Introducing Guest Blogger #3, Cat! Cat is a relatively new Real Life friend of mine with a powerful story to tell. She routinely blogs about life over at Neptune and the Moon, and she administers the hell out of some chemotherapy drugs during her day job. She also thinks I’m a rockstar celebrity, so no one tell her any differently!!
I firmly believe that we should be kind to people because we never know what kind of invisible battles someone else is fighting. The only thing we know is that everyone has one to fight.
When celebrity rockstar blogger Laney Dodson asked me to be a guest writer on her blog, I couldn’t, with any degree of self satisfaction, turn her down. Recently, her amazingly written posts have highlighted her difficult battles and the overcoming of personal struggles – depression, panic attacks, hospitalization, marriage instability, and most importantly, self discovery and improvement. Her fellow guest bloggers have written about death, dying, depression, and grief. I am moved by these stories of inner strength and fortitude. Such bravery and courage born from such horrendous circumstance! Reading about other people’s trials and tribulations gives me hope and encourages me to continue fighting my own battles with the sternest of resolves. If they can, why can’t I?
It’s times like these when I evaluate my own challenges, and I contend with the idea that the life-changing event(s) I’ve experienced seem to pale in comparison. I’ve never lost a parent to cancer. I don’t struggle with depression, anxiety, or any other major illness. I am not tempted by addiction. Maybe things were never really that bad? Maybe I just dated the wrong guy at the wrong time?
And then, the fighter in me – the fierce sassy feminine firefighter femme fatale basketball player of a woman in me – rears her ugly? head and I hear in my ears the screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech of someone slamming on their brakes, rubber skids on concrete.
I’m sorry – WHAT !?
“Maybe I just dated the wrong guy at the wrong time?”
Come now, that’s just ridiculous. Don’t discredit what you’ve been through.
These types of stories always start with, “When I was 17…” or “Everything seemed to be just fine until one day…” but that’s a little trite for me, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty (and somewhat abbreviated) version.
Every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
Each year, there are over 200,000 victims of sexual assault.
One out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or a completed rape.
2/3 of victims know their assailant, and 97% of rapists will never be jailed.
60% of assaults are not reported to the police.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
I am a statistic.
I am the one in 200,000.
I am the one in 6.
I am the one in 2/3.
He is the one in that 97%.
and I am one in that 60%.
It happened in April (how’s that for irony?).
It might sound a little ridiculous when I admit that it took somewhere between 3 to 5 years for me to realize that I had been assaulted. Bless my little teenage heart, I remember thinking, “Well, this is clearly why women don’t like sex as much as men do.” I just assumed this is what everybody else was doing because I didn’t know any better. The first time was supposed to hurt, right? That’s what everyone told me.
…If I could go back and hug the sweet sad naive version of myself, I would.
The earth-shattering epiphany of yes, you were raped echoed in my ears years later. Oddly, I had to work backwards to figure it out, but the trails of tears made it perfectly clear: Failed relationships. Decreased self esteem. Destructive behaviors. Lack of trust in others. Anxiety. Depression. Panic attacks. Shame. Limited self disclosure. Keeping “loved ones” at arms length. Struggle to maintain control over all aspects of my life. Never letting anyone get close to me. Disregarding, shaming, maiming, and ignoring my femininity. Continually chasing after emotionally unavailable partners. Obsessive compulsions. Distrust. Mistrust. Misguidance. Loss. Failure. No self respect. No self worth. Misunderstanding of sex and its role in relationships. Shame. Filth. Shame. Guilt.
On and on and on.
With this realization came a new word – victim.
I became a victim.
But victims of sexual assault are just that: victims. It is not their fault. It doesn’t matter what they said or did, where they were, what they were wearing, who they happened to be, what role their assailant had in their lives, who their families are, what their income was. None of these factors matter, nor could they have changed the events that took place. It is not my fault. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
It is not my fault. It was not my fault.
And then I became something else – a survivor.
When I attended my last session of therapy, it felt much like the scenario where a dad takes the training wheels off of his child’s bike. You’re anxious to ride on your own, completely unassisted, but there’s still a little bit of fear that makes you wonder how you’ll ever do this without reinforcements. The smart ones know you’re never going to be anyone in this world if you can’t ride a bike – you can do it, you will do it.
Then that moment of joy, bliss, pride when you look back and realize your dad’s not holding on to the seat anymore. He gave you one last push, and you don’t remember the exact moment when he let go and you took over because it doesn’t matter. The point is, you did it.
I did it.
I am not a statistic.
I am not a number.
I am not a percentage.
I am not a police report.
I am not a victim.
I am a survivor.
When I share my story, I try to remember that what happened to me doesn’t define me. It is not who I am, nor does it establish my worth as a human being, a woman, a partner, a lover, a mother, a daughter, a sister, or a friend. It is not something that plagues me, drags me down, or constantly hangs over my head. Most days, it doesn’t cross my mind at all. When it does, however, it is reinforced that –
this does not define me.
It doesn’t make up or establish my character. It doesn’t represent all that I am, was, or ever will be. It has, however, shaped me into the person I am today, and I can never change that (and I wouldn’t want to!). I am not 100% healed. I may never be, and my recovery journey may be unending, but at least I’m on it. I am grateful that from this horrendous circumstance, I have unearthed my own bravery and courage. While I may not be struggling with depression, anxiety, or intense grief, I have battled with my demons