TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT/VIOLENCE
Dear Mrs. X,
The last time I searched the internet for your husband, you weren’t there. But then again, I only searched for his whereabouts: what state, what city, where he was working, how close or how far he was from me. Tiny glimpses into his life via public information via Google. At the time, I wasn’t prepared to see his face, I wanted to know where he was. This was several years ago, so maybe it was before you had met him. Or maybe I just didn’t search thoroughly enough to find you. Nevertheless, here you are and there he is. And now I see, baby makes three. I’m relieved to see that she has your eyes. I know that might sound rude coming from a stranger, but be grateful she wasn’t born with his. His kind of eyes have a way of unraveling someone.
I write this wondering… does your heart beat super fast when he’s next to you? Does he make your hands tremble? Do your knees get weak? Are you at a loss for words? Does he take your breath away? He was able to make my body react just like that, physically shaking me to my core, but I suspect it’s for a very different reason, one you might find hard to believe.
Can I ask you to do something? Yes, right now please if you will. I want you to paint a picture in your mind’s eye for me.
You’re on your quiet street in somewhere-suburbia Maryland, it’s the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, you have a stroller in tow with your baby sleeping soundly within. It’s a day like any other. The sun is shining and there is a light breeze wafting scents of charcoal and BBQ chicken through the air. You’re waving hello to your neighbor in the blue house, number 106, when a flash of orange catches your eye from the peripheral. You turn your head to see a mammoth Siberian Tiger sauntering down the sidewalk opposing you, in broad daylight, slowly making its way to the cul de sac at the end of your street when it stops and turns its gaze towards you and your sleeping child. Freeze frame your face in that moment. Brow furrowed, jaw dropped, mouth open in the shape of an O, unable to let out the scream trapped inside your throat. Hold on to that along with the flood of thoughts racing through your mind the moment you see the unimaginable before your very own eyes.
It couldn’t be real, right? You’d blink a few times to make sure what you were seeing was really there, that your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you, that the Siberian Tiger was not a figment of your imagination from sleep deprivation as a new mother. Your would-be reaction in that moment was my real-life reaction when I saw your family photo. When I saw him with you and your baby. Remove husband – insert Siberian Tiger. Unbelievable. Out of place. Disturbing. Dangerous. Wrong. A wild animal posing as the picture perfect family man. He doesn’t belong there. He doesn’t belong there at all.
I guess it could have gone either way for your husband Mrs. X. He hits a fork in the road of life. One path leading to your typical school-job-promotion-house-wife-baby-maybe-more-babies -throw in a dog-or two-kind of life. And the opposing path – one more lonesome, dark and solitary, becoming identifiable in society as one to flag with red. The creep you steer clear of. The one you’re not surprised to find in a newspaper headline for collecting corpses in his basement. It’s a terrifying thought to me that he has turned out to be the former – charming, lovable, charismatic, the devil disguised as Daddy.
I had hoped he wouldn’t turn out like this. So… normal. White picket fence, all-American, average Joe shit – wearing the same mask he did so long ago, replacing popular collegiate basketball All Star with father and family man. It’s not what I wished for. Though, my wish for your husband is something you would not appreciate. From the outside looking in, it seems like such a cookie cutter life. But isn’t it true? That the stealthiest of spies create the best cover stories to hide who they really are? That their lives depend on the lies they tell.
I find it hard to believe that among the countless discussions you’ve had together over the years, that I would be among them. That if you ever asked out of sheer curiosity about what his life was like before you, that he offered to tell you everything, openly and honestly. If you asked him how many women he had slept with, that the number given to you included the girl who never gave him her consent.
Would you believe me if I told you that your husband is a rapist? And that I know this because he raped me. That the hands that hold yours so tenderly are the same hands that wrapped around my neck? Squeezed so hard that they left bruises of individual fingers and palms on my throat and wrists. That the eyes which gaze so lovingly into yours were the ones that when looking at me reflected zero emotion – only darkness. A darkness that swallowed me whole. I only ever recognized relief inside of them. Relief presenting itself in the glorious moment he realized I wasn’t dead. Something I might have missed if those eyes weren’t the very first thing my vision adjusted to in the blue-black of his A-frame bedroom, his face only inches away from my own, making sure I was still breathing.
Those eyes that draw you in and steal your heart happen to be the most horrific things to me. They’re just two dead orbs floating on the face of a demon. His voice sent ripples down my spine, an evil serpent hissing obscenities as he squeezed my face with vice-like force, pulling it close to his. His laughter saluting the tiny hairs at the nape of my neck. His grin panic inducing, something most vile. No teeth, all fangs. His hands not like the ones you know, those of a gentle giant, soothing and safe. His almost seven foot something stature was the monster from my real-life nightmare.
Here’s where you might come undone. Crumple my letter with one hand and ball your other hand into a fist. Your chest might be heavy. Your face might be flushed. You might be saying to yourself: “You liar. You bitch. You’re making this up! Can you believe this woman? The audacity. The nerve. That’s not my husband! He would NEVER. Of all the things to accuse someone of! She has to be one of those psycho-bitch radical feminists drunk off this #metoo movement damning the entire male race to hell! Meddling in the lives of others… waiting years to come forward with bullshit lies! Well, you should have said something back when it happened, that is, if it happened at all. If I was assaulted… I would have done this, I would have said that… I certainly would not have kept quiet…
Mrs. X, are you finished now? I know this must be hard to read and even harder to process. I get it. And honestly, I can’t refute your argument. In truth, I wish I had said something sooner. I wish I had done something, anything, in the hours, days, and weeks after that night but I didn’t. All I did was survive in the best way I knew how. And now here we are.
And if it isn’t anger and outrage you feel towards me, then it might be shock and terror towards your husband. Maybe both. I don’t presume to know how you might take this. I don’t expect you to believe me. I’m unsure whether this letter will change nothing or change everything. Or if it would have been better for you if I had never written at all.
I wonder, if you aren’t condemning me as a liar that you are in fact, considering the thought that your husband could be a rapist. And if you could believe, to any degree, that what I am telling you is true, I wonder if you would prefer me to correct myself and say that your husband was a rapist, not is a rapist. Because my assault is past tense. Past tense in the timeline of your lives and in mine. Would it soften the blow? Would it make it easier to process? Would you then be able to compartmentalize your husband? In a past life, he raped me. But in his new life, he didn’t rape anyone, certainly not you.
Well Mrs. X I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. You can’t. He can’t. No one can. No matter how much this truth steers you away from your current reality, from the perception of the man you love, it is still fact. Even now, on this very day, after all the years that have passed since that night, and the years he has since been with you, and even if he never laid a hand on any other girl or woman after me, I will refuse to say was. Once you cross a fucking line like that, you can never go back.
If you murder someone, you are a murderer for the rest of your life, even if you never kill again. The same rule applies here. If you rape someone, you are a rapist. Even if you only do it once and choose to never do it again. It changes nothing. The act of rape, whether it’s singular or plural, is a choice that cannot be dissolved or diluted by time. There is no expiration date on the truth of such things, regardless of what you know or what you choose to believe. There is a permanent brand on the man you know and love. It remains on his person like a tattoo, only on the inside. He carries it with him, even if no one else can see it. He shall remain a rapist for the whole of his life, whether the truth is out there or not. But I think it’s about damn time it’s out in the open.
I’m not saying people can’t change. They most certainly can. But there are choices we make that shouldn’t be forgotten, no less forgiven. We may confess them privately to the higher powers but that judgement day remains pending until our death. We don’t always pay for our sins here on Earth. Some things shouldn’t be allowed a “free pass” by our friends, by our family, by the collective of society because “he’s not that way with me,” or “that’s not the man I know and love”, or “he has such a bright future ahead of him,” “he was young and stupid” or “he made a mistake” and the list of unjustifiable excuses goes on. The truth deserves to be spoken. It is necessary. Because more often than not, it won’t come from the mouths of the guilty.
If we had the chance to replay that night, I hope that he would make a different choice – a better one. A choice that spared me years of silent suffering and the loss of so much time that I will never get back. One that spared me years of confusion, guilt, shame, rage, and sadness. One that alters this memory of ours that I must carry with me until I die. But I suspect Mrs. X, that if your husband was given the opportunity, he would choose to rape me and he would revel in it, just as he did before.
I don’t know where to tell you to go from here. I don’t know what you will do with the information I have given you. It is not my intent to dismantle your life or your marriage, though something like this might do that very thing. From what I can see, you look so happy. I really hope that’s true.
I cannot tell you that your husband is a good man. I know for a fact that he is not. The secrets and the past he left behind paved the way for your current existence: happy and in love, with a growing family of your own. For me, where his path crossed with mine, it paved the way for a whole other kind of life. But I’m not writing for your pity or your sympathy, I’m writing for the possibility that up until this moment, you had no idea what he has done, no idea what he is capable of. Or maybe, you do.
I will always wonder what goes on behind your closed doors. If you are okay. If you are safe. If you are as happy as you seem to be on social media. That his violence against women started and stopped with me, that his need and want to take without asking didn’t fester and grow, that the sexual thrill and the power he felt in those hours with me was a one time guilty pleasure of his. I truly hope I was the only one.
But just in case I’m not Mrs. X, I had to tell you. I had to tell you the truth about your husband. I hope he isn’t anything like the man I know. I really, really do. Because that means you will never know him like I do. It means there’s a chance that there aren’t other women out there like me. It means that maybe my worst fear hasn’t come true, the fear that my silence has made me an accessory to someone else’s trauma. An accessory to a predator and his life of sexual violence. That if only I had done something, if only I had found my voice sooner, it might have spared others from a kind of pain I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
Because deep down something tells me, that under the guise of doting husband, beloved son, successful law enforcement professional and caring father, that the devil still lies beneath, hiding in plain sight, as heinous as the day he revealed his true nature. That to you, he may be Superman. But to me, he is Lex Luther in a Clark Kent suit. A villain posing as an everyday superhero and everyone around him, including you, is completely fucking duped. But I see him. I have lived through what he has spent a lifetime concealing. I know that monsters are real and that often times they disguise themselves as husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. And our biggest weapon in the war against them, is to speak the truth.