• Leah Burgess

To Harmdoers: Letters From A Victim Advocate (part 3)


I used to think anyone that sexually assaulted a person was a monster! That all changed in November 2012. I accepted a job as a Victim Advocate on a Sex Offender Supervision Unit; working primarily in a probation office. My entire world shifted as it pertained to how to advocate for victims. Up to this point (10 years) I had spent all of my time in Victim Advocacy hearing and bearing witness to the stories of countless survivors and victims of sexual violence and interpersonal violence altogether. I thought I understood what an offender was looking for. I thought I understood what was best for victims and survivors. I was wrong. And. I was right!

I decided to write this letter because sexual violence affects us all. I decided to write this letter because many of us (survivor-advocates) have quite a bit to say to the people who've sexually assaulted us. We have quite a bit to say to the people who have sexually assaulted the men, women, and children that we have advocated for. I can't speak for all of us, this note is from Leah to you.

I decided to write this letter because I care about your overall health. When you are healthy our communities are healthier and safer! You (harmdoers) are part of my community, family, and probably friend circles. I need you to thrive. I need you to dig deeper and be better. I need you to know that you can live whole & free too!

The first time I sat in a sex offender treatment group (part of my job requirement) I had the most interesting culture shock. Shocked because the men that filed into that small room looked HUMAN. They looked like men I'd dated, men I loved, men I worked with, men I worship with at church. Of course some of them fit the stereotypical description of a sex offender, but the majority of those men and women looked just like US!

I pen this letter to harmdoers. The men, women, and youth that have sexually assaulted others. I need you to know that what you did and/or are doing is hurtful, humiliating, and destructive! But I also need you to know that regardless of the trauma inflicted survivors/victims tend to fight until they are whole & free! I also need you to know that what you did and/or are doing after the assault is worse. Whenever you lie or deny that you committed this act of violence it creates an atmosphere of blame toward the victim(s).

I'm writing this letter as a testimony to my own faith, courage, and fortitude not because I hope you like what I have to say - but that you hear what the spirit of God is saying through me! I need you to speak the truth whenever you are asked about the assault. I need you to deny the temptation to lie. I need you to stop looking for the victim(s) to apologize to him/her and reconcile the violence with God in Heaven & be responsible on earth! I need you to NEVER blame a victim(s) for the violence he/she survived ever! I need you to challenge the men around you if you ever hear men & boys use words that objectify women and girls. I need you to STOP looking for reasons to ignore that still small voice inside of you encouraging you to repent. I need you to seek out accountability partners & therapeutic interventions so that you can understand your risk factors for re-offending. I need you to be sober. I need you to stop endangering the lives of children, the elderly, and disabled! I need you to be responsible & to have concern for others! I need you to know that your needs sexual or otherwise are NEVER more important than the needs of others!

Praying for your health, responsibility, truth, and freedom!

Be The Salt,

Leah


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