For all of us.
In August 2002, I became one you. I was raped by someone I liked and trusted in a space that should have been safe; my own bed. I told my friends, shrugging it off. I didn’t know it was rape, despite having said no repeatedly, because under other circumstanced, I might have willingly said yes.
In fall 2002 I struggled to get out of bed. I cried excessively for what I thought was no reason. I saw a doctor reporting my lethargy and was given iron supplements. I started therapy and was informed that I seemed healthy and well-adjusted. I never told either provider about my rape because I didn’t know. I was at a school with one of the preeminent anti violence programs in our country and I never knew they existed. I cried the first time someone touched me after I was raped. I was humiliated and paralyzed and convinced I was broken.
It was early in 2006 when I admitted to myself what had happened. I became a cliche, crying as I pored over Alice Sebold’s Lucky. She describes her own brutal attack and as I read, I thought “Well, I guess I was lucky.” Pages later she learns of a friend who was similarly attacked, but she judged to have had a worse experience and thinks to herself, “I was lucky.” It was that moment that my heart shattered from the recognition. Trauma doesn’t exist on a scale of better or worse, it is painful and difficult and isolating, regardless of how it came to find you. Accepting my own trauma was excruciating, but ultimately it saved me.
It was fall 2006 when I connected with a rape crisis hotline, asking to volunteer. I was trained with a class of maybe 20 others. I didn’t know the weeks in this training would be my chrysalis. i was no longer alone. There were people who cared about this issue, people who knew what I had been through and believed it was wrong. I relished the opportunity to give this space to others like me. I found family in the anti-sexual violence advocacy community. I found a home, and I found my voice.
It would be a lie to say I’ve never looked back. I look back frequently to see the difference between then and now. I’ve questioned many things in my life, but I have never, not for a moment, wondered if this line of work is for me. I am here to stay because I believe this world can be different. I believe it is possible to live in a world free from sexual violence. I have ideas, I have passion, and I hope to always listen with my heart and inform my actions from what I’ve heard.
I hope I’ve helped more than I’ve hurt, though I take no credit for the success of individuals who have sat in my office or called my phone- it is my job, but more than that it is my moral imperative, to assist. Any success that results is your own and I am proud of you for finding it, humbled to have been a part of it. I do, however, want to take full responsibility for any shortcomings. There are days I am not 100%, I’m stretched thin, I fall victim to compassion fatigue. But I promise you, my family, my community, my home, I will do my best, I will work harder, I will give more, and we will see progress together.
Dear Survivors; I hear you when you speak up and I hear you when you don’t, because I am you. Love and healing to us all.