Trigger Warning: Folks who have been impacted by sexual violence are strong and resilient—even in the moments when they may not feel like it. At the same time, articles like the one below, may still be activating, bring up painful memories, and reawaken emotions and thoughts that are difficult to cope with. In these moments, be gentle with yourself and transition to other activities that are grounding and comforting.
This is an anonymous open letter to the parents of my daughter’s rapist. To all the survivors and those who love them reading this, I am sorry for the pain you have already experienced.
Dear parents I will never meet,
Your son raped my daughter. Don’t worry; we did not go to the police. We were certain they would not have believed her, and the additional trauma would have made it all that much worse. As is common, they would find some way to blame her for trusting him and blame us for treating her like the young adult she is. (She was only 17, so technically still a kid, but she is very mature and certainly did not need to be supervised by us 24/7.) And what does it say about this world that too many cops basically tell survivors to stay away from men if you don’t want to be hurt because all men are potential rapists? Does that include them?
She hasn’t told me much about it. I know where and when it happened. I know he told her he “liked it rough” and that she didn’t realize it was rape until her dear friends pointed that out to her.
If you ask your son about this—which I sure as hell hope you will—look closely at his eyes. Can you see what they are saying? They will no doubt communicate, “Oh shit, I wonder which mom sent my parents this letter?” because he did this to my baby over a year ago. He’s certainly done it to more girls and women since then. And he will keep doing it, since no one is stopping him.
You might be thinking, “My boy would never do something like that; we’re good people.” Well, your boy did rape my daughter, and likely other girls, and will no doubt do it to someone else again.
That is why I am writing you. You have to stop him.
You have to confront him and every other male in your lives about sexual assault and rape.
Think about past exchanges with your son. What have your conversations about consent and sexual assault sounded like? And don’t give me any bullshit like “he’s an adult,” or “he doesn’t live at home, I can’t talk to him about this stuff anymore.” Your son raped my daughter; prevent him from doing it again.
And what do you do when you hear that an athlete or musician or actor or politician is accused of sexual assault? Do you roll your eyes, and chalk it up to their industry? Or do you challenge your son and get him to understand that if one woman came forward (or in your case, one parent), then there are certainly others in the shadows too scared to be vocal?
Did you tell him, no person has the right to disrespect another person, ever, regardless of their profession, status, income, appearance, gender, race, ability or otherwise? Did you tell him that you found it deplorable that all of those industries probably did very little to register opposition to the man’s behavior but rather shamed the women who came forward in the first place? Or did no one talk about it because it’s just too upsetting? For what it’s worth, it is too upsetting—but that is precisely why it needs to be talked about.
Do you think he knows that women are more than objects to penetrate? I’m sorry if that would have been an uncomfortable conversation—but sex after rape is now an uncomfortable reality with which my beautiful, empathetic daughter has to deal.
Did you talk to him about compassion, mutual respect, communication, honesty and listening? Did you teach him that when he says he likes it rough if the girl does not want it at all, what he wants is totally irrelevant? And that if he keeps going, as he did, that’s rape? I’m guessing the answer is no.
I am sorry if this is hard for you to read—but also I’m not really. As a mother, my life is now consumed with a new kind of worry for my precious daughter. (And myself.) I do wish we could have protected her and prevented it. But I am smart enough to know that would not have been possible—especially in this victim-blaming culture that silences and shames survivors.
I hope you will reach out to other parents of rapists and do the right thing. Get your son and his friends to stop. If you do not, they will keep doing it. He already has, I am sure of it.
In closing, let me be very clear. I am keeping this anonymous because I am protecting my daughter from victim-blamers. She and all survivors have done absolutely nothing wrong and have nothing of which to be ashamed. Our anonymity is for our emotional protection—not because of any shame on our part. You, parents of the rapist, you are the ones who should feel the shame.
You should also know, despite the repugnant, deeply anti-human behavior of your son, my brilliant daughter is shredding life. The details are none of your business, but her spirit is unbreakable. For that I am eternally proud.
A heartbroken anonymous parent
P.S.: To the other mothers of survivors holding a similar rage and pain in your gut with which you don’t know what to do: I offer you, with your consent of course, a bear hug and tears, wrapped in feminist solidarity.
Additional Resources for Parents and Survivors
“6 Resources to Help Parents Talk to Kids About Consent” is from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
MeToo Many Voices hosts survivor-led peer support groups and provides community resources.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.