Dear John

When I was sixteen years old I was sexually assaulted at a resort in Peurto Vallarta, Mexico. I was leaving the hotel’s disco around ten thirty at night, when one of the bartenders followed me out of the club. He came up to me from behind, took hold of my arms, and told me that he was going to walk me back to my hotel room.

I told him no, but he insisted, digging his hands, hard into the tops of my arms and the nook of my elbow.

Instead of taking me back to the room, he dragged me far down into the darkened open-air theatre.

Pushing me into a seat, he held on my arms, and told me that he loved me.

You don’t love me I whispered.

I love you, I love you, he whispered back.

I remember watching myself sitting in that seat – almost as if I was looking down from above, or from the side – my body, immobile, my voice, gone. I felt unable to scream and unable to fight back, too afraid to move; I shouted over and over again in my head, telling myself to run away, to punch and kick him, knee him in the balls, scratch his face, tell him to fuck off, do whatever it takes.

I watched myself sitting there in the chair; and as I sat there I felt my heart beating so hard I imagined it punching its way right out of my body, and I felt this man’s hands all over my skin, over me, his sticky, foul lips on my face, and I cried.

I cried, and I cried, and I said no, please, no, no, no, please.

No, no, no, I said it again, and again. Please.


Yes, he said. Yes, yes, please, yes. Again and again.


And then he put his hands under my skirt, into my underwear.

And through my sobs I managed to cry out. NO.

And he stopped.

I’ll never forget the look of absolute disgust he gave me, as he stood up, and brushed his hand on the shirt, his shorts.

As if it was his decision to stop. As if I was nothing.

You are nothing he said. Don’t tell anyone. They won’t believe you.

And I didn’t.

I was too ashamed, too horrified.

Because I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done anything. Why I hadn’t screamed, why I hadn’t fought back.

Why I had been afraid of causing a scene. Why I had been afraid of hurting this man’s feelings.

And I remained afraid.

There have been other similar situations since that night where I have a similar powerlessness.

Times where men, sometimes faceless, sometimes not, have said things to me, yelled down a sidewalk, whispered them at parties, or mumbled the on the bus – words that debase me, strip me of my humanity, words that remind me that I am a sum of my parts – I am hair, breasts, legs, ass – a body.

Not brain, heart – not strength.

Not a person.

And I remain silent. Still.

Burning with shame at my silence, my stillness.

And this happened to me again, two nights ago.

And this is what I would like to say to that man, so drunk on a mix of himself and spirits, careening about the world defined by a complete disregard for not only my humanity, but the humanity of all other women:

Dear John,

You are not a gift.

You are a predator.

Your lechery makes me feel like garbage, because I want to yell obscenities in your face – but I don’t because we are in a social setting and I don’t want to make a scene.

But you know this, don’t you?

You know that because I am polite I won’t tell you to fuck off, or physically assault you, and because of this, you are happy to continue to harass and verbally assault me.

You make inappropriate comments about my physical appearance.

(Because that is what I am to you – a physical appearance, and nothing more.)

And because of this, you do not understand that you do not have a right to speak to me. You do not have the right to dance with me.

You may not just sit down.

I am twenty-seven years old. You are seventy-two.

I am married.

You are old enough to be my grandfather.

And I hear that you’re upset – you think others are treating you unfairly.

I would recommend opening your eyes, and realizing that the problem is not other people.

The problem is you.


Published by

Vanessa Woznow

Writer, runner, ranter, reader. I write about all things.

18 thoughts on “Dear John”

  1. It seems there are so many of us who have lost our voices over the years. You are a much braver 27yo than I am. Maybe in time, I will find the strength you have. Maybe in time, I too will find my voice. But for now, I take comfort in yours. You give a voice to many girls like us. Thank you for being brave.

    1. Thank you very much for this comment. If there is anything I can do to help others find their voice, or find comfort, I will keep doing it – it gives me strength to keep fighting – for myself and all others.

  2. were you able to report the perp from PV Mex? (i have a negative feeling about PV Mex and have already guessed that “nothing could be done.” ) this darling john fellow, seems like SOMETHING CAN BE DONE. you indeed are not only demonstrating bravery, but also the tough character trait of contronting demons, the internal ones. hope they are but residual vestiges before long.

  3. The more I learn about you, the more I see we have in common. I have also been sexually assaulted, twice now, once when I was only 14, and then again when I was 27. Both by people I trusted at the time.

    The first time, I fought back with all my might and I paid for it. I have never been so bruised and broken before. I am glad you didn’t fight at such a young age, it makes you feel weak and pathetic I know at the time, but what could have happened is so much worse.

    The second time I tried, I wanted to, but even just trying to push him away with my hands I could feel just how much stronger he was than me, and now, him being so much older and stronger than the first guy, I was afraid of the damage he could really do – I felt weak for not fighting back this time. But, I did as you did, I kept saying no, don’t please stop, over and over and it didn’t make a difference.

    There is something wrong with these people. The people they assault are not the worthless ones. I don’t even like thinking of myself as a victim because it has so many negative connotations. I have been able to persevere, despite the actions of malicious souls. I have not let their actions stop me from having a great life, from realising the potential stored within me, when I know they never will amount to anything.

    They will never know the kind of happiness I know from my loved ones, my family, my love of myself despite the horrible things that have been done to me. They aren’t a reflection of the quality of my being, they are a reflection of the quality of theirs. They are the victim, they are the ones who lack strength, courage and love.

    You are courageous, you are strong, you are love.

    1. It breaks my heart to read about your experiences and I wish over and over that these things had never happened. Your words communicate just how strong you are – and I find strength in your words.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. Your courage, your strength, and your love make the world a better place.

  4. You have so much more strength than you think. Always remember that. You are so brave for posting this. You have let other people know that they are not alone.

  5. I was for most of my life a victim of rape and sexual abuse before the age of 10 by two seperate members of my extended family. It went on for years and for the longest time I pushed all that stuff so deep down that no one could ever know. as a result of that I never let anyone in and was distant and removed for most of my life. Up until my early twenties I never spoke a word of it to anyone, but got to a point where I couldn’t take the burden anymore. I got help and opened up a part of me that no one ever knew.
    And I got better…mostly. I no longer am a victim to it because for years I let it dictate my whole life and even without people knowing it was who I was. Every calculated experience and word from my lips was a result of it, making me just a shadow of my true self. And I got fed up with living that way.
    I opened up to friends and family and started the process of healing. There is still a stigma on men who have gone through it but it has helped to be open with it.

    I’m still left with some scars. Many times I feel inadquite and weird, and i still hesitate to let people in, I overanalyze everything sometimes and second guess peoples intentions at times, but my life has never been as free.

    I’m sorry to hear that you had to deal with this too (as so many people have and so many who have never voiced it). If you ever need to talk I’m sure you know you have a big support system.

    Thank you for sharing. The more we speak out, the more we can help those who are defenseless

    1. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for speaking out. I feel as though I have so many things I would like to say to you, but my words are inadequate to communicate the emotions and wishes I have for you both now, and for your ten year old self.

      So I will just say thank you again.

      It means more than I can say.

      1. Thank you. I think there is so much focus on the prosecution of these types of people but we need more focus on the survivors of it. It’s not something that ever goes away completely and we need to be able to lift each other up.

  6. Love your writing lately…you took something terrible and painful, and turned it into literature. I’m so sorry that happened to you, lovely lady. But I’m glad because you’re brave and strong, and that you’ve found love. :) There’s a certain kind of power being able to write down exactly what you want or need to say, but can’t. At least, that’s what’s always drawn me to words. They’re powerful stuff, indeed.

  7. It breaks my heart reading what you’ve been though.You are such a strong and courageous women. Not just for because of the awful things you have been though and had the strength to continue with your life but to inform others they are not alone. I sincerely hope you have found solace. X

  8. Good on you for speaking up. You are such a wonderful and good person- you don’t deserve to feel degraded because of the harsh words and actions of a man. It makes me sad and angry at the same time that someone could treat you this way.
    I have been through a similar situation with someone I was close to in the past. The negative emotions from situations such as these are so hard to remove. But we can only do our best to maintain all of our positivity in the present and future, so that this negativity no longer holds power over us.

    Sending you all my loving thoughts.

    “We are all angels with one wing, the only way to fly therefore is to embrace one another.”

    1. What a beautiful quote – thank you for this.

      I too am sorry to hear that you have gone through something similar. You have such a great attitude and outlook on how to move upward from these events – it’s one I too try to emulate on my life.

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