From Belle Knox: An Open Letter to Alyssa Funke, Who Must Never Be Forgotten

The similarities between us are chilling.

May 23, 2014 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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Dear Alyssa,

When I first heard your story, my eyes immediately filled with tears. A rush of emotions overwhelmed me: outrage, anger, shock and then, a sort of humming dread and disgust. Inside my chest, I felt a gnawing sensation. My body shivered.

That could’ve been how it all ended for me, too, I thought to myself.

As several news outlets have pointed out, your story is my story is your story -- is every young porn girl's story. The same tragedy, the same parents' nightmare, the same slut-shaming following an impulsive decision to make an X-rated video for the Internet that captures our sexuality -- for pay no less -- forever.

The similarities between us are indeed chilling.

We were both straight A students. Like you, I have battled depression for years. I too was a freshman in college when I was outed as a porn performer. We even shot for the same website, where I had an experience that traumatized me to this day. And, just like you, I was bullied relentlessly by my fellow students for my actions as a porn performer. I was threatened with death, rape, and heinous acts of violence. I was called every derogatory name in the book -- every horrible epithet that society slings at sexual women.

I am not sure why you chose to perform in a porn scene. Perhaps it was for economic necessity, or perhaps it was merely a fun adventure for you. The reasons are irrelevant. You made a choice, to do what you wished with your body, of your own free will, and for that I will never judge you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you did, and quite frankly, I admire your courage and your confidence.

I have read the criticism that because I have said I feel "empowered" by porn that I am somehow encouraging other young women to go down this same path. Absolutely not. Your story is proof of that. Until our society's first inclination is not to verbally stone and shame a woman to death for participating in pornography, it will always be a deadly business.

And I feel as if we are bonded forever by the deep scars we bore as the unwitting recipients of society's anger and shame.

All I wish now is that I could have known you -- that I could have really known you -- to tell you how much I understand that special kind of hell.

But I learned yesterday, our forever bond has been tragically broken. I learned that the pain and the sadness finally became too much for you.

You are gone. But what you taught me will never go away.

You have shown me the other side of the tunnel, an ending I must never forget I could have just as easily taken.

I have not talked about this much, but I will tell you, Alyssa, that soon after I was outed, when the bullying and the harassment was at its worse, after being so strong for so long, I broke down, laid in bed, and I cried. I thought about the look on my parents' faces when they would inevitably discover my profession. I thought about how I would forever be the porn star, and my college experience would never be the same. I felt stained as forever "less than." My world was imploding. I felt the most depressed I have ever felt in my whole life. I felt so very overwhelmed, isolated, and helpless. My mind ventured to its darkest corners.

I wanted to just die. I fantasized of what this would do to my bullies and tormenters. I went to the most morbid places I ever thought possible.

The headline even flashed before my eyes: "Duke porn star commits suicide."

In my bleak state it sounded so beautiful. Maybe my bullies would regret what they'd done. I thought of my parents crying and wondering what had gone so horribly wrong and why I didn't tell them. At least I wouldn't have to face them.

It all seemed so hopeless.

But then I felt a flicker of hope inside of me. I kept going.

My God how I wish I could have been able to reach to you.

I wish I could have done something. I wish I could have held you tight and told you about all of the great things you are meant to do in this world. I would have told you that it does get better, past the darkness -- and that the ignorance of some asinine college students today would have no significance in your life in a few years, when you were a successful, bad-ass anesthesiologist just like you said you were going to be. I would instill in you that your self-worth is not predicated on your sexuality, and that you have every right to live your life as you choose.

All I know is that my anger for what happened to you is ineffable. I am so sorry that you were treated with such cruelty and vitriol. I sincerely hope that the people who bullied you are brought to justice.

You were an intelligent, beautiful, and compassionate young lady who, despite what everyone told you, did not ruin her life when you shot that scene.

There is a reason many women are drawn to porn: Because we are not supposed to do it. It's a flirtation with the unknown, the edge, the dark side, everything society tells us we are not supposed to do.

I do not think pornography caused your death. But I think society's reaction to pornography did.

It's time that we end slut shaming and treat sex workers with respect and tolerance. How many more people need to die before we realize that the hatred needs to end?

I will never forget you, Alyssa.