“Dear Alistair”: A Brief Thank You Note From A Survivor

*Trigger Warning: the contents of this blog entry contain recollections of sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, mutilation, substance abuse and PTSD.

Dear Alistair,

Thank you for loving me. You always say that there’s no need to say thank you for loving someone, and that it’s unconditional, but you don’t understand. I would never want you to understand why a person says “thank you” for what I thank you for: loving me, treating me with respect, and creating a safe environment for me.

I say thank you after we hug sometimes, and kiss. And after you say, “I love you, Joni”. And after we make love, or if we tried to and had to stop because of a flashback I’m experiencing. I say thank you because I’ve never known love like this before—and I never thought I would.

I was trained to be grateful for what I got in my past relationship. To be grateful for the drunken gropes at parties, for the sloppy, inconsiderate making out, and for the rape. To say “thank you” after a torn hymen, tears, blood, and screaming. “Do you love me yet?” I would ask, a very common question. “Maybe after,” he would say, a very common answer. “If you do something for me, I’ll think about it.”

And I said “thank you”.

But you took me in and said it’s not okay. My being coerced into sex is not something to be grateful for. For being held down when I objected because my rapist was drunk and he didn’t care about me is not something to be grateful for. I shouldn’t have to be in pain and shed blood for love. My organs shouldn’t be torn and my brain shouldn’t be traumatized for love.

Instead, you taught me, my body should be okay. My body should be cherished, adored, and kissed. My body should be treated with great care, for it holds a beautiful soul inside of it. My brain should be soothed and my heart should be at ease. Sex is not an act of violence. For us, it is an act of love. It is selfless and sweet. It is tingly and exciting. It is new each time.

And when I can’t, because my mind and my body are stuck in the past, you protect me. When my legs and arms twitch, you whisper “I’m right here”. When I hallucinate the pain of ripped skin and scream, you hold my hands and keep me focused.

“Joni, I’m not him. It’s me, Alistair. You’re safe, I promise.”

So I thank you, with everything I have, for your endless humanity. Even if we weren’t romantic, you said you still think I deserved to be free. Even if we never spoke to each other again, you wanted to break me free. Unlike the claims of my rapist, you did not want to “convince me to leave so you could use me”. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with. I am sleeping with little to no nightmares, hardly any hallucinations, and I am slowly learning that it was not my fault. That I deserve love and happiness.

So Alistair, when I say “thank you”, I mean: “you saved me”. You tell me I saved myself, but I swear, you helped.

Thanks again,

Joni

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