A young woman made headlines after writing an incredibly moving and courageous open letter to the man who tried to sexually assault her.
Less than a month after Sara Roebuck moved to Paris for an internship, a man attempted to rape her in a nightclub. He used a fire extinguisher to block her escape, locked her in a room for nearly 20 minutes, threw her against the wall, attempted to remove her clothes, launched her body into a sink then pinned her down while he tried to rape her.
It did not matter how many times she said no in both English and French. In the end, she was only able to escape because she was menstruating.
Now, a year after the traumatic event, Roebuck came face to face with her attempted rapist. However this time around, the situation was much different. His hands were cuffed behind his back instead of groping her body without her consent, and they were both in a room full of police officers, where he couldn’t harm her they way he had before.
Upon returning from the court, she decided to put her thoughts on a paper and share with the world not only the ordeal she went through, but to give hope to the women who had gone through a similar experience.
“After hearing words of encouragement from a few friends and hearing about the speech made by MP Michelle Thomson in the House of Commons, last night I started writing and I couldn't stop,” Roebuck wrote in a Facebook post. “I wrote this because I feel angry, I want people to realize the reality of what happens when you are sexually attacked, and I feel that I have a responsibility to stand up not just for myself, but for the women who will read this and sadly identify with it.”
She first published the letter on Medium, but after receiving strong words of encouragement and appreciation, she also posted it on Facebook where it soon went viral.
“I write to you on this cold December evening, almost one year after you tried to rape me, because it’s the first time that I’ve felt strong enough to put pen to paper,” the letter began. “I write to you in order to put onto paper the gravity of what you did, to materialize the story that unfolds, the choices you put down to 'youthful stupidity.' I write this to you, so others and I can look at the words take its ugly form on this page. I write this because I am tired; I am exhausted of stories like this.”
Along with recounting her torment, Roebuck also raised her voice against trivializing matters of sexual assault and harassment — which is sadly a part of life for many women.
“I want myself and others to understand how and why we as a society still continue to struggle with the poisonous and violent reality of rape,” she continued. “The gravity of sexual assault, the complexity of misogyny and the patriarchal weight that continues to minimize the role of the rapist and blame the women whose body was snatched from within her own skin.”
Roebuck said she wanted men to read her words and feel, at least shortly, what woman who have lived through something like this feel every day.
“I want things to change. I insist that things change,” said the letter.
Referring to her time in court, Roebuck explained that when she stood up in front of the judge and answered the questions aimed at her, she “stood and spoke for every woman in the world who has suffered” at the hands of men like her assailant.
“I stood for every woman who walks home with her keys clasped between her fingers. I stood for every woman who has switched train carriages because of that one man who isn’t breaking eye contact,” she concluded. “I stood for every woman whose parents insist they send a text after a night out, even at 24 years old, because they worry for their daughters’ safety because she’s female and not male. I stood for every woman who has felt her sexuality stand on show when walking past a group of men. I stood for every woman who remembers the first time their childlike body was no longer so innocent in front of old horrible men. I stood for every woman who knows how it feels to have the waxy heavy regard of an unwanted gaze envelop her body, drenching your skin in this sickly, uncomfortable glare that you cannot put into words but know so well. I stood for every woman who has been called a whore, a slut, or a b**** for rejecting unwanted advances.”
The outpour of support on social media has been amazing.
@sararoebuckx Thank you. For your words. For your strength. For your love. Xx— Lost Girl (@TotallyLostGirl) December 19, 2016
@sararoebuckx I want to share your story with my classroom. Thank you for having the strength to write this letter.— jason pitak (@ADDConQueso) December 19, 2016
@sararoebuckx for speaking out and for telling a story no woman should ever have to tell. I'm with you in this fight for a better world x— Lydia Rose (@LydiaRoseSmyth) December 19, 2016
@sararoebuckx I learned more from reading your single letter than I did in a 3 year degree at Oxford University.— Shane (@ShaneEONeill) December 18, 2016
@sararoebuckx Just read your letter. Nothing can change the past but you have changed the future. Well done and Merry Christmas— Marty Collins (@thesummerof76) December 18, 2016
Thumbnail and Banner Image Credits: Reuters