A letter to the reader

Clara Riedenstein

A magazine called Letters from Survivors no doubt brings up a lot of questions. Yet from all of the questions, I believe one sticks out the most: who are the letters for? A magazine like this is not only about supporting survivors, it is about their allies, it is about changing our knowledge of sexual violence and fostering a dialogue.

Letters to yourself. First and foremost, writing about trauma is a healing process. It is incredibly empowering for someone who has been through what can only be described as hell on earth to write about it. It gives you a sense of control, a sense that a part of you is back. If you have felt like you had been stripped of everything, writing about it gives you your voice again. No one can take that away from you.

Letters to other survivors. This sense of empowerment extends to you and other survivors alike. Understanding that you are not alone in this battle, that whatever you are feeling is normal. Those are the messages we should be sending survivors and those are the messages which a more open culture around sexual violence can bring. This is achieved not only through the disclosure of other experiences in letters, but equally through an exploration of topics around the issue. Discussing areas like consent, rape culture or gender roles can create a more compassionate environment, a culture in which survivors are heard and feel heard.

Letters to allies. Possibly the strongest message can be sent to allies. We shouldn’t underestimate our influence in changing sexual violence culture, but we must understand how to do this effectively. A magazine like this steps in to educate us about sexual violence – how can we support someone if we don’t understand what they are going through? It steps in to show opinions on topics concerning sexual violence – how can we ever properly understand if we don’t hear different perspectives? And how is our society ever going to change for the better if we do not use the knowledge we have acquired for the good? How will society change if we ourselves don’t become the allies which survivors need and the people who actively combat this problem?

The letters, articles and stories in this magazine are for all of us. Addressing not only survivors but everyone, so that we can all assume responsibility in resetting attitudes to sexual violence and harassment.

Image credit: Margot Harvey. Clara stands on the right, holding a whiteboard that says ‘no means no’.