Thirteen Years

(WARNING: This topic may be triggering)

Today is an anniversary of mine, but not the type of anniversary where you get flowers and go out for a fancy diner. This is the anniversary of when my life was turned upside down. When I lost my innocence, when I was no longer a child. Today is the day I was raped 13 years ago.

July has always been a hard month for me, well not always, just since I was 14. Then when I was 21, the day before the anniversary of my assault, my mom died.  I was certain then that July was cursed and I get physically ill every July, without fail.

Thirteen years. It is amazing how so much time has flown by but at the same time I feel like I am stuck at 15 years old. Living with so much guilt and so much shame is exhausting. Even so many years later I have the dialog running through my head, “I should have known better.” “I should have been smarter.”  “I should not have allowed myself to get raped.” “I can’t trust myself.” Sometimes I am not sure what is worse, the shame and guilt I put on myself or the judgment I feel from others. With how much victim blaming occurs in this society how can I not feel I am to blame?

Thirteen years. It is depressing and upsetting that this is still something that affects me to this today, in my daily life. When I was 15 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I am still symptomatic so many years later.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go through the court records. There were thousands of pages and boxes and boxes of evidence. Reading through the conversations I could SEE (now as an adult) the clear and blatant manipulation that took place. This man had a definite plan and goal in mind and he knew exactly what he was doing. He took advantage of a child. Yet, I still feel I should have known “better”.

The matters of the facts are that rape wasn’t something that was talked about. I did not even know what is was or that it could possibly happen to me. I was well educated about kidnapping though. Through the conversations I was smart about that. Not giving him my home address or personal information, though he asked for it many times. Even the day of the assault, I was prepared and protected myself in the case of possibly of him kidnapping me. I knew exactly what to do. But I was not prepared for what did happen. I was not prepared to be physically over powered and for my voice to be ignored. I was not prepared for my childhood to be over that day and the trust in myself and in others to be destroyed. I was not prepared for my rights as a human being to be so blatantly disregarded while acknowledging my pleas for him to stop, yet ignoring them.

Thirteen years. Willingness and ability to “move on” does not match up. I was a different person before July 10, 2000. I had a different set of dreams, goals and reality. For the past 13 years I have been trying to find who I am in spite of what happened. I still do not know for sure but I feel I am getting there. My hope for the future and myself is that I can begin to let go of the guilt, shame and distrust I have felt towards myself for so many years. I hope I can begin to shed some of the physical and emotional weight I have used as a means of protecting myself. My hope is that I no longer live in daily fear, fear that it will happen again. Fear that I couldn’t protect myself.

My wish is that I can use my experience to educate others, to help others speak out and start their own healing process. I also hope by educating others it may prevent future sexual assaults.

My wish for other survivors is that they never give up hope. Never stop fighting. It will get better, one day. Never lose hope. Even thirteen years later

Pine Ridge Reservation

This month I will be traveling to the Pine Ridge Reservation with George Mason University for a Counseling Outreach Program. I will be staying on the reservation and will be working with children, teens and adults during the Sundance ceremonies. I will write all about it when I get back. I will be there for 2.5 weeks.