way. There have been moments where the campaign may have faltered and made missteps – but we’ve also seen some significant progress.”

  4. Why She Stays: Behind the Doors of Domestic Abuse

    by Patti J

    “It seems easy to question some other random person. Yet, it’s more often not some other random person, it’s your co-worker, your neighbor, your friend, your sister. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you don’t know it is. Maybe you think someone else’s situation is worse and so you justify to yourself that yours isn’t that bad, so it couldn’t be considered abuse.”

  5. A Letter to Assault Survivors

    by Girls’ Globe Guest Blogger

    “Smart, strong, reasonable women who have been victimized by sexual assault can still be vulnerable to abusive relationships, sexual situations they don’t know how to control, and unsure how or when to say ‘no’.”

  6. Sugar Daddies are Definitely NOT Sweet

    by Help Lesotho

    “In Lesotho (southern Africa), sugar daddies are called ‘blessers’. As girls’ bodies start to change in early adolescence, older men take notice. The girls, often orphans with no emotional support, crave the attention and feel that it is cool to have an older man show interest in them. A mother from Lesotho explains, ‘we find that for some girls who have grown up without a father, these sugar daddies provide something like a ‘fatherly love’, but really they are exploiting them.'”

  7. Documentary Shatters Stigma on Sexual Violence

    by Peace is Loud

    “Rape is a crime that feeds on silence, and it takes a rupture in the status quo to affect change. After the success of the Akayesu case, local Rwandan tribunals ruled that rape was a “category one” crime, in the same grouping as murder. This was a tremendous step forward, setting a lasting precedent for the severity of sexual assault.”

  8. If They Kill Me

    by Bita Aranda

    “I had to ask a group of women if I should write this at all. If this is how I want to show Mexico to Girls’ Globe’s readers; but they asked me, how could I not? How could I not use this platform to tell the rest of the world what they are doing to us? How could I not write about the gender based violence we live amongst every day? How could I not use this privilege as a way to give those women and girls their voices back – the voices that were ripped out of their chests?”

  9. Always a Survivor

    by Zahra Wakilzada for Free Women Writers

    “When he saw her again, he asked:
    ‘You have a bad reputation now, right?
    Nobody married you, right?
    I warned you.'”

  10. Enjoy Sexual Assault for it to be a Crime

    by Mariana Lizarraga

    “Cases of rape and sexual assault are always shocking. But that perpetrators would be spared from their actions due to how much economic or social power they possess makes it twice as infuriating.”

  11. Art Exhibit Shows Scale of Female Gendercide

    by Gendercide Awareness Project

    “We believe that educating girls is the best long-term strategy for ending gendercide. In a beautiful arc of giving, the at-risk women who made the baby booties are, knowingly or unknowingly, helping the next generation of girls so that they don’t have to be at risk.”

  12. In Conversation with Brisa De Angulo

    by Shakira Choonara

    “When I went to bed that night, I could not fall asleep thinking of Brisa’s story. I reached for the conference app (yes, thank goodness for technology) and requested a meeting, to which she agreed enthusiastically. I could not believe it. I knew that this story absolutely had to be told and shared with the world to bring to light exactly what violence against women means, but also as an example of what it will take to tackle violence head on.”

  13. Yes, Child Marriage is a Problem in Latin America

    by Maria Rendo

    “The rates of child marriage in the region are alarming. According to UNICEF, in five countries (Nicaragua, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras) at least 30 percent of girls marry before the age of 18. In more than 11 countries, among them Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Panama, between 20 and 30 percent of girls marry before they turn 18.”

  14. #MeToo: We’re All in this Together

    by Preeti Shakya

    “I think the worst part of being harassed or assaulted is that it makes you forget to be kind to yourself. It makes you question your own existence and forget how to accept yourself. For me, it has taken years of ignorance, silence, self-blame, and internalization, as well as thousands of conversations with friends and family, to feel ‘worthy’ again.”

  15. United We Shall Stand in South Africa

    by Mia du Toit

    “Women and girls are crying out for help. Becoming aware of abuse taking place around us can drive us to make a change and offer a helping hand to those who need one. We each have resources that others may not have, so let’s use our individual privileges to shed some light. To the girls in South Africa who need a safe haven: this country and the authorities might let you downbut I never will.”

  16. How You Can Help End Violence Against Women

    by CARE

    “In emergency contexts where social networks are lost or strained, women and girls too often become targets of violence and abuse – like sexual violence as a weapon of war, exploitation and harassment as refugees, domestic violence and abuse,  and child marriage in the upheaval of displacement.  And when it comes to the assistance that impacts them, they are frequently kept out of the decision-making process.”