She never expected to be where she is today. Happy. Alive.
Five years ago she hated herself. Each day keeping a secret she couldn't face. A secret she told herself never existed.
She only wondered.
She wondered why when the love of her life came up from behind her she couldn't breathe. Or when someone told her she was fine she froze. She wondered why she couldn't let him breathe on her neck without clenching up. Without having an anxiety attack. But she forced herself. She forced herself to push those feelings away. It was only because she didn't like it, she told herself.
Until one day the feelings became clear. She sat in a cold, overcrowded classroom with many windows but only one door. As they talked about power and coercion. She began to panic. Her breaths became faster, her memories became more clear. As she sat in that class she couldn't sit anymore. She ran. Faster than she had run before with unfamiliar steps. Memories flashed, her heart races. She couldn't run anymore. They had trapped her. The memories she couldn't un-see. The memories of him.
She remembered that she used to like him. The one who played sports and won her over with his charm. He was popular, the boy they all wanted to date. He was cocky, ignorant, but charming. Charming enough for her to make excuses.
He only did it because he liked her, she told herself. He didn't see her crying, she said.
She wondered why playgrounds haunted her. Why she could no longer look at a baseball field the same. Why the bushes in the back of the park scared her.
Her running was faster now. Faster than before. Memories flashed her heart races. She couldn't run anymore. He had trapped her.
Trapped her in the back seat of his car, the first time. Pushed her hands against the car door. Turned her head to the side. Whispered to her that she was fine. Breathed down her neck. Pulled her underwear to the side. Shoved his dick inside of her.
But the excuses prevailed. The excuses led her away from the truth. Her innocence blinded her.
He only did it because he liked her, she told herself.
She met him again.
This time hoping. This time telling herself more and more that he didn't see her crying.
Her running wasn't as fast now. Memories flashed but her heart didn't race. She wasn't running anymore. She had trapped herself.
Trapped herself in denial that he could have done this. Not wanting to remember how she trusted him the second time. How they went to a park with a baseball field. How as they walked and turned the corner he pulled her behind the bushes. How when he bent her over she could see the children playing on the playground. How when the tears were rolling down her face he still couldn't see.
But he did.
It was his turn to make the excuses now. Excuses for what he had done.
She wanted it, he said. She was easy, he told them.
Her sixteen year old self was gone, but it was the 21 year old that faced the pain.
Years and years she had trapped herself. The constant denial eating away.
She hated herself, sat in the shower and debated herself.
The razor in her hand, tears rolling her cheeks, curled in the bottom pits of her own hell.
She looked at her reflection on the shower wall, took one last breath, and put the razor down.
It was the first step.
She got up, wiped her tears, left her reflection in the shower, told her boyfriend she loved him, sat down with her parents, hoped it would never happen to her little sister, started working for a rape crisis center, but most importantly she told her story.
She told her story with the intent that it would help at least one person.
It had been months now. The counseling had gotten a little easier, and her anger was less.
And one night she fell asleep. She had felt better than she did on most days and thats when it happened.
She dreamt of him.
She had been dreaming for a little while now, when suddenly the dream stopped and soft white clouds took the place of where her dream had been.
She looked down at herself before she noticed that there was a shadow off in the distance, a shadow standing on top of a hill.
She was wearing a long flowing and pure white dress. Barefoot she walked forward. The clouds still surrounding her as she walked up the hill to find out what the shadow may be.
She wasn't scared. She walked with her heart open and a sense of compassion. She could see the shadow now. The pain in its eyes. It was him.
She thought she would be angry. But she was wrong. She kept walking. Each step representing her journey. Her healing.
She was in front of him now. Inches away he stood at the top of that hill. She wasn't sure what it meant or why she didn't want to hurt him.
Instead she did something that surprised her. She forgave him, kissed his forehead, and let him go.
She woke up the next morning with only one last thing to realize.
It was no longer her.
It was me.
A terrible thing happened when I was 16. I was raped. And for so long it was a part of who I was. It controlled my life, made it hard for me to be in a relationship, and it held me back from the person that I wanted to be.
But most importantly I let it define me.
The journey of recovery isn't easy, it’s frustrating. But it doesn't mean that you can’t do it.
I think that it takes an everyday reminder that you can push through the feelings of self hate, or worthlessness.
You have to remember that it wasn't your fault and that it’s not about what you could or should have done.
It’s easy to be angry and to hold onto the hate. To be influenced by the media who tells you what you should be doing. But that doesn't matter. The hard truth is that it can happen to anyone even if you do everything “Right” .
Rape is not okay, and I would never wish it upon anyone. No one deserves to have their power taken away from them.
But one thing that I have to say to survivors is that I'm proud of you. Even accepting what has happened to you is a step and by this you can only move forward. Do not give up, even when you are frustrated. Even if it feels like the flash backs will never go away. They will go away and the journey will get better with every step that you take. You have the right to feel how you feel.
Finally, I think that it takes great compassion to move forward, to forgive the person who did this to you. To look at that person with sorry eyes. To tell yourself that something must have happened in their life to make them think that this act is okay.
You will reach this point, you just have to push yourself. Be the better person and know that you are not alone along your journey.
Now, I challenge you. Push past the fear of vulnerability and work with me to start a movement in spreading our stories. For I believe vulnerability shows us the truth of who we really are.