It might be hard for you to not get teary behind “I Believe You,” MSNBC talk show host Melissa Harris-Perry’s heartfelt letter to the 16-year-old Steubenville rape victim who has been bullied, threatened and implicated in her own assault, sparking a national referendum on rape culture. Harris-Perry’s letter is every bit as revealing as it is warm and empathetic; in it, she divulges that as a 14-year-old, she, too, was violated, but too afraid to tell anyone about the abuse. It is in her crackling voice—her teary revelation—that lays bare the fact that frequency and silence all-too-often accompany rape, and that it’s high-time we come together as a society and make it safe for our girls and women to be and to speak and to be heard. It is these words, in particular, that moved:
I want to say thank you, because you did what so many of us never find the strength to do. You spoke for yourself. You spoke for the 44% of rape victims who are under 18–and you spoke for my 14-year-old self, who still hears that threat echoing in my head, “Don’t tell. No one will believe you.”
So, this is my apology and this is my gratitude. This is me saying, “I believe you.”
And I believe you are inherently valuable. Not as a character in some grotesque news cycle where your assault is all we know, but as a girl with hopes and dreams and ambitions and vulnerabilities and so much more growing up to do. I never need to know your name, but I need you to know you are not alone. Surviving is not a single occurrence, it is a lifetime of making choices that honor you and your right to speak. You have begun surviving. You will continue surviving. And if you ever get down, or wonder how you will go on, take out this letter and read it to yourself.
I believe you.
Indeed. If only this could be circulated to every woman who ever faced down the aftermath of sexual abuse. They must know that they are not alone. Watch Melissa Harris-Perry’s beautiful letter to the Steubenville rape victim below.
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