I sit here, typing this post, realizing that it is currently midnight. At this very hour exactly one year ago, I had the extremely unfortunate experience of being raped. My immediate reaction after the fact was to forgive. I wanted to do what I knew Jesus would do so I tried to be amenable. I tried to have compassion for the boy that took something that wasn’t his to take. I looked into his eyes and told him that I would be okay; that despite his wrongdoings, I was going to attempt to take the high road. But that is easier said than done… how do you forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?
Words my rapist has said to me:
“I wanna make things right with you…I feel horrible and I’m tempted to take the pill bottles and just take them all down.
“Don’t go to Public Safety…can we go out to eat somewhere? I don’t want to lose your friendship or your trust.”
“Have you told anyone about last night?….You hold my life in your hands.”
“If anything, I want to be in a relationship with you. Please don’t tell anyone.”
“I’ll even go to church and pray with you whatever it takes. I know you’re not gonna say anything but…”
Words my rapist has said to other people:
“I admit that I shouldn’t have had a girl in my dorm and I shouldn’t have had alcohol.
And you’re definitely correct, I should be disciplined for that. But that’s it.”
“What? No, that’s a lie – she never told me she didn’t want to have sex. She’s lying.”
“She didn’t say no! She was the one who was kissing me! I didn’t force her to do anything she didn’t want. She wanted it.”
“I didn’t hit her or anything, I wasn’t violent.”
“Okay, yeah – she might have said no. But she didn’t mean it.”
“The only thing I’m guilty of is drinking alcohol and having a girl in my room after hours, and I apologize for that.”
“Well before she came over she said something about not wanting to fool around, but you know – she changed her mind after a few shots.”
“How many times she said no? Three times, I guess?”
Words my family has said to me:
“What were you wearing?”
“Oh, well you were drinking, so it was your fault.”
“You were raped? Why did you do that?”
“Why did you let that happen?”
“You’re damaged now.”
And my all time favorite, “You were raped and it took you this long to tell me? Why am I the last one to find out?”
As you can see, he didn’t seem to think that he had anything done wrong. Even though he admitted to hearing me say, “no.” It wasn’t enough for him. He tried manipulating me into keeping silent, even going as far as wielding my religion as a tool in order to avoid being in flagrante dilecto. As for my family – they couldn’t even recognize that the words coming from their mouths were just as poisonous as the act itself. In actuality though, it felt worse. I wanted them to understand me; to acknowledge that there is nothing on this earth that justifies rape. Alcohol, drugs, silence – none of those things constitute violating a human being. To this day, they still can’t thoroughly comprehend. I recognize victim-blaming and the rape culture when I see it. The judgments and condemnations I received from my family and from my rapist are the product of that. I don’t know if I will ever see a day when they will understand that.
I wish I could say that it’s easy to forgive someone who doesn’t even know that they need forgiving. Instead, I’m here to tell you that the process of even comprehending what authentic mercy looks like took me an entire year. I thought that forgiveness was just saying the words “I forgive you,” but it’s not. There is so much more to it.
Forgiveness knows that they may never comprehend the weight of their words or actions.
Forgiveness recognizes that mercy needs to be extended…. Every. Single. Day.
Forgiveness understands that ignorance has the ability to blind even your loved ones; even the people you trust the most.
Forgiveness prays for their well being, even when you don’t want to; even when you feel angry and hurt.
Forgiveness acknowledges that everyone deserves to be forgiven, because we are not the sum of our weaknesses or failures.
Forgiveness loves when you don’t know how…it leads you to everyone, including yourself.
Forgiveness lifts the weight off of your shoulders.
Forgiveness helps you heal – it may take years to accomplish it, and seconds to slip away. But it’s always within grasp if you ask it to pray.
Forgiveness isn’t merely the act of being gracious in the face of transgressions…
Forgiveness lives; forgiveness is a person.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing. The people stayed there watching. As for the leaders, they jeered at him with the words, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’”