Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Thank You Letter to VP Biden From a Rape Survivor



Dear Vice President Biden,

You don't know me, sir.  I am a wife, mother, nurse and writer from rural Iowa who has never had the pleasure of meeting you. I also happen to be a rape survivor and this is why I am writing you this letter tonight, as my children play in the other room and I sit at my computer crying silent tears as to not alarm them.

I've meant to sit down and write these words for many months but the words have seemed to stick in my throat. Talking about one's rape, after all, is not something that often comes easily and I've dreaded the flash of memories that would come with my words.  Tonight, however, I told myself that I would push past the tears and write you the thank you letter that you deserve so very much.

My story is not so different from the millions of other stories that are told, often to deaf ears. Twenty one years ago, one day after my seventeenth birthday, I was brutally raped. I have carried the horror of that night in relative silence for twenty years, shrouded in shame. I would like to tell you that the nurses, doctors and police officers that I turned to at that time supported me, but that would be a lie. I was, instead, badgered about the fact that I had been drinking as an underage minor, asked over and over again about what I had been wearing and discouraged from filing charges simply because of the two beers that I had consumed illegally. My underage drinking, it seemed, was a far bigger sin than the violent rape that had followed the consumption of those two cheap, tepid beers.  I was shamed tremendously by those who should've supported me in the aftermath of the worst night of my life(The silver lining is that this was what inspired me to become a nurse, a calling that I love desperately).

In the months after my rape, I struggled with PTSD, anxiety and severe depression. I would try to take my own life seven times and was nearly successful. I thank God every morning that I am still here. I could not have known then that the rape would make me a stronger person and would lead me on the path that my life was meant to take.  The events of that bitterly cold Iowa night changed who I was and it would take me years to find my footing and begin to move forward again. Rape has a way of doing that, after all.  The violence and the sickening intimacy of sexual assault seems to change our very DNA and suddenly we are thrust into a club that we never wished entry to-- the circle, sickeningly large and diverse, of those that have been sexually assaulted. For many years, that club was my only support. I wish that I could tell you that friends and family offered their support, but that would also be a lie. Sexual assault has a funny way of chasing people away, as all such things with such stigmas will.

My senior picture, taken a few months after the rape. I looked normal from the outside, but inside was still suffering every minute of the day. 


You may wonder why I am telling you these things, Mr. Biden, although I am sure that you are no stranger to these stories thanks to the work that you have done. I feel compelled to tell you these things because your work to prevent further rapes has been one of the most healing events of my life. 

I have watched in awe as you talked passionately about consent. I wept as I read your beautifully compassionate letter to the Stanford rape victim. I stood in my living room and clapped and wooped at the screen as I watched you make strides to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.

I felt validated and healed by your work. It made me feel emboldened and for the first time, I decided to come out publicly as a survivor. In April of 2016, I wrote a post for the Huffington Post entitled A Thank You Letter to My Rapist.  In response to that piece, I received hundreds of letters, messages and e-mails-- many from people talking about their own sexual assault for the first time in their lives. I realized then how much more there is to be done, how many more survivors there are out there than any of us can imagine. The dozens upon dozens of sexual assault survivors that I have worked with as a nurse suddenly felt small in this ocean of survivors that I was now thrust into. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people that, like me, had been silent for so many years. Unfortunately, it also meant that I was bombard by messages of men sending me pictures of their genatalia, of men telling me that I was "too ugly to have every been raped" or that I should've "relaxed and enjoyed it." I was so overwhelmed that I crawled back into bed for a day to hide from the world, which seemed again like a terrifying place for a woman to exist.

The next day, however, I crawled back out. Why? Because, after scrolling through my Facebook feed from the safety of my bed-- I saw you,Vice President Biden, passionately fighting the fight for all of us. It made me remember myself, as a seventeen year-old girl, scared and with no one to fight for her. I was determined to fight along side you, for that girl and all of the survivors that came before and after her. I am still determined, Sir, and that is in no small part thanks to you.

I want to thank you from the deepest part of my being, Mr. Biden. I know that I am not alone in my gratitude. You have championed our cause and have given us a voice that many of us haven't had before. You have helped me to strip away my shame and helped me to remember that I have nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the societal stigma of rape and sexual assault. You have helped to prevent future sexual assaults, although statistics will never be able to show how many. You have started a verbiage around consent-- something that we've never seen before in my lifetime or in my mother's or grandmother's lifetimes. You've made the world safer for myself, and more importantly-- for my son and my daughters. Parents who sent their children off to college can now sleep a bit sounder in the knowledge that your work has reduced sexual assault on college campuses(although our work there may never be done). There are so many reasons that I, and many others, are thankful, Mr. Biden.

I watched tearfully as President Obama gave you the Presidential Medal of Freedom recently. I cried as I watched and then rewinded it to watch again with my children, thrilled as they cheered beside me in the safety of our living room. I cried because I wished that I had something so extraordinary to gift you with. I have no medal for you, Mr. Biden. What I do have is my fervent thanks and a promise that my own work to prevent sexual assault and help the survivors in the aftermath will never be done. 

I thank you,Vice President Biden, from the very bottom of my grateful soul. I promise to carry the torch in the best way that I can. May you be blessed for the rest of your life and may I get the great honor of meeting you someday in order to thank you in person.

All my love to you and yours,

Mandi




20 comments:

  1. I imagine, that to a man like Joe Biden, you're thanks are more important than any medal that he's ever received.

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    1. That is likely true, Jennifer. He is such a kind and humble soul.

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  2. Being from England I wasn't aware of the good work that VP Joe Biden has done, making a difference to rape survivors such as yourself. Thank you for being brave and telling your experience to the wide world. I sincerely hope that VP Joe Biden does come across your letter of thanks. You truly are an inspiration.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this strong and emotional story. I am so sorry you got to experience something horrible like this. I also cried when he got the medal. I am a Norwegian and I must say Obama and Biden was not only good leaders but amazing human beings. I am deeply worried for American women and what will happen with their rights in the next four years. No one should experience anything like this and never be ashamed of it. I wish you all the best in the future. Thank you, Vibeke

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    1. Thank you so much, Vibeke. I love the Norwegian people- what a kind and compassionate group.

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  4. Thank you for sharing such a personal story so beautifully and candidly. No one should ever go through such a thing, and no one especially should ever feel shame because of this. This is a lovely letter, the knowledge of such an impact is worth more than any medal.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I can only imagine the courage it took to sit down and put your thoughts and words on paper. I hope you found healing through sharing, and I hope you know how you undoubtedly helped someone else who has gone through such a horrific experience. The former Vice President, no stranger to tragedy himself, is a man of warmth, compassion and humility. I hope he gets to read your words, as I'm sure he would be as touched as the rest of us.

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  6. I'm so sorry you had to go through such a horrendous event at the tender age of 17. But as with a lot of things I've seen you write about, you're taking responsibility for how it affects you. At the same time, you're helping so many others by your openness. It's wonderful that you're willing to face this painful incident head-on and help to turn the tide for all victims of this brutal crime. .

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  7. Raw and brave, Mandi. No one should ever go through this experience and advocates are more precious than gold.

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  8. This is sad and beautiful. In addition to the upset of hearing how you felt in the aftermath of your assault it is difficult to reconcile your appreciation for the way government can advocate for us with our current administration.

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  9. A beautifully compelling story of a horrendous act. Brave indeed! From Terri Webster Schrandt

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  10. Beautifully written. I have so much respect for Joe Biden - he's a good man. I very much wish that he had been running for the presidency, actually (not that I dislike Hillary) I'm sure he is very pleased to know he made a difference for people.

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