A Letter from a Survivor

Dear Admitted Students,

You’re getting a lot of advice, I know.  And there a lot of things to think about when you start law school. I hope this isn’t one of them, but if it is, here’s something that I learned the hard way.

If you are a survivor of rape or sexual abuse –

You are not alone.

Just because you have to come to this place that puts the expansion of the mind above all else, does not mean you have to sacrifice the sanctity of your body. You can be a Harvard Law Student and a survivor. Our identities are complex, and anyone who would ask you to deny your past to become something shiny and new understands far less about what it means to be human than you do. You will never be too educated to be hurt; no degree should demand that you stop feeling; no school should ask you to prioritize arbitrary grades over your ability to care for yourself and others.

When I came here, I assumed I was the only one with this secret. When I sat through the 1L discussion of rape in criminal law, I thought I was the only one – that when they talked about the lying accuser it was just me who felt personally attacked. I was wrong.  As soon as I started paying attention, it became clear that there were survivors all around me. I thought that being a survivor made me less, made me damaged goods. But I want to tell you that your opinion is no less valid because it is colored by personal experience.  You are not less of an expert, because you can talk about rape in the first hand.

And there are people here who will believe you, who will support you both knowingly and unknowingly. Find those people.  Know that your rape and your story don’t have to look like everyone else’s to be valid. You are not a policy argument; you are a person. I hope you feel free and secure enough to tell your story, but that you don’t feel obligated to. I hope you remember how strong you are. I hope you know how brave it is to go into the law and in whatever you decide to, to make change. Your presence here is important. I hope you will continue the fight.

With much love,

A 3L