Dear Stranger,

I imagine sometimes what your life could be. What does your day entail? Do you have children, and how could you even bare to look in their eyes knowing you corrupted the innocence of another? Sometimes I wish I was a little more strong, a little more brave, and I had told someone sooner. Maybe I could have prevented someone else from getting hurt by your same hands. 7 years old is a hard age to be brave at. Sometimes pool water makes me anxious. Weird, right? The smell of chlorine becomes sharp and pricks at the memory I had long tried to forget.

But no, this letter is not about forgetting. This letter is not about shoving an old flashback into the back of my brain. And this isn't a letter asking for your sympathy. I'm not here to bash you. I'm not here to tell my sob story. You didn't think I would let you tear me down, or did you? You did anything but.

I want to thank you, stranger, for making me realize that this wasn't my fault. I used to think that sometimes I deserved what happened to me, but then again, what 7 year old girl in a women's locker room deserves the violation of a man? In fact, what woman deserves the violation of any man, regardless of age?

I want to thank you for helping me find my purpose. Life experiences subconsciously shape you into the person you will become in the future. I want to help young women who have gone through traumas. I want to share my experience and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The journey is hard, but the destination is beautiful, and better than anyone could ever imagine. The moment you are at peace with yourself is a moment of bliss.

And lastly, I want to thank you for making me the person I am today. I want to thank you for teaching me how to be strong. I found my strength through this experience, and I continue to grow stronger. I don't want to give you the satisfaction of knowing how deeply this impacted me, but I can't hide. I didn't tell anyone what happened for 9 years. Holding a secret for that long made this process a whole lot harder. But in the end, I opened up and got the support I needed. You tried to clip my wings, but you only let me fly higher than I had before.

Sincerely,

The scared 7 year old girl who grew into a strong, beautiful, fierce, and tenacious 17 year old woman.

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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.