Dear Dr. Blasey Ford,
My name is Monica Luna and I, unfortunately, do not think I will ever have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. But while our paths will likely never cross, we do share in common one tragic occurrence: having been sexually assaulted at a young and formative age. I have felt compelled over the past few days to reach out to you somehow and I do hope that this letter reaches you.
Your story was particularly impactful for me. I am a 27-year-old woman who works in the medical field and is studying to get my master’s degree in Biostatistics from NYU. As I mentioned before, I was sexually assaulted while in high school. I was at an after-prom party in my junior year where we were consuming alcohol. Toward the end of the evening, I was ushered into a dark and empty area of the house by a college-aged man who did not have close social connections at the party and whose name I never learned. He had told me that he could tell I needed to lay down and when I proceeded to do so, he positioned himself on top of me. Despite my physical and audible protests, he pulled up my dress, removed my underwear and inserted himself inside of me. The terror that you described feeling your attacker’s hand over your mouth is a feeling I, too, will never forget. My alcohol-addled teenage brain was attempting to weigh whether it was more important to protect my bodily autonomy in this moment or ensure my survival of the event.
We also share a similar reaction to our assaults. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened to me. I never reported it to any authority and never told my parents. I dealt with it by placing the responsibility squarely on myself. If what happened to me was my fault, that meant I could prevent it from ever happening to me again. I thought up dozens of ways to finish the sentence, “This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t…” and repeated them to myself as a sick, soothing mantra. As a clinical psychologist, I’m sure you have learned about and dealt with this type of inappropriate reaction to trauma. I was only truly able to recognize my own pathology in analyzing how I viewed other victims of sexual assault. I so often gave credence to victim-blaming practices, finally realizing that the only reason I was able to psychologically survive my rape is because blaming myself gave me back the control and power I had lost in the moments of my assault.
I felt compelled to reach out to you not only because of the similarity in our harrowing stories, but because I also feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to you. You know firsthand the horror of losing control of your own autonomy and here you are offering it up again. By coming forward, you are losing control of who gets to know your deepest and most painful secrets, losing control of your ability to feel safe in public or at home and, perhaps most importantly, risk losing control of the narrative of your life story. I am in awe of your remarkable courage and strength. The loss of control in that situation is what was and remains most challenging to me. I cannot describe how much it means to me that you are coming forward with your story in possibly the most excruciating, painful and unfair process. I know that countless other women’s hearts are filled with gratitude and awe for you as well.
The #MeToo movement is one that we certainly never asked for. I know many have felt empowered to tell their stories, and for that I am glad, but each time I see the hashtag in my feed it is a cutting reminder of my trauma and the fact that women have been enduring this on a nearly universal scale for generations. Hearing negative reactions to #MeToo have at times disheartened me and made me feel as though the imbalance in power between men and women will continue in perpetuity. Your story, your bravery and your sacrifice have renewed my hope. While every fiber of my being wishes that we could have had two separate lives without this trauma to connect us, my newfound theoretical connection to you has made me feel that I can share in your bravery and confront the wounds of my trauma.
I frequently say to my friends and family that my new favorite day of the year is the Women’s March. I’m not sure if you have participated, but I hope that you do this coming year. For me, it is a celebration of the strength and resiliency of women and a reminder that we should be each other’s fiercest advocates. I will be thinking of you as I march this year and in years to come, as I’m sure many others will be. While I know that “thoughts and prayers” is a term often scoffed at these days, please know that I will be thinking of you on the day of your hearing. And that no matter what happens, you are an inspiration to young women like myself.
With much gratitude and respect,
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 24 print edition.
Email Monica Luna at [email protected]