Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Family, Bigger Secrets

It is important for all family and friends to pay attention to details. Behavior changes, emotional changes, everyday changes that might seem normal but, taking a closer look might just save someone from going through trauma alone. It might just save their life.

There are three response to major stress and trauma. Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Fight is clear- the victim fights back, physically and/or mentally. Flight is when you can run from the situation, which at times can go hand in hand with Fight. The freeze response is different. The freeze response happens when the victim feels like there is not a chance to get out of the situation. The victim might also be in shock of the situation and feel in ways they are "frozen" from fear. You can find more information at http://www.stressstop.com/stress-tips/articles/fight-flight-or-freeze-response-to-stress.php

Today a survivor shares about her experience along with the effects of keeping such a big secret. This girl is a strong one and I am lucky to call her my friend. <3


My family situation is very complicated because of how mixed the generations are. I am one of 5 kids for my father, but we do not all have the same mother. My father was married once before having my sister and I. The older 3 siblings are much older (~30 yrs). Old enough to make me a very young aunt to some older nieces and nephews. However, we grew up together like we were cousins.

I was experiencing the happiest time of my life…childhood. I was your typical 9 year old girl tomboy. I played sports, hung out with guys, cut my hair short, hated dresses, loved being outside and getting dirty.

He was 14 or 15. I looked up to him like I would an older brother, but he was my brother's son. I don’t really remember exactly when the first time he sexually assaulted me was, but it went on for ~4-5 years. I felt completely shocked. I had no idea how to react or what do to, so I didn't do anything. Whenever he got the chance, he would force me to touch him or force himself on me. It was like being in an outer body experience. I could see and feel it all happening, but couldn't control myself to even speak. It happened when no one was looking. Playing games outside, inside, anywhere. I can't even remember all the times it happened because it was too frequent and they all just kind of ran together. At first it was 'simple', but then it became more intrusive until it couldn’t go any farther.

He would either take me out of the room we were in, or have everyone start playing a game. Literally just do anything so everyone was distracted. I remember a couple times where there would be people in the exact same room while it happened, but none of them were paying enough attention to see what he was doing. Considering, the other people in the room were typically kids my age and we were usually playing video games, 'house', hide and seek, etc. But yet there were still times where someone could/should have noticed.

He told me not to tell anyone because what we were doing wasn’t bad. I believed him and took his word. Even though I had a bad feeling about it all I still trusted him because I loved him. I still love him. We are family.

I remember being down at the lake one time when I was about 11. I was showering and my mom was getting ready in the same bathroom. I remember asking her how girls got pregnant. I was worried and scared that I was pregnant. At that point, I kind of knew how it happened, but what I didn’t know was that your body wouldn't allow it unless you had started your period. She talked to me about it a little, but never asked me anything about my curiosity. I was alone with this GIANT secret and all these questions.

At some point after about 4 years it stopped. I was so relieved. My body had started to change and it made me feel so uncomfortable. I would have nightmares about it. I became so paranoid, not just about him but about all men.

We were at my older sister's house on the lake for a weekend with the entire family. I was 13 and he had just turned 18 going into his senior year of high school. There were over 10 of my family members sleeping in my sister's house. So people were on couches, air mattresses, and pretty much all over for sleeping. Everyone had gone to bed but I was laying on the air up mattress, with my sister. I was pretty sure she was asleep. He was sleeping on a couch just in the other room. He got up off the couch and came and laid down next to me. He started to touch me and move my hands to him. I retracted my body from his, hoping not to wake up my sister. I grabbed my cell phone and typed. "Stop. I don't want this." He saw my screen and got up then walked out of the house. It was roughly mid-night. I started to get really worried when he had not returned. He was gone for around 15 minutes and I had told myself, if he didn’t come back in 5 minutes, I was going to wake up my brother. Of course, he came back in the house before that time was up.

It freaks me out that I can still say that I love someone after all the awful things they forced me do. I know that I can't really change how I feel about that. Encountering what I did for so many years and keeping the secret, changed me. Some days it is hard to convince myself that what even happened was wrong. Some times I think it was okay.

The saddest part is that I am okay that it happened to me because it didn’t happen to somebody else. I wasn't okay with the new me, but I have learned to cope. I probably didn't go about recovering from this the best way but I managed.

I never told anyone about any of this happening until I was a sophomore in high school and we had a section of health class discussing sexual abuse. I told my friend and she convinced me to tell my parents. When I told my mom, I was so upset that I only told her about the time at the lake a few year before. I saw how much it hurt her and my father, so I thought there was no reason to completely crush them. Of course there were no charges pressed.

I got a hand written apology letter on a sticky note over a year after telling my parents from him.

I can't even remember who I was before I kept the worst secret of my life. I hope that young girls have more courage than I did, to tell the truth and don’t ever let the feelings of other obstruct from telling everything. I know that I have only made it that much harder for myself as I continue to hold this secret inside of me. But I see the effects of that night I told my mom everyday in her behavior…that night changed her.

I almost always think I shouldn't have told anyone because all it has done is create more pain for other people. But then my brain kicks in because I know I tried to do the right thing.

It took awhile for my to get through the flashbacks, months of no sleep because of nightmares, paranoia, but the day came. I can't say that the demons don't come back every now and then, but I am stronger now than I was before. I will never feel safe in the dark or by myself again. But everyday is another day that I have survived. That day gives me more strength to be stronger for the next.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hope for Humanity

I have reached out to other survivors and offered to help them tell their stories without having the backlash of victim blaming. Being comfortable enough to tell your story and getting everything out is one of the most important steps to healing. The survivors journey your are about to read will leave you with chills. Her amazing heart and strong will to fight back is truly unbelievable. Here is her story.


In the early weeks of summer 2009, I was enjoying newfound freedom as a young woman following my dreams. I had moved into my first apartment, I had a great summer job, and I was still coming down from an emotional high after completing my first year at Missouri State University. My days were filled with work, pool time, exploring and relaxing with friends I had made the past year, and singing in a graduate choir (I was majoring in vocal music education). I was finally achieving the things I had dreamt of while in high school, and (I thought) I was well on my way to becoming a well adjusted adult (at least what a 19 year old thinks an adult is).

Everything changed in the early hours of June 15th.

The night started off how most nights usually did. I got home from working an afternoon shift at Express and called my best friend (who is incidentally my husband now-we'll call him Steve for the sake of anonymity) and asked if he wanted to swim in my apartments pool. When he showed up, he called another friend over (let's call him Bob) and the three of us swam for a couple hours and then decided we would go to "Bob's" apartment and watch a movie. When we got there, it was probably 10:30. We watched a movie, the guys drank a couple of beers, and I had 1 glass of some God-awful boxed wine and decided I did NOT want anymore of that crap. Somewhere along the line, I realized I had to work the next morning and told the boys I needed to leave. "Steve" thought it would be funny to pretend to steal my car keys and take my car. I knew he was joking, so I ran outside without my shoes-laughing all of the way-to get the keys back. As we were laughing, our friend "Bob" came out and-I'm just guessing here- thought we were actually fighting. He then proceeded to try and yank the keys from "Steve" and they got into a ridiculous argument, which I honestly have no recollection of because it was literally stupid. Boys...am I right? Anyways, it all ended up with "Steve" deciding to take a walk down the street. Again...boys. Of course I followed him, with NO SHOES ON. I thought he would eventually turn around, but no. I followed him about a mile down the street...across a busy intersection, and to another friends apartment. Once we got there, I realized I had no phone, and I had no idea what time it was. I knew I had to work in the morning, so I BEGGED "Steve" to walk me back to my car because I knew if we slept there, I would be late. Being 19 and from a small, relatively crime free town, I made the decision that would change my life forever. I decided to walk the mile back to my car....by myself... around 3 in the morning.

I almost made it.

I was about a block away from my car when I was followed, attacked, dragged off of the road, and raped in a backyard by a complete stranger.

I consider myself lucky because in that moment, I was 100% positive that I was not going to be alive when the morning came. By some miracle, my attacker did leave me alive...and ran off. As soon as I could, I got up and started knocking. I knocked on the first door...no answer. I knocked on the second door...no answer. I ran across the street. I knocked I the third door...a light switched on. As soon as that light shone in the darkness I lost it. I'm sure opening the door to a young woman sobbing uncontrollably and falling on the ground would come as a shock, but as soon as the word "rape" came out of my sobs, I was ushered inside and given a blanket and sweet calming words by the most amazing people. I didn't know until later, but I had knocked on the door of a firefighter and his wife. After we called the cops, he walked the neighborhood for 15 minutes looking for my attacker. Gives me hope for humanity.

I was taken to the hospital and underwent a rape kit. Let me tell you now, they are terrible, and demeaning, and scary. A police officer took so many photos of my naked body and of my private areas. Don't get me wrong, I know they needed those photos, and I willingly agreed to anything and everything they asked because I knew it would help...but it was still awful.

I was questioned that night about a million times, and when I FINALLY got in touch with "Steve" and he showed up... It felt like I could breathe for the first time. He took me home, and I immediately got into the hottest shower I could handle and stayed in there for what felt like forever. I couldn't get clean enough.

My parents came... and we all mourned together for a while. I told them to go home early in the evening because I knew everyone still needed to process everything, and I didn't want to go home with them and leave the life that I had been trying to build. That felt like giving up. I was NOT going to give up.

I could not be left alone for weeks. I'm pretty sure "Steve" didn't get a good nights sleep for months, considering all of my nightmares, anxiety attacks, and the fact that I had to be touching him at all times during the night to feel safe. When I was finally strong enough to let him go home a few nights out of the week, I slept in my locked closet with a pair of scissors, SO sure that someone was going to come for me.

I talked to a detective a few times, and they told me they would do everything in their power to find my attacker.

It was two years before anything happened.

After I was raped. I changed. I was not ready to be back in college in the fall and I struggled rejoining my friends. I started going to parties and drinking. I didn't go to class drunk or anything like that, but it was no big deal for me to go to a party during the week instead of studying.

On Halloween I found out I was pregnant, and I left school two months later. It was hard. It was really hard... But... I pulled through.

I can honestly say that my daughter saved me. I gave birth to her the summer after I was raped. She gave me MORE than enough reasons to pull through and be myself again. I will be forever thankful to her for that.

Two days before her first birthday, I got a call. THERE WAS A POSITIVE DNA MATCH!!! One of the FIRST matches using the CODIS system for DNA matching in the state of Missouri. Sadly, it was another two years before the state had enough evidence to make a case...The wait was torture.

This past year, I had about 6 court appearances. I was lucky to have a WONDERFUL advocate and an equally wonderful attorney.

No one can prepare you for court. Nothing hurts more than hearing the defense attorney drag your name through the mud and blame the rape on you. I heard everything from "it was consensual" to "she must have been drunk" (which FYI-I wasn't...and even if I was...it still wouldn't have been okay). We offered plea deal after plea deal after plea deal. He declined them all, and never once took responsibility or apologized. In the end, we held the final trial with a jury of 12. It was unanimous- guilty on all counts. 45 years. With the new laws, he has to serve at least 85% of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. As he was being led out of the court room, he yet again proved what the mentality is for a lot of rapists, he said I was "ruining his life" and called me an awful name that I will not repeat...trying once more to exert power over me. That's what rape is...the illusion of power. Guess who has the power now?

I'm doing pretty well. There is a good chance he will appeal for a retrial, which may or may not be granted. You never know in these cases. I'm prepared to fight until the day I die, if that's what needs to happen.

I just wish I could have that girl back. She was so spunky, and free, and inspiring, and passionate, and, and, and... I could go on forever. She was stolen from me, and no matter how strong I get, how happy I choose to be, or where I end up... I will never get her back. I would have liked to see where she would have ended up in her life. I see glimpses of her sometimes in my daughter, and I know it will all end up okay. I know that I'll get out of this life what I put in...so I'm going to put in so much good that it's overflowing. I'm going to fight for other girls out there, so they won't be lost like I was. I'm going to try and do my part to spread the word, so we can end rape. For good.







Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WORD OF MOUTH

This weekend I went to pass out flyers for the benefit concert at O'Malley's on the 21st. I got a lot of mixed reactions which was expected. Some paid no mind to the poster or anything that it said, others were uncomfortable, and some were extremely nice and willing to help. But one caught me completely off guard.

I won't say where or who but I have to speak my mind with this because I want them to know how their actions and their words can effect other people. I walked into a place and was greeted by three males. They saw a part of the poster which consists of a hand holding up the rock sign, along with the title of the benefit show which is 'Rock Against Rape' along with details of when/where the event will take place. They told me how blunt that is while laughing. Then they went on to tell me that there was no beating around the bush about the topic, making jokes like "get it, no beating around the bush." They told me that alcohol is the leading factor with rape, which was bashing the concert for providing beer (because having beer at a concert is such an oxymoron concept). I was clearly uncomfortable with them making a complete joke out of not only my hard work, but at rape as whole. What made it even worse was the fact that I grew up with one of them. His personality has always been some what of a smart ass guy which he will take complete credit for. I think he likes to use "joking" as an excuse for his actions at times, which from the reaction I received-- his friends were the same way.

Let me speak directly to him for a minute. I grew up with you and have not once shown you any kind of disrespect. In return, you took what I have been working hard for and my experiences, and shit on them. Does degrading people do anything for you? Does it make your ego bigger? You could clearly see I was shocked by the welcome I received form you and you didn't let up, not even for a second. The part that really gets to me is that your pea brain didn't even consider the struggles I went through to get where I am, and that maybe I didn't deserve your smart ass comments as a side dish. Would you of treated me differently if I were your family member or your girlfriend? Or are you just that great to everyone you come in contact with (sarcasm)? I took a bad situation and made an outlet to help myself and to help others, what have you done? I have a few suggestions of what you could do. You could start by growing up, maybe that will open your eyes to see that your words can hurt just as much as actions can. Then, go back to the people your words have hurt and apologize for acting like nothing more than a bully.

I am pretty good with keeping my comments to myself to be professional but this was just something I could not let go without addressing. I have had no help with media as far as newspapers and new stations. Which I get, the topic is a hard one to tackle. Word of mouth is all that's left.

So, if you don't want to help me face it then don't hang the damn flyer... but don't you dare get in my way. This non profit was built from my experiences and I refuse to let anyone make a joke out of it. BTW... ROCK AGAINST RAPE is blunt, it's supposed to be. Also, people should really do their homework before telling a sexual assault survivor that drinking a few beers is what will get/got her raped. Alcohol IS NOT the leading cause of rape... rapist are.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rock Against Rape

If you all haven't heard for the past 6 months I've been planning a benefit concert to help get the Safe & Sound Refuge name out. It is on June 21st at the outdoor venue of O'Malley's Pub in Weston Missouri. There will be 4 bands, O'Malley's awesome beer, informational booths where you can find out ways to help and get involved, t-shirts and wristbands. Plus O'Malley's will be open so its going to be great! It's called Rock Against Rape, there will be a $5 cover and that money will go to Safe & Sound Refuge, doors open at 5.

The week of this concert will make 3 years since my life turned upside down. The steps I've made to make it here have been at times some of the hardest steps I have ever taken. I hope that with these steps I have also help others take the steps in the right directions as well. The situation was a rough one, and at times still is. I still battle with what happened but I can honestly say that it brought me to all of you. It gave me a passion for something that I would have never had otherwise. It's hard to say that it made me who I am because that would give it some sort of power, but it did open my eyes and it taught me a lot. I guess you could say that it took me to a really dark place, but I found some light... and fought until it was bright again. The process to planning an event like this has defiantly taken a lot of energy and brain power. I hope to see a great turn out and know that all of this hard work is paying off.

This is the start of something that could really make a difference. This cause is bigger than me, its bigger than all of us. It's time it gets the attention it deserves. I hope everyone that is reading this is able to make it out. This journey is finally starting to come around full circle the only thing left is to make it a successful one. "In the depths of hell, I learned who I was. It takes a strong soul to endure so much pain and heartache and still make it out alive; to not get stuck in the deep burning pit of misery. It takes a resilient creature to claw their way back up and out of darkness and back into a reality where your nightmares can finally turn into dreams." Rock Against Rape is mine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting Along with Life

Lately things have been... messy. I've always been the type to jump right back up after disappointments but I can't anymore. It's been almost three years and I'm still figuring out who I am all the while I have people telling me it's right or it's wrong. On top of disappointment after disappointment. My positivity is what got me here. It's why I survived. But there comes a point where even the most positive person loses their way... and who picks them up? I know I have to pick myself back up, but I've done it so many times now I'm tired. I have no energy left. I can't get out of this funk. But I always tell myself I wouldn't be here if there wasn't a reason. I'm strong enough to handle whatever is thrown my way. That I am resilient. Even if one thing piles on top of another. I'll figure it out. This time is just taking a lot longer. It's bad news after bad news. It's bad luck after bad luck. It's hard time after hard time. It's just draining. I'm 24 years old. It shouldn't be this hard. Should it? I just want to get along with life and be the person that has the random good luck. Or the winning streak. At this point, I'd settle for a good hair day.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Write Long and Clear About What Hurts

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "write long and clear about what hurts." It's crazy to think that even then, he knew the power of writing. Of getting it all out, in any way it comes. To let it spill out onto paper (or in my case, screen) is liberating. Even if no one sees it. It's a way to tell exactly what you are feeling, exactly as it is happening and exactly how you want it to say it.

When you write you get to do all of these things without anyone telling you that you are wrong. This journey is a process, a process that takes a lot of time and most of the time is focused on finding yourself again and rebuilding. You can't rebuild if you have no way of releasing emotions, on top of having people tell you how to deal and how to feel. Because honestly, you can go to all the counseling you want but until you reach down and find these words and spill them out you won't go anywhere. Spill them off of your lips or onto paper, on a screen or onto a canvas. But, get it out.

I can say without a doubt if I hadn't done this blog I would still be the lost, hot mess girl I was. I thought I was better than my feelings before, I could go just go though the motions. Go through the prosecution process with no help and no voice other than my "yes" "no" or "I don't know" answers that were my options on the trial stand. I thought at the time that was all I needed. That standing up was enough. But standing up means nothing if no words come out with it. Not after a while. After a while, my legs got tired. I needed to rely on something else.

There is a question I started to ask myself, and I asked myself everyday until I made it to where I am now. "Do you want to look back and know that you got through this situation and survived it, or do you want to look back and know that you got through this situation, survived it and lived past it??? Because if you do, you better start relying on more than just standing there."

I took Mr. Hemingway's advice. "Write long and clear about what hurts." When it hurts I write, until it stops; until I'm past it... and so can you.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I NEVER SAW IT COMING

Today I want to share one girls unbelievable story of survival. She was brave enough to write her journey out for all of you to see. I want to thank her for reaching down deep and reliving her story so everyone who reads this can hopefully take something away from it. You are one in the very few of us that is telling your story. I promise you that the people who read this will walk away from their computer screens with more compassion towards this crime than they did when they sat down. You are an amazing woman and know that I am always here.

I NEVER SAW IT COMING
My story of rape and survival

I was a 22 year old drug addict and I was raped. For a long time I let myself believe that what happened in hotel room 314 was my fault and it’s a constant struggle to believe otherwise. Who I was… I grew up in the country where you left your doors unlocked and knew every one in your high school. I always knew there were dangerous people, I watched the news and was crazy about crime scene shows, all of which show rapists. I wasn't naïve per say but I definitely wasn't exercising any type of caution. For almost a year I had been with my girlfriend and we both had a serious problem, DRUGS. More specifically, methamphetamines, and everyday we would do the same thing over and over again. Make her son breakfast, take him to school, clean the kitchen, make her daughter breakfast, and clean the kitchen again. Go to the basement to smoke a bowl, geek out on our electronics, make her daughter lunch, and smoke another bowl while she eats in her high chair. Put her daughter in the bath, smoke another bowl, and call the dealer man. On occasion I would show up to my part time job at the local hardware store and I have to admit that happened mainly when I needed to make some “fast cash.”

I was living in what felt like a whole other universe, up for days to weeks at a time and I had lost all sense of what was real and imaginary. We had a house in a quiet neighborhood but at night it was filled with the most wanted and watched drug dealers in the city. Now I refer to them as scumbags but back then they were my friends, my life line.

Raped...
It was the regular crowd of people at the house that night except for an older man I had never met before. He was a friend of a friend who had a good connection and his drugs were quality, so here he was. This was the first night in about a week that I had joined everyone to smoke. I had been feeling depressed about my life and my choices lately. Reality was catching up to me and that was a terrifying thought so I decided to get high. Like normal we sat in a circle all of us staring at the TV in the corner of the room, watching the camera’s that had been strategically placed in the back yard, front yard, driveway and front door. We never saw anything on those cameras except for other friends showing up, ironically. Most days my girlfriend and I would head in around 6 to shower and get fresh. On this particular day I chose to stay behind and smoke a little bit more. It was down to just me, one other girl and the guy I had never met. He looked harmless, drugged out of his mind maybe but harmless. So when he asked me for a ride down to the Extended Stay Inn to pick up some money he was owed, I said yes. On the way there we stopped at a gas station to get a drink, he went inside alone while I stayed in the car. When he came out he handed me my drink, which had already been opened, I didn’t think much about it or at all really before downing the whole thing.

When we got to the hotel he asked me to come upstairs to the room, he said I couldn’t wait in the car. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stay in the car but I assumed it would just take a couple minutes to get the cash and leave. WRONG. We walked to the 3 floor of this hotel and at the top of the stairs he took a room key from his pocket. This I definitely found odd, “why did he already have a key?” Ignoring that tingle in the back of my mind I followed him into room 314 and was only semi shocked to see the place empty. I heard the door latch and the locks slide into place behind me and instantly that tingle was back. But within minutes I was extremely dizzy and confused, I couldn’t even stand, so he was gentlemanly enough to help me sit down on the bed. The last thing I remember was him standing between my legs holding my face in his hands, and he was staring at me with this blank look. That was when I realized I wasn’t just falling out because I was high, this was different, I had been drugged.

I don’t know exactly how long I had been out or what all had happened but when I came too I was being raped. For another 3 hours I stayed in that hotel room, I tried to run once, had the door open but before I could stick my foot out into the hall he had his hand in my hair. A scream tore through me as he ripped chunks of my hair free and at that same time I saw the horrified look on the face of a housekeeper, just a couple doors down. He pulled me back in the room and continued on with his course of action. Of all the things to be running through your head at a time like this “I have to be at work at 12” was not at all what I had expected. I was begging and pleading for him to let me leave and after what felt like eternity he told me we were finished. I rushed to put my clothes on (I can still remember the exact outfit) and escape this hell but before I could he had me pinned against the door, pushing his weight into me he whispered “get on the ground and bark bitch, because I won.” After all this would you believe I still drove him back to my house and dropped him off, yeah me either. But that is exactly what I did and then headed of to work like nothing had happened. Just hours after clocking in I was confronted by the cashier, she wanted to know what caused the bruises on my face. I hadn’t even looked in the mirror yet, so to hear there were bruises was a shock. Right there in the middle of isle 11 I had a mental break down. My feet moved on their own accord, taking me out of the store and to my parent’s house. I slept and cried for hours before I had the courage to look in the mirror. What I saw horrified me, bruises covering my thighs, butt, stomach, arms, neck and face, bruises so deep and purple you could make out each finger and where it dug into my flesh. I showered until the water ran cold, I scrubbed my skin until it was raw and bleeding and I cried. For days I didn’t acknowledge what had happened, I couldn't it was to hard. Days later I went back to my girlfriends and there he was. All the shame and fear came rushing back to me as I stood there face to face with the man who ruined me. And then I left, just got in my car and drove. I told one person at a time about my attack and nobody ever heard the complete story.

I spent months in denial, at some point I had switched my addiction from meth to alcohol and I truly believed it was helping. I could spend every night happy and outgoing, as long as I was drunk, and the only time I wasn’t drunk was when I was asleep. To me my life was going just fine; in fact I felt it was getting better. I had quit doing meth; I was getting back in touch with my friends and family, putting effort into the renovation of my home and was managing to work a couple hours a week. But looking back I see that was my life spiraling out of control. Seven months later… I felt ready to become romantically involved (for the first time since...) it was with a long time friend that I trusted 100%; he and I had been intimate many years before. I had all these fairy tale ideas of how it would happen in my head, it would be passionate and fulfilling; unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan. Just 20 minutes into the physical part of things I panicked and shut myself in the bathroom. I had the water running full blast as hot as it would go, I couldn’t breathe, and all I could hear was him pounding on the door pleading with me to come out. I know now that what happened that night was called a flashback, even though my friend didn’t approach me in a violent or unwanted manor my mind went right back to that night in the hotel. I’m not sure how long I sat there in that bathroom but when I woke up the next day I was laying on his bed, alone.

Shame, regret, helplessness, fear; those were just some of the feelings that were swirling through my head the first time I told a guy I cared for about my attack. I knew the reaction wasn’t going to be easy; I sat there staring at the ceiling while telling him the details. He did the typical he-man thing and went into a complete rage. “How could you not have reported it? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you call me, I would have done something” To some of you those questions might seem appalling, but this guy and I went back several years. He knew me as the feisty hands on person I used to be. I couldn’t answer those questions for him though; I had asked myself the same ones over and over again. I left the safety of his couch to go make myself a drink before I could speak again. I looked at him over the rim of my vodka sprit and said “Because I was high, that’s why! Now let’s forget it ever happened and move on to some drinking!” He looked at me like I was crazy, but I guess he could sense the fact that I was about to break because he didn’t push the subject any further.

Recovery…
Just over a year after the attack I was still plagued by these awful thoughts and nightmares that seemed so real I'd wake up covered in sweat and crying. It was to hard to face the reality of the situation. I hated that I never tried to prosecute the man who raped me and although I told a few select people about my rape I hadn't attempted to seek any sort of help. Sure, I had changed a lot about myself in the time since my attack; I started a full time job working at a nice hotel, moved into my condo and even adopted 2 kittens, by all accounts I was doing fine. And that's how it would appear to anyone other than the person staring back at me from the mirror. I still couldn't stand to be touched my a man and this coming from the over sexed individual I was for many years before, I thought about my attacker for what seemed like 18 out of the 24 hours in a day. After so many nightmares I began to think he was following me, every tree branch blowing or leaf rustling made me jump out of my skin. I purchased pepper spray which stayed with me at all times, just walking to the car was "white-knuckle" experience for me. I kept a baseball bat by my front door and a hunting knife on my night stand, I had a ritual of double checking each window and door lock (4 deadbolts and a security door) every night before bed, and still I would lay there listening to every noise holding my breath and clutching the sheets at my side ready to spring up at any moment. Then one day I was scrolling through Facebook when I found a blog a friend of mine had posted. She talked about her rape case and how she was fighting like hell to overcome everything. It touched my heart in a way I'll never be able to fully explain. To read another woman's story and know that I wasn't the only one who had suffered so much was a breaking point for me. I decided right there that I was going to get help but first I was going to ask how. For days I thought about how I should word what I was going to say to her, how was I going to come out and say that "I need help" while still keeping some dignity. There is no way to plan how a conversation will go and this one couldn't have had a better outcome.

I logged onto Facebook during my lunch break and pulled up her message screen, I typed up a short paragraph explaining the basics. I had been raped, never sought help and was suffering from some pretty brutal panic attacks and nightmares. Within minutes she had responded, she explained to me that not all victims seek help immediately but it doesn't me that their doomed. She told me that what I was about to do was going to be one of the hardest things I'd ever have to do, and she was right. Facing your attack means facing all those disgusting feelings it caused in the first place, it means coming to terms with the fact that you will never be the same but that doe not mean you are bad or worse in any way it just means that you'll be a little different. Before we signed off from that first chat she told me that she was free 24 hours a day any day if I needed to talk or just needed someone to be there. I hadn't seen or spoken to this particular friend in years, not since high school really, but she gave me a shoulder to cry on hypothetically speaking.

For the next couple weeks we carried on simple conversations, it was always a welcome surprise to be online when my message board would pop up with a little cheery message from her. It took a while but she finally made me feel comfortable enough with myself that I could attend an anonymous support group. The first meeting was so overwhelming, I sat in the back silently weeping into my crumpled Kleenex as woman after woman took the spot light to talk about their own attacks. I left halfway through the session, it was to much to handle. In that moment listening to those other women I realized all over again I was here because I was raped. I told my friend the next day that I had made it to a group meeting but that I didn't speak and I couldn't even stay the whole time, it was just to hard. She didn't judge me like I was afraid she would she just simply told me that "each time I go it will get easier and easier the main thing is that you have to keep going." So I did I kept going to my anonymous meetings and every week it got a little bit easier.

I have been attending the same support group for months and even though in the beginning I felt like I was never going to be able to move on I feel now like I have made baby steps of progress. The first time I tried to tell my personal story I chocked on my words and ran out of the room crying, the second time I made it a little farther along before I ran from the room, I tried several times before I was able to get through my whole experience without leaping from the spot light. The amount of relief that washed over me when I had spoken my last word though was unbelievable, it felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders ( sorry for the awful cliché's.) When I looked up at the faces in front of me I couldn't have imagined the sincerity and kindness I saw staring back, not only did these women share the same type of sexual assault as me but they were sharing the same recovery as me too. But now they all knew my story just like I knew theirs.

Today…
Since that first day after my attack I have grown so much as a person. I will not lie and say that I never think of my attacker because I do, I will not tell you that I don't look at every man on the street like he's a rapist because in fact I still do this too, however I'm trying to come to terms with this reaction. I won't sit here and write that my life is full of all wonderful days with happiness and sunshine because some days I still cry, I still have nightmares and I still have panic attacks. Everyday I am getting stronger and I have a lot of people to thank for that. My family and friends who stood by me when I eventually came out with the truth, the ladies in my support group who listened to me cry for hours from the back of the room, to the police officer who pulled me over and didn't judge me for only rolling my window down an inch, and last but not least I would like to thank Michelle with Safe & Sound Refuge for helping me seek the help that I needed. I know for a fact I wouldn't be standing here today smiling if it wasn't for your generosity and encouragement. This is a life long struggle and I hope that at least one person will read this and either have a changed opinion of rape or give a woman the courage to seek help.

If there is one thing I have learned through this whole experience it is that you cannot go through this alone, even if you have just one friend who is always there to hold your hand, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a support system. At first it will be the hardest thing you've ever done to reach out for help, but trust me you will find it.