I read an article the other day that stated that a young man was going to be granted the ability to play football after raping a young woman at his high school.
I read this article, fighting back tears. Through this journey of life after trauma there are several things I have learned and continue to learn, and one of those things is forgiveness. I am still on the road to understanding the full meaning and boundaries of this word. Is the textbook definition of forgiveness universal to all people? I know in discussion with many friends, I have asked what the word love means to them. We all have a similar answer, but the one thing I have always found to be truth is that we can never all agree on how we feel and interpret the meaning of the word love. This is due to upbringing, demographics, and a variety of other factors that played a huge role on the people we are today. I feel this is the same with the word forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. I define it as the ability to accept what has happened and overcoming with the intention of letting go.
I find myself easy to forgive the man that broke my heart because he was too weak to tell me that he was not interested. Im left to pick up pieces and wonder what was wrong with me, but nonetheless, I can forgive him. I forgive the friend that had to execute a plan to end our friendship when I needed them most, because I was at a point of instability in my life and my energy was draining on them. But, the one thing I cannot seem to fully forgive is the man who raped me. Do I walk around with vengeance in my heart, no. Do I wish him the best in life, no. He hurt me and his actions have caused trauma in areas of my life that I once lived carefree.
My heart bleeds for this young girl, whom now is living with the pain that only those who walk in the same shoes can understand. My heart is pained at the thought that this young woman may have to read his name in a glamorous spotlight, and people clapping at his success, while she lay awake at night fighting back painful memories. I remember reading that this rapist did serve his time and he was only a “young man,” and these actions should not be hung over his head forever. I call bullshit. Every action in this world has a consequence and for the millions of women out there, like myself who hadn’t been served justice, this is a smack in the face.
Everyday, for the rest of her life she will wake up in pain, some days will be better than most and other days she will wish she was dead. Her intimate relationships moving forward will no longer be the same, the way she carries herself has already been altered, and the way she views herself has been tarnished. The smile she used to love to see in the mirror every morning no longer carries the same meaning. Even after she has begun to heal and the wounds aren’t as deep, she will always be left with the triggers and the memories.
But for him, once he begins his football career all of his wrongdoings will go away. They will be covered and masked with his ability to carry a football, and pridefully wear a jersey that shows team spirit. Even better, he may be left with the ability to carry his career into college and be awarded a scholarship as well as an NFL contract. What a reward for a rapist.
I had to ask myself if I was being too harsh.
Until I woke up in the middle of the night with the face of my rapist staring back at me. My room caved in on me, my heart beat running wild, my palms were sweaty and I had to talk myself off of a ledge of anxiety and a sunny days worth of depression. Every night she may fall asleep hoping that she won’t see his face, and remember every last detail of what happened to her. She will bear the weight of an unspeakable truth for the rest of her life, with the added bonus of seeing her rapist in a beautiful spotlight.
The truth is, as women we are oppressed in ways that many men won’t ever understand and even some women who may not have fallen victim to such atrocious crimes. The way a woman who has been raped is questioned immediately after, recorded like an animal and bombarded with several detectives. Should I add that when you arrive to the hospital you are stripped of your clothes, poked and prodded, given medication that may or may not make you sick, pictures taken of your naked body, and then your sent home in sweats like a prisoner.
For me, I am 2 months shy of 3 years surviving. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not reminded of what happened. I don’t get to just do time, and then go back to a normal life. I have to fight for normalcy everyday and pretend to be okay with this new me, that I can’t tell is, me coming of woman or a sheltered me living in fear.
So, he gets to continue to live a beautiful life with access to everything he once had as if nothing happened, but what about her?