A Survivor’s Letter Pleas for Justice System Reform

This letter contains the personal opinions and experiences of a sexual violence survivor. LaFASA believes all survivors deserve the opportunity to seek justice, and we work to support them through direct victim services, education and trainings, and working with allied professionals to create positive institutional change.

Dear Mr. Cannizzaro,


Please help me understand. I’ve felt silenced and shamed by the way you do things. Still, if I really try to put myself in your shoes, I can see how you would think you were doing the right thing by not trying harder to prosecute rape. Maybe your rationale is that you don’t want victims to be “embarrassed” in a courtroom (meanwhile, your spokesperson is allowed to publicly tweet taunts at victims… but I digress.)


Maybe it’s not about you discarding our cases because you don’t think they’re worth your time. Maybe you just feel the urge to protect people who come to you with wounded souls (you know, save for the ones you put in jail.) Is that right? Are you worried about public humiliation for survivors of sexual assault?

Please tell me. What would I, the victim of a crime, have to be embarrassed about? I feel as if a defense attorney could demand to hear about the details of my menstrual flow, or the longest I’ve ever gone without washing my hair, or any of a number of things I find more embarrassing than what was done to me and the steps I took to try to keep my family and myself relatively safe. I can’t think of a single thing a defense attorney could come up with that would do more harm than rape. Whether someone was dressed like a prostitute, was a prostitute, chose to drink a lot, chose to take drugs, was in an open relationship, was cheating, was single and mingling every night… nothing. None of these things being brought to light in public, in my opinion, would be worse than rape. Do you think these things are worse than rape?

Please, listen: rape is what they call it when someone takes you… away. Rapists separate you from your body and demolish what used to be your home and there is no going back to it. You, Mr. DA, will always take for granted that your body is your own, but there are many, many of us who live in shrapnel walls, in our own skin. I wake up every day now, and the first thought that runs through my mind is, “What will I do today to fix this?” Every day, I have to remind myself: there is no fixing this. What was taken is gone. If my body and my life were the battleground and the night I was raped was the battle, I lost.

So please, let me “embarrass” myself. Let anyone who wants to testify against a rapist do it. At least try. Give us the chance to decide whether we fight or whether we again fade away, to minimize the damage. For some, fading away is the right choice. A plea deal, no prosecution, no report… for some, these are roads to personal peace. For others, like me, there’s no choice but to fight. I’ve been waking up in a panic for 8 months now, because I didn’t fight hard enough 8 months ago. I have no further capacity to lay down and take it, and I know I’m not the only one.

Please help us fight.

With all the sincerity in the world,