Surviving is the Only Way

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*TRIGGER WARNING: this article deals with sexual assault*

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

What was it like to sit in the courtroom accused of rape? What went through your head? What made you do it to a young innocent 12-year-old girl? Ruining her life? Having her childhood traumatized by you? Why was it so easy to walk away? Was it worth it? I WAS 12. 12! You took advantage of an innocent young girl. You did it not me. I was too scared to fight you off, I tried to get away, but you were bigger, stronger.

What was it like? I feel like I am being watched. There are eyes on me constantly. No matter where I am, or who I am with, I feel a constant uneasiness. No one understands how I feel. The knock on the door? It sends me into a panic and running for a safe place I can’t find. Those that are here to protect me are telling me I am over-reacting. Am I? I should have known a 19-year-old should not be paying this much attention to a 12-year-old. I am so naïve. I should have stopped it. The night terrors have me believing they are real and I am living another nightmare. I don’t think I actually sleep. When I close my eyes I see his face. It haunts me. Is he here in my house? Is this just a dream? I don’t feel safe anywhere, especially alone. I sleep in the hallway of my house just in case he tries to find me and I can run to my father’s room for help. This rape trauma is far from over. I think I am coping with the trauma by putting it on the back burner and pretending it didn’t happen. But in reality by thoughts are racing still and I am so worried he is going to try and kill me.

After 9 years of facing demons, looking over my shoulder, having night terrors and blaming myself, my life is not over. Being a rape victim, I cannot answer the questions of why he did it, but I can tell you I’m no longer a victim. I cannot tell you how long it has taken me to reach this point. To get here I learned to put myself first. I decided I could trust a

therapist and began to talk about my feelings. Through talking I learned some important things. It wasn’t my fault. I am not to be blamed. He was the adult; I was the child. I am not responsible for the choices he made. I learned that there are a lot of bad people in the world.

The rape showed me do not always trust people, and to keep my` guard up. Protect yourself at all costs. Slowly, I began to remember there are a lot of trustworthy people out there as well. These are the people I need to surround myself with. I learned that the feelings within me were perfectly normal and talking about them would help me understand myself better. I learned to put the trauma of the rape “on the shelf” where I could choose to open it when I wanted to, not when it wanted to take over me.

I can tell you damn straight I’m stronger than I ever was before. I’m a survivor. You tried to break me, instead you made me stronger. I never want to experience this trauma again in my life. But, understand, it has been part of the foundation that has made me who I am today, and where I am today. From my experience it has given me the strength, understanding and ability to connect with other young trauma survivors. I will be working with youth who have experienced significant trauma supporting from feeling like victim to flourishing as a survivor.

Yes, I am different. I don’t keep things from my family; I tell them everything. I know these are my people and they can be trusted. I have a stronger connection with my family than I have ever had before. I keep moving forward I do not let anything hold me back.

I AM A SURVIVOR.

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