I am a survivor.
I am a survivor of rape. I am a survivor of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, crippling depression and anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, insomnia, shame, guilt, blame, and defeat. After two years, I am surviving, and I am thriving!
Last year, on the one year anniversary of my rape (October 16), I told my parents. Two months later, I participated in Project Unbreakable (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151359912068933&set=a.10151140107813933.501435.600173932&type=1&theater) where I held up a sign saying “Don’t try to stop this… We both know it’s going to happen”—the words my attacker said before he did the deed that sent me into a downward spiral.
After opening up about my experience, I felt empowered. Unfortunately, I also felt terrified. I let the world in when my battle had just begun and I suffered the effects immediately. I ended up taking the spring semester off from school at UVA in order to be at home and work on healing. I spent hours doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) with my therapist and even more time being hooked up to a neurofeedback machine that helped lessen my anxiety. It took months and many setbacks, but I finally started progressing.
During the summer, I made the decision to return to UVA. I will continue studying Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality in order to help other survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I have every intention of devoting my life to this cause, and I thank God for providing me with the passion to do so.
We never get to know why bad things happen. God doesn’t give us an explanation, yet we must suffer from the consequences. I like to think that if we are not willing to break our own will, God breaks it for us. When we hit rock bottom, we are faced with a choice—get back up and start climbing or lay there in defeat. I chose (and continue to choose daily) to get back up and make my story beautiful.
This year, I am doing Project Unbreakable: Round Two—My Declaration of Reclamation. The two year anniversary of my rape is this Wednesday, October 16. I am posting these pictures now in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, the Cavalier Daily articles about sexual assault, and as a way to combat all the negative effects the anniversary should have on me in exchange for a positive message to the UVA community and the world.
I am reclaiming the words my rapist said to me, turning them around on him, and saying, “Don’t try to stop this… We both know it’s going to happen” right back. I am reclaiming the words, so they can no longer be used against me. Instead, they are now words of empowerment and a motto for myself—I am an unstoppable, unbreakable force.
I am reclaiming the words as an embodiment of my favorite Bible verse—“Do not be overcome by evil, but rather, overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
I also chose to include my support system behind me in the pictures. Support is fundamental to recovery, and I can honestly say that, along with God, my support system is the only reason I am still here today. The people included come from my sorority (Sigma Kappa), my Chi Alpha Christian core group, and the sexual assault prevention and education group (One Less) of which I am a part. I chose these three groups because they represent my support system and the organizations I hold most dear to my heart at UVA.
My parents aren’t in the pictures, but their contribution to my recovery is unparalleled. They let me take time off from school, harbored me in their arms, and helped me feel safe. My entire family loved me without judgment and I am beyond grateful for their compassion.
Also, my boyfriend, John, was the biggest Godsend of all during my time of hurting and healing. He never once spoke ill of my condition, never became impatient, and most importantly, never tried to fix me. He showed me that love is powerful enough to overcome pain.
My Sigma Kappa sisters helped me so much, as well. I cannot imagine being a part of a better group of loving, supportive, compassionate women. They loved me from afar during my time off, sent letters, and visited and welcomed me back to UVA with open arms this fall. I am so proud to call myself a Sigma Kappa sister.
After my post last year, I received an incredible amount of positive feedback. I worried that my picture would elicit negative responses, but not a single response was unwelcome. I want to express my gratitude to all those who supported me in my decision to come out about my rape and all those who contacted me with their own stories. You all gave me hope that things would get better and that I wasn’t alone. Thank you more than you know.
This is my story of hope. This is my story of survival. This is my story and I’m choosing to make it beautiful. Thank you for being a part of it.
"Speak the truth, even if your voice is shaking."