I found a place for my letter. Yes, THAT letter.
At the end of September, while everyone was gripped by the scenes of Dr Blasey Ford’s interrogation by a prosecutor from Maricopa County, AZ, I was sitting on the floor in my office, alone, sobbing, holding a letter from Maricopa County Prosecutors.
The letter was about a man I will call X. A child sex trafficker. An abuser. Before I reported him, he had served partial time for abuse of other survivors and was out early. By a loophole. His mandatory GPS monitoring no longer a fetter. His sex registry wiped. His lifetime parole…gone. A loophole because he was charged with a greater offense (stalking). More than half a dozen survivors left without answers. Without protection.
I knew this when I reported him for trafficking me as a child. I knew this when I sat at the table with my advocate and detective as I talked with this predator on the phone and confronted him—attempting to get him to say enough to wrap himself up with a bow. I knew this as he told me if I would just let go and let him lead me in prayer, he could show me how God could heal me and he could show me how I could just let my anger go.
I knew this as I threw the earphones from my head and fell into my advocate’s arms. I knew this when I chose to pick them up and face him again. Angry. Defiant. Strong. No longer a child.
I knew this as the detective said he thought we had gotten enough. And when his supervisor agreed and they sent the file to the prosecutors. I knew this as my advocate was with me every step of the way. Always at my side. Always a buffer between me and the detective and any other piece of the investigation.
I knew this as I received more bits of information of how X is free. Walking in my city. My state. My home. I knew this when hope started to rise in me that if they just could get the right warrants, they’d find mines of child pornography.
And, I knew this when the letter arrived.
“Dear [invisible and faceless survivor of trauma]…we are declining to prosecute at this time.”
I sat on my office floor. The knowledge that X had again slipped through cracks, unhindered was in my head, but not prevalent. What I read that letter to mean was “we don’t believe you, we don’t think you’re enough, and we aren’t going to fight for you.”
I didn’t have my advocate to whisper the truth to me—because she didn’t even know I had received the letter. I had silence, my tears, solitude, and the letter—the paper imagery of my own voice being sent back to me, unheard.
I wept and clutched the letter to me. I couldn’t destroy it; that would be akin to destroying my own voice. I couldn’t file it for the same reason. So I carried it. Everywhere. Friends offered to store it and I felt the weight and nothing felt okay. I didn’t have a place to rest it. I was thinking about it when I woke and last thing as I fell asleep.
Ten days ago, when visiting dear friends, I allowed the trust in and I laid it in their hands to carry for me while I tried to figure out what to do with it.
Today I found the answer. Today I delivered the letter.
I am in intensive training this week to become an advocate for survivors. It’s mountains of info and research and knowledge and guest speakers. Today were speakers from the nurse examiners to the detectives to the county prosecutors.
I brought a copy of my letter. Clutching it. Holding it. Preparing to do what I knew had always been the answer and only now I could see and feel it. I was going to give it back. Send my voice back into the hands of the ones who sent the letter to me—not to demand they take a closer look at my case or even demand they prosecute it…but for them to see that I have a face. I have a story. I am real. And this letter nearly destroyed me because there was no thought of who would receive it. It could have been sent in advance to my detective who could have informed my advocate who would have walked me through the shards of broken belief.
But instead, it was sent in a form letter. Postage paid. Printed. Folded. Delivered between junk mail and political ads.
When I showed up to training today, prepared to return the letter to the Maricopa County Prosecutors—I had no idea the universe had made plans before me. Of all the prosecutors who could have come, of all the trainings going on, I was standing in front of the man who had sent me the letter. His name was in my hands. I wept as I tried to form thoughts and words. I tried to explain the power of what I was doing and told him when i was in the raw and alone, knowing a predator is out there ready to attack, I received a letter. I handed it to him, my cheeks stained in pain.
He took it, anger for me on his face at what kind of horrible letter could have come to me in that moment? And he froze. His eyes staring at the page in his hands. HE sent the letter. Into the raw. Into the broken. A weight of solitude and brokenness upon a survivor. And he said, “I remember this case.”
And I could breathe again.
He looked up at me—and saw me—the other prosecutor said, “We has to send the letter because we cannot yet meet the standard of the law. But it does not in any way mean we don’t believe you.”
He told me he would love to talk to me about the case. And I told him, maybe. I care more that you see that we are real. We, survivors, are fighting like hell through the entire process. Rape kits. Exams. Reporting. Testimonies. Interviews. Interrogations. Questions. Suspicions. Disbelief. Confrontation calls. Meetings. Tears. Nightmares. And our advocates are the only thing helping us survive the road.
How many survivors are receiving letters like me and don’t have the strength to call their advocate? Or who just walk away? Who just give up? Who believe they aren’t believed. Who believe they aren’t enough? Who believe they aren’t being fought for?
As I walked away, I felt three-thousand pounds lighter. I felt like I could breathe again. My voice is back where it belongs: being heard. And I want to call to any and all survivors who have received your letters outside of your detectives…let’s #ReturnTheLetter and bring change. Prosecutors, use the detectives to tell us the final stage of our case—because they will employ our badass advocates. And we will not be reading our letters alone, sitting on the floor of our offices, sobbing to be so unheard.
Instead we will be supported to rise up. To keep going. To heal.
Love to all of you fellow survivors. You are not alone. I hear you. I believe you. And I am fighting for you.