A Letter to Emily Doe

Dear Emily Doe,

I can’t stop thinking about you. I’m supposed to be making dinner and interacting with my children, and I’m fighting back tears over someone I’ve never met.

I keep thinking, I’m crying for a woman I don’t know. But then I’m reminded, I do know you. You are my friend. And you are my other friend. And you are my other friend. And you are a human being, just like they are. And yet you’ve all had something stolen from you that can never be returned. Your lives have been irrevocably changed because of a man who took what wasn’t his.

Nothing—nothing—gives a man the right to take what isn’t being offered.

You are standing up for every woman who has been assaulted. So many voices have quietly suffered, knowing the lesson you have learned over this trial—that a woman cannot be believed. That things will be twisted to somehow make the woman at fault. Add in the unwarranted shame, and the voices stay quiet.

But you have become our voice, a lighthouse shining in the darkness. I know you’d give up the title if it meant this night had never happened to you. I wish with everything in me you hadn’t lived through this nightmare. Because that is what happened to you in the truest sense—both the assault and what they did to you after. The way you had to defend yourself, as though any of your decisions made what he did acceptable.

So, sister, let me tell you what we think of you. We think you are brave. We think you are strong. You are not nameless. You fought against this man when so many would have walked away to spare themselves and their family the pain all over again. We think you saw what you didn’t want to do, what you should never have had to do, and you did it anyway.

There is no doubt that this should have ended with a much different sentence, and I pray, dear God, that this judge is dealt with severely for such an injustice against women. You said in your statement that you don’t want this man to rot in prison. I agree with you; I, too, don’t think that spitefulness in return for what he’s done is the answer. And I am also with you on this: we have to start communicating that this is a punishable crime. Because here’s the thing about 6 months that will probably turn into 3—it’s the wrong message. The message that needs to be sent—what we want people thinking and knowing—is this: Hey, they really stand up for women in our country. Victims of assault are honored and believed and fought for, and you don’t want to go there. The punishment is severe, as fits the crime. So it’s not that you are vicious or I am vicious. No. It is simply that until we begin to demonstrate that this matters—that this is a crime worth punishing and women are worth protecting—we have a problem.

You are shining for so many women who have been harmed and hurt and assaulted. You are shining a light on the horrendous lie that women who have been assaulted have done something wrong. Or asked for it in any way. You are not alone, lighthouse. Thank you for standing up not only against him, but for all of us—even for our daughters. Thank you for not letting him get away with it, even though the pain of what you’ve been through in this trial is horrendous and steals my breath.

Do you know that thousands, if not millions, of women across this country are praying for you? For your healing. For you to walk through a day without a thought of him. For you to sleep through the night in perfect peace. For you to change the world with how you’ve responded to this man.

Thank you, lighthouse. Shine on.