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Weighing on my Soul

    I worked as an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator a number of years ago. And periodically after the fact I would get phone calls or messages from people who knew the earlier work I did, to either console people or give guidance to other women. And over the years I would hear terrible stories, all third-hand, but knowing they were real puts a little weight on my shoulders too, weighing on my soul too, hearing so many stories over so many years.
    I told my husband that I recently got a letter from a woman who I knew years ago, back when I worked for a university acquaintance rape education group, and the woman tried to feel better, years after being raped by a man who she was dating. After everything she learned because of the rape, and her fight to overcome it, ended up making her a better person. When I explained this to him, he told me that I should publish the letter. I didn’t want to do that to the woman, and I didn’t think it was a good idea, but he explained to me that there may be women out there who want to hear that they can be strong again, and this letter may be the impetus they need.
    I told him that if I did this, I would not reveal the woman’s name who wrote this, and I do this now not only in an attempt to protect her privacy but also to make it clear that every woman can feel this.
    I got in touch with her and she said it was okay as long as I left any information about her out. I hope this helps.

Janet Kuypers
Editor in Chief


    Dear Janet,

    Hi there, I know it’s been forever since we’ve talked, but I remembered you back at U of I doing acquaintance rape flyers, ads and workshops, so I hope you don’t mind me writing this to you. I couldn’t think of anyone else I could share this with though.
    Something occurred to me the evening of the anniversary of the day I was raped — yes, I remember it, how could I forget. It’s been years, and I’ve grown a lot since that night. I could talk about how I was young then. I could talk about how I didn’t know how to stop what was happening — but that would be more victim blaming, wouldn’t it? What I did want to say is that for the first time in years on this day, I wasn’t angry. All I could think is that even though what I went through was terrible, even though I spent years crying about what happened to me... it occurred to me that if this didn’t happen to me, if it didn’t force me to learn about sexism so first-hand back then, that I might not have worked as hard in my life to be as strong as I am now.
    I’m not saying I am glad this happened to me — far from it. But if I remove all of the bad elements in my past I might have ended up becoming a different person from who I am today. I believe that I have gained strength from the battles I have had to fight because of this. For the first ever of all the anniversaries of this rape that haunted me , I have to say that this bad thing helped me grow. I might not like who I’d be today if I didn’t have this terrible thing happen to me, to change the way I think.
    I don’t know if what I’ve written makes sense. For some reason though I wanted to share it with you. It’s so easy to dwell on rape, because the memories are so powerful and consuming, for so many years. As I said before, if I remove that from my past, I unravel the tapestry of who I am. If I like who I have become, removing that might make me someone I wouldn’t recognize and someone I’d rather not be.

Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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