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Personal Healing Description
Every survivor’s experience with sexual violence is different; therefore, every survivor’s journey of personal healing is different.

Some survivors seek out others for support; this includes friends, family, counselors, and other survivors.

Some survivors choose to heal using writing, journaling, reading, spirituality, religion, art, or music.

Some survivors have brought their experiences to their work within the anti-rape movement.

Surviving to Thriving

Writing Prompts
“The song that got me through it was…”
“I used to think about it every day, but now…”
“After I read a book about…”

Julia Cox from Hackensack, New Jersey | 21-January-09
No man could save me, it took faith. I had a little when I was going through the abuse, enough to believe God would not let my husband kill me. But it was not until I used that same faith and trusted God would keep me when I walked away, that I was able to go. Now I am the Author of a Christian faith book One Sister of Faith Packing Up. I have endured alot but I know that it was not in vane and I am using my experiences now to help others.

Nicole from Glen Head, New York | 09-September-08
I always learn lessons too late. I believe it is in my personality to take situations to an extreme level before I learn from them. I lost my virginity at 21. It was my junior year of college with someone who i respected and who at the time respected me. After I was no longer a virgin, I had lost all concept of respect in relationships. It was hard for me to imagine that someone could be attracted to me. I had always struggled with weight my whole life and growing up in a culture where hips are not accepted it was hard for me to ever accept my looks. Being sexual with whomever made me feel powerful, it made me feel that I was liberated. It took me till this past summer to realize that my sense of power was a visage when i lost control and respect of myself and someone took control of me. I was at my friend's house, drinking to the point where i could no longer stand. I started to hook up with a guy who was sitting next to me. I remember going into a room and falling asleep. Soon after I had sex with whom I don't know. I woke up and ran to my friend who was sleeping; shock took over my whole body. How could this happen to me? I am always in control.

For the first time in my life I realized that I had lost all respect for myself. I believe that we live in a culture where women constantly degrade themselves to be accepted by men. Where intelligent beautiful women will do anything not to feel alone.

I realize now that being alone is key into self development as a woman. I want to tell young woman that you don't have to sleep with someone to feel beautiful and don't ever lose control over who you are.

K from Spokane, Washington | 08-May-07
To: A Coward

You know my name, my hair color, my face. You know my friends, and you know where I live. What you don’t know is how much you stole from me that night. Your carelessness, your aggression, your psychosis, whatever it was that allowed you to harm me so, it has stripped me of my dignity…taken away my wonder and my faith. Taken away my youth. Before that night I was alive with warmth and friendliness, with life. For months that life, that warmth, has been gone. You made me feel small and frail, as though I were completely powerless to defend myself against the world, which, as you proved to me, is not the place of goodness that I thought it to be. You took it all away when you raped me. When I see you on campus my body goes into shock, I can’t breathe or speak or even think. I become a frozen slave to your injustice. Yes, you took everything…and now, eight months later, I’m taking it back. My dignity is no longer yours to keep. I am going to move along with my warmth, and recapture my faith. And when I see you next, I’m going to look you straight in the eye.

From: K

AM-C from Detroit, Michigan | 03-May-07
I was raped the night of the 2006 Detroit fireworks show in late June. It happened in the TV room of my best friend's apartment. I finally told her almost two weeks ago. My attacker was once my friend and eventually turned into someone that I had an affair with. After discovering how he really saw us as a couple and hearing him repeatedly admit that he wanted me for himself, he became an emotional jump-off (someone that I kept around to make me feel good about myself, but had never had any feelings for with no commitment nor any obligations). I thought I was using him! He actually admitted to me that he thought I left my husband to be with him!  He wanted me to move with him to his home and wanted to have kids with me! All I could do was laugh to myself. A dope-dealing dead-beat dad of three small children, who was still married and screwed around with his recently deceased boss' lovers, really thought that that I would be stupid enough to BE WITH! Although I was So stupid to screw around with him, I wasn't dumb enough to entertain the thought of an actual relationship. Give me a friggin break!

He was someone that I had been physical with, but had never had consensual sexual intercourse with him before the night of the attack. I was going through what I thought would ultimately end up in divorce with my husband of 3 years. My husband told me that he had moved on with his life because of the affair and everything that had gone on in our relationship prior to our separation and suggested that I move on with my life. So I did the dumbest thing that anyone could do when they are faced with a crisis: get shit-faced drunk. I was convinced that my marriage was over, that I had officially screwed up and now that I had no strings attached, I went out to try to get over the break up the dumb way. Instead, I became a victim. I stayed with my best friend Sharon* [name changed] for two days the week that it happened. We went to Northern Lights the night before the incident. The next night I got up with the intention of getting sloppy drunk again; I was successfully lit by 4 in the afternoon and had no intention of slowing down. Sharon had gone to Hart Plaza to watch the fireworks with my attacker Ron*. When Sharon and Ron returned, we all stood outside of her apartment building with Betty* and several other young men that I was unfamiliar with. We had a bottle of liquor, cups and nothing but time on our hands; it was late.

We eventually went up to the Podium level of the apartment structure to sit out by the pool and play cards and drink some more. I flirted with Ron. I explained how my marriage was over and I just didn't give a damn. We screwed around and made our way back to Sharon's apartment. The truth is, I was committed to the act before it happened. Sharon was in her bedroom with her friend, so there was nothing but opportunity. I found a condom and handed it to him; I got on top of him. After about no more than three minutes, I felt ill and thought to myself that I could stop it if I wanted to--this wasn't what I thought I wanted. So I got up, and like the biggest dummy in the world, laid down next to him on the small sofa. I was done, but I didn't ask him to leave because I did not for one second think that what happened next could ever happen to me. I thought that I would just shake it off and go to sleep. I was so wasted and needed to let my body heal from all the damage it had been subjected to during my two day binge-drinking. I guess he was dissatisfied that I was finished so quickly so he got his big ass back up and got back on top of me. It was like it was happening in slow motion--and I couldn't move, I couldn't say anything when he got up. I didn't know what he was about to do, and I didn't ask. After he roughly forced himself inside of me, he was saying things in my ear like "Is this how you want it?" in low gruffs. He was suffocating me and it hurt like hell and I was panicking. When I could get my grip on his shoulders I used my right leg (my left was trapped under his weight), to kick his big ass out and off of me. I didn't look at him. I immediately got up, took the condom from him, and told him in a voice so small I don't even know if he heard me to please leave. I threw the condom out of the window for fear of Sharon finding out. Then like the biggest fool in the world, I didn't bother to see if he had left. I got my blanket, laid on the floor in a ball with my face covered and cried myself to sleep praying that he would just leave me alone. I don't remember him leaving. I didn't even know if he stayed the rest of the night. Sharon confirmed that he knocked on her bedroom door that night to get his gun so that he could leave. She never suspected a thing. I got up the next morning, showered under scalding hot water, and prepared to leave for home.

I never called him again and he never called me. I never spoke to him since I told him to leave that night. I never called the police or told anyone what happened because I didn't think anyone would believe me. Not only that, I had struggled with the idea of it being rape. I convinced myself that I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and to just let it go and never do it again. It has changed my life but has not defined it. Although I still drink, I have cut back tremendously. I have my days when I just don't want to think about it so I drink a little more so that I can sleep easier. I still have nightmares--but oddly not about the incident itself--but about either confronting him with words or with violence or ultimately just killing him. I know where he lives and where he hangs out. I've seen him three times since then. Each time I say nothing to him. He doesn't exist to me. He is dead to me. I don't acknowledge him; I show no emotion if he happens to be somewhere that I am at the same time. I see him sweating and I can feel in my heart and my soul that this bastard knew exactly what happened. Of course he has been trying to cover his ass by telling people I know that he "fucked that bitch" but nobody listens to him, nobody cares. He thinks that I have told people something, but I haven't uttered a word of it . . . until recently. I started by telling my husband, then a close friend and another. So far, ten people know. Included in those ten are my best friend Sharon, a rape hotline operator and my older sister who was raped about 13 years ago. It has taken me eleven months to finally mouth the words rape. It will be a year next month that this has happened to me.

The nightmares are getting more intense and my lack of concern for his life is increasing with each recurring dream I have to suffer through. Through each anxiety ridden moment, through the bouts with depression, through the self-torture and self-blame, through the tears, through the anger his well being becomes less and less important to me! I have forgiven myself, but not really. It's an affirmation that I say and will continue to say until I believe it. Some days I blame myself, other days I blame him. I write out what happened in my nightmares in a journal. I have been heavily reading Dr. Wayne Dyer self-help guides and have been actively meditating and studying Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Each day I get stronger; I know that what he has done to my body has nothing to do with my spirit. I am a spiritual being having a human experience and that night was the biggest life exam that I have had to face to date. I have learned from my lesson and continue to learn new things about myself because of the incident. I don't need to justify why I haven't made a report yet. When I am ready, I will know what to do. I am content knowing that there is nothing that the police and the courts and the potential inmates can possibly do that compare with the karma that is due to him. Vengeance is God's and God's alone. I take pride and comfort and become peaceful knowing that there is nothing that he has done to me that he hasn't already done to himself! He doesn't scare me; he never has and never will. With this revelation and all the ones prior to me writing this and all the ones that will happen after I have posted, his power continues to diminish! He has no authority over me. When God says move, then that's when I will move. He doesn't win, I do!

God bless all of you and continue to fight for yourselves! No human being can EVER touch your spirit--it is yours and yours alone! There is peace within you, seek it and you will find it! Your history doesn't define who you are today. You are love and you are loved.


Anonymous from Minneapolis, Minnesota| 25-April-07
I was sexually abused when I was 10 years old. I knew sex was something bad and wrong so I thought it was my fault. I had committed a mortal sin. I didn’t want my parents to know I was going to hell. It would be a disappointment, so I didn’t tell them. He asked me if I had gotten my period yet. He didn’t want me to get pregnant. Period? Pregnant at 10? I had no idea what he was talking about. We didn’t cover that in school. He removed the night-light from the socket. I can still see the haze of light left from the hallway under the door of his room. That little sliver of light dispersing across the floor as I lay there in the darkness. My back on his slippery green sleeping bag, him on top of me. Him all over me. My body, my hands, my face. It was hot outside, and the bag felt like cool satin. I focused on the ceiling until he was done. Thought about board games and fireworks. I climbed back to the top of the bunk bed, while he went to sleep on his satin sleeping bag.

In the morning he climbed up to that top bunk, woke me up, took off my yellow-flowered undershirt and underwear. I must have looked horrified because he said, ‘we’ve already had sex, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about being naked.’ He raped me again. Told me about his first time having sex with an older girl in the back of a building by some trash cans. I thought that was both strange and grown-up. He told me I couldn’t tell – it was our secret and we’d get in trouble. When he was done, he went back to his sleeping bag and fell asleep. I laid there in silence. Still. Waiting for him to snore. I got up and sat in the living room of my cousin’s house, just staring out the window. My aunt was surprised I was up so early. She gave me Fruit Loops cereal for breakfast. Just me and her, before anyone else was awake. I didn’t say anything. It was a sin and I needed to apologize to god. I went to confession a few days later. I walked slowly into the confessional, with that brown-mesh screen between me and the priest. I said, bless me father for I have sinned. I began to cry uncontrollably. I told him god would never forgive me, that it was the greatest sin of all – too horrible to say out loud. The priest was kind, told me I didn’t have to say it, that god would know I was sorry and that I was absolved of my sin. I was elated. I said my penance and forgot what had happened. As if it was wiped from my mind. The mind works in mysterious ways. It is forgiving. It gives you a break from time to time. I forgot for seven years. Seven years of my family saying, you changed, you’re not as outgoing anymore, or happy, you don’t smile as much – it must be adolescence. They didn’t know, and I didn’t know why, I hated myself and hated my body, hated to be touched, wanted to drink and smoke, and never wanted to talk about it.

I remembered the rape when I was seventeen. Last year of high school, going to college. I struggled with the memories everyday. What really happened? Was I dreaming this? Remember the details, please! I was bulimic and anorexic, probably an alcoholic, angry and depressed. I still did well in school, despite myself. There was strength. Ten years later I was free. Free from him, free from the drinking and smoking, the eating disorders, and depression. I began to trust and be loved. I reconnected with family and friends and discovered who I was with them. I fell in love. I think of all those years spent on recovering. Healing my spirit, using my anger. I know it had to be done, and I am grateful for who I am. But I think of all that time, re-becoming. I think of all the things women could do (and do) if they didn’t have to spend such much time recovering from rape. If men did not rape. Rape is a mechanism to keep people in their place, keep them down, keep them quiet. That’s why women are strong. They face abuse, and choose to heal, listen, speak, love and create. They fight back through words, voice, and self. There is no forgetting and no forgiving. There shouldn’t be. This is an unforgivable crime. So if someone says ‘get over it’, say NO. We won’t get over it. We won’t make you feel better by not talking about it. We will make us feel better by shouting it, by educating, and by changing. The first step for me was realizing I didn’t have to be alone, and even when I felt alone, I really never was. Ten years old was the last time I let anyone tell me what to do.

Anonymous from Spokane, Washington | 23-March-07

I heard my parents walking into their bedroom and then heard my mother turn on the shower. I knew what would happen next, the same thing that happened just about every night at this time. My bedroom door opens and my father comes in. I start begging him to leave me alone as he gets in bed with me and spreads my legs. He says, “I can’t help it, it’s not my fault, I can’t stop.” I may only be seven years old, but I am not dumb. There are only two of us in bed. If it isn’t my father’s fault, then that means it is mine. I begin to cry and he covers my mouth and tells me to be quiet. He says, “If you are not quiet your mother will hear you and this will kill her. Do you want to kill your mother? It will be your fault.” I loved my mother; I didn’t want to kill her. So like all the other nights before and future nights, I closed my eyes and let my father do what he wanted.

I tried so hard to be a good girl so whatever I was doing to make my father do bad things would stop. I tried to get good grades, I did my chores, I kept my room clean, I tried to be helpful, but I was still a very bad, evil girl, because my father kept doing bad things.

Throughout my life growing up I was so ashamed of what was happening and what a bad person I was that I totally withdrew from all unnecessary contact with people to try to prevent them from ever finding out my horrible secret.

As an adult I am now trying to understand my past and to believe deep down that what my father did to me was not my fault. It is very difficult to watch the Hallmark commercials around Father’s Day. I wish I could have had that type of relationship with my father. I have forgiven my father for what he did and I have told him that I have forgiven him, but I still can’t buy a Father’s Day card. I tried for many years, but it was so traumatic for me that I finally gave up. I will continue to take each day one step at a time and maybe someday the past will not be so painful.


I was trying to read my book while I ate my lunch when I heard two students talking. I didn’t mean to listen but the one girl was talking rather loud in a very irritated almost angry tone of voice as she complained to her friend how she was sick and tired of her father treating her like a little girl. “He should realize I am a college student now, I don’t need him calling me all the time checking on me to see if I am alright. He calls to remind me to lock my door and pull my curtains and a few weeks ago he even drove all the way over here to install a dead bolt lock on my apartment door. I am so frustrated! Then last weekend some friends and I went to Seattle and my father called Sunday night to make sure I made it back to Cheney safely. I don’t know what to do.”

I bent my head forward so my long hair would hide my face as the tears began to flow as my mind flashed back to an event that occurred when I eighteen years old and lived at home on a military base (not Fairchild, not even in Washington). I worked during the day and attended classes at night. If I wasn’t in class at night I was babysitting. I worked at the Enlisted Men’s Club as a bookkeeper and buyer. One of my mangers was like a grandpa to me. He was in his 50s, which I considered in those days as one foot in the grave. But he was very sweet and treated me like his granddaughter. I always missed never having a grandpa. He was always asking me to baby-sit for him but I was booked sometimes a month or more in advance.

One week I had a cancellation so he said he would take his wife to dinner if I could baby-sit for him. He came at 5pm to pick me up and talked with my parents while I rolled the last of my wet hair in toilet paper size rollers. I wore no make up, an old baggy T-shirt and jeans. We left my house and the base and headed towards town. Then he pulled off the freeway and said he needed to call his wife to make sure she was ready. I was very trusting and had no reason to doubt what he was saying. When he came back to the car he said one of his kids had gotten sick and that they would not be able to go out to dinner but his wife wanted him to take me to dinner.

The only time I left the base was to go to college so I did not know where any restaurants were located. He headed out into the boonies and said there was an excellent restaurant not far away. Suddenly he slowed way down and started grabbing me in places he had no business touching. I was so shocked. This was a man I thought of as a grandpa! I fought him as best I could and he finally stopped the car. I ripped open the car door and ran for my life. There were wheat fields all around but way off in the distant I could see a farm house with its lights on. I headed straight for it as though the devil were after me. I banged on the door while I was screaming for help. I don’t even remember what I said, but about a half hour later my father pulled up in their driveway. He looked mad. I assumed he was furious at my boss for what he did to me, but when I got in the car, he looked at me with such hatred and discuss. He told me to be quiet and didn’t talk to me all the way home.

When I got home my parents didn’t hug me or ask me if I was hurt. They were furious with me that I had caused so much trouble. They told me not to tell a single person about what happened because my father was an officer and this could affect his career. A military base is like a small town and everyone knows what everyone else is doing. So I was told to go to work the next day as normal, hold my head high and act like nothing ever happened. I was so shocked and deeply hurt. Weren’t fathers supposed to protect their daughters and feel like killing anyone who laid a hand on them? Shouldn’t my mom be hugging me and helping me deal with the shock of an attempted rape? I was all alone and no one cared.

The next day I went to work and was terrified. I worked with one other girl in the office and she kept asking me what was wrong, but I wouldn’t talk. About a half hour before my manager was due I was shaking and crying so hard that I had lost all control, I was hysterical. I told her what had happened the night before. When the manager entered the office, I ran out and never returned. My parents were very disappointed in what they called “disgraceful behavior.”

I don’t know how it all came about but I had to go to court. My parents said that I had brought so much shame to the family that they refused to go to court with me. All I remember is the Military Police telling me to walk forward to the large wooden table in the room where four officers sat. As I walked forward I noticed all the colored medals the officers wore on their chests and the yellow braid on their hats on the table. Surely they would do something to protect me from my former manager. But as I stood close enough to see into their eyes, they were looking at me in pure disgust. They asked me, “What were you wearing that enticed this military man to attack you? What did you say to him that he felt you were asking for what you got?” I don’t remember anything after that.

Even though many years have passed, the memory still hurts. I keep my head bowed as the student continues to complain about her caring father. The tears flow unabated down my cheeks as I wonder what it feels like to have a father that loves you and tries to protect you from the dangers in the world. I will never know what it must feel like to have a father hug you and care for you. But I need to get back to work. I sneak into a bathroom, wash the tears off my face, comb my hair, put on fresh make-up and go back to my office at EWU and hope no one can tell I just cried through my lunch hour.

Melissa from Machias, Maine| 24-September-06
I was 8 years old the first time I was sexually assaulted by my cousin and it was something that continued until I was almost 13. When the abuse first started he was touching me and at first I did not see anything wrong with it. My brother was there some of the time and he said it was ok.

Thanksgiving of that year was the first time he raped me. This went on for two years before I accidentally said something to my fourth grade teacher. I told the Doctors that examined me that nothing happened and I lied to the department of child and family services. After that point the abuse continued.

My cousin would put his hand on my back and I knew that meant to follow him. He would take me to his room, to the basement and sometimes to my room. I learned quickly that the more that I fought him, the more it hurt. After awhile I did not even fight him. I just took off my clothes and laid there.

One night my family got in a fight and that was not only the last time my cousin assaulted me, but also the last time in five years that I saw him. It was something that was "forgotten" until I had to face him again. Even today no one is willing to fully acknowledge what happened.

However this is not the case for me. I spent a lot of time being the victim. I spent a lot of time being silent. Over the last couple of years I have participated in events to speak out against sexual violence and in 2004 I participated in Operation Freefall. This event taught me that not only do I have a voice, but that I also have strength. In photography school I created a portfolio of images that I view as some of my first steps to becoming a survivor. Photography served as a medium. It took events, thoughts and emotions and brought them to the surface. Once on the surface they became words and a healing discussion began. In 2005 I found Take a Stand Against Violence [www.tkastnd.org] and it was here that I truly learned my own stength and my will to speak out not only for me, but also for others. I am continually encouraged and inspired by the courage of the people who come there to tell their stories of survival. I have had the oppurtunity to tell my story in my community and help plan events for awareness. I have chosen to become an advocate because I believe we can make a difference. Where one person may not be able to change the world, we can change it one person at a time.

Lindsay from Boston, MA | 03-May-05
This is what I originally was going to share at a Take Back the Night rally, but at the last minute, I decided to just speak from the heart.

It is difficult for me to remember a time when my life has not been affected by sexual violence. At ages 3, 9, and 15, I was raped and molested by my grandfather, mainly at night when my family was asleep. He fortunately lived across the country, so I was able to escape constant abuse. The effects were rampant on my life, though. From an early age, I learned to be distrustful and angry towards myself because of the guilt trips he would place on me. The last time he did this to me, when I was in ninth grade, I finally had enough. I have not seen or talked to him since that time.

When I was in 8th grade, I faced the worst betrayal. I spent two years babysitting for a girl who lived across the street. I went on a trip with her family and some of their friends. Very early the first morning, I was raped and sodomized by her father. This stung to my core and has been the hardest aspect of all the sexual abuse I have faced since I knew this family for several years. I took a lot of the anger out on myself because I was scared to tell my parents, and it nearly cost me my life.

Last April, I experienced yet another sexual assault while on the subway. This time, I was determined to do something; however, since I did not know the person, I had to look through hundreds of photos. I never found him by looking at those pictures. However, this past Sunday, I saw him again on the subway. I went to the driver who stopped the train; about 20 minutes later, he was placed under arrest. The future is uncertain, but I raised my voice and action was finally taken.

Some people ask if I had the chance to redo my life, would I. At first, I emphatically answer Of course! Why would I want a life full of hardship and pain? Now, I have a different perspective. While it would be wonderful to have a happy childhood and not worry about what might happen to me, I have learned a lot about who I am. I had to grow up early to survive, but I have developed a greater respect and compassion for others. My experiences are being turned into action; speaking here tonight and finally going to the police are only two ways I help raise awareness about this issue and demand change. My life has been far from easy, but if my experiences are able to help just one survivor feel validated and are able to be used to end sexual violence, then I will be able to finally find some justification for going through the abuse. If we work together, change can happen. There is hope, and healing is possible. Thank you.

Elizabeth Lord from Augusta, KS | 12-April-05
I was raped at the age of 21 by a 75 year old man who was obsessed with sex. He touched me in my vagina, on my breasts, and on my buttocks. I wanted him to stop, and I tried to get away, but he refused to listen. This went on for 7 months. He at one time wanted to have sex, and I told him, "No." Later on, I realized that what he did to me is just like sex, but a different form. I want justice for Him, and his day will come when he sees the Lord Jesus. I long for the day for rape to end! I am seeking a Counseling degree now, so I can help others overcome their abuse, in hopes that they will come to Christ, although I am currently going through counseling to overcome my pain. I am ever trusting and seeking God, but it is not easy learning to trust others all over again. All in God's timing it will get easier as I surrender my pain to Him.

Laura Mudd from Bowling Green, OH | 13-February-05
New Years Day, is supposed to be a time to start over and a time for new beginnings. In most cases this is true, but in my case this day comes with a lot of pain, dread, and bad memories. January 1, 2003 I was raped. I was at a party with my friends, and nothing was going right that night. Yes I did have something to drink, but that should not matter. I was not drunk and I knew exactly what was going on. Eventually everyone passed out at my friend’s apartment but me. Since I could not fall asleep I went out in the hall to get some fresh air, and that is when I met him. He asked me what was wrong, listened to me when I said it, then invited me back to his place. I decided that nothing bad would come of it, after all we were getting out of the cold and all we would do was to watch a movie. We were sitting on his couch talking, and he was a nice guy. He knew what to say, when to say it, and did not do anything to make the warning flags come up. I thought that I was ok.

When we started kissing I was comfortable with that. After all the evening was going well, and he seemed like he was a very nice guy. We did not do that much more than kissing and I was fine with that because that is how I am. Then he started to try and go further. He was able to pull me off the couch and lead me to his room, even though I was protesting the whole way there. He then put me on the bed and tried to get my clothes off; but I had a tight grip on them and would not let them go. Eventually it happened, they came off and I was raped, and the whole time I was telling him no. Afterwards I felt so ashamed. I took a shower right then and there because I wanted to get him off of me; I wanted to wash it all down the drain. That did not happen though; it is not that easy to forget what happened.

The months to come were so hard. I did not want anyone to know what happened to me. I hid it from so many people, including my family. Eventually I was able to tell them and I was able to talk about it to others. There are still so many people who do not know what happened, but I am tired of being silent. He took so much from me that night; things that I know I will never be able to get back. But the one thing that he cannot take from me anymore is my silence. I do not want this to happen to anyone else.

I can honestly say that I am not over this yet, and I am not sure if I ever will be. I am seeking the help that I need, because I do not want to live with it and have it consume my whole being. At first that is what was happening. I stopped eating, I did not sleep, and I did not really care about my classes. I stopped caring about a lot of things, and I pushed a lot of my friends away. I did not want anyone to know what had happened to me. I thought that it was my fault.

But I have learned that it is not my fault, and that is something that I have to remind myself everyday, that it is not my fault. I did nothing wrong. Just because I went into his apartment that night, I did not tell him that I wanted to have sex with him. Getting to that point was a huge step, and that has just happened recently.

Unfortunately this is something that I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life, I know that. But I also know that it is something that will not consume my whole being. There are so many resources out there to help the victims. I wish that I had heard of some of them when it first happened, because I would have used them. If you are going through this, the one thing that helps me everyday is that there are other people who have had this terrible event happen to them. There are people who care, and who will help you get through it. Do not keep it to yourself, because eventually it will eat you up. That is what started happening to me, but now that I am talking it is helped me so much.

Liz from Voorhees, NJ | 03-January-05
I've been reading through these stories, and in a way, I feel a bit guilty because my experiences in no way amount to what some others have gone through. It's a feeling I've had throughout my experience, but I know that regardless, what was done to me was wrong, and I still had to deal with it.

Regardless, I'm tired of being silent, and I'm tired of treating this as a deep dark secret. Thus, I speak. Here is my story.

It started four years ago, when I was in eighth grade. I had chosen to take woodshop as an elective, and my teacher encouraged me to join the Tech Club. The club had three facets, really. One was doing repair work around the school, one was participating in a Lego robotics competition, and the third was an A/V type thing to make news productions for my school. I joined the third and became the anchor.

I remember you had to sign up to join the club, because space was limited. I remember rushing into school that one October morning and signing my name on the list on the door of the tech room.

I remember the first time I came to a meeting. There were three other girls there, two of whom I already knew. Those two dropped out shortly thereafter, though. So, there I was, one of two girls. There was a 9:1 ratio of boys to girls.

There's something about me you have to understand. I was completely innocent. I still am, to a certain extent. I didn't know what sex was until 7th grade, and even then, my understanding was more shadowy than not, based on diagrams from sex ed class and whispered words of my friends.

I remember the first time anything was said. We were working on the news program one day, and one boy said something to the effect that it would be cool/amusing if we had a Baywatch-type opening with girls with bouncing boobs running across the screen. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable, and that was just the beginning.

I did a lot of work for the club. I even helped the robotics people. Being the most eloquent, I was selected to go in front of Student Council to ask for money for some equipment the robotics team needed. I delivered an excellent impromptu speech without faltering once, and we got the money.

The competition came around. It was November 19. I won't forget that day. Everything started out fine, I guess. Again, there were only 2 girls to eighteen boys. It was a pretty far bus ride out to somewhere in Pennsylvania. The ride there was fine.

The exact details of the day itself have grown a bit hazy. In any case, we had to finish programming the robot and get it set up for competition. Every team had to build its own course (standardized, of course), and we had to get that set up. I had the camera for the news team, and I was running around all day shooting.

I waited in the gym of the school at which the competition was held for my team. I had the camera ready. Our theme song started playing, but the team was nowhere to be found. I ran to go get them.

You were supposed to always go somewhere with someone else, but this was an emergency and I had to run to get people by myself. I passed one of my teammates in the hall. He commented to me, "Ooo, Liz, you're a bad girl. I'm going to have to rape you now."

I kept running. The comment was made in a voice suggesting a jest, but I didn't think it was very funny.

The team got to the floor eventually. I don't remember how the team did. I wasn't too concerned about it.

The bus ride home terrified me. The boys were all hyper and all revved up and bouncing off the walls, as 8th grade boys are wont to be. I was exhausted from running about frantically, so I decided to try to go to sleep. I didn't really get to sleep; it was a state of half-consciousness.

I heard my name being spoken. They are talking about me, my brain struggled to recognize. Then I began to focus in a bit more. They were suggesting that since I was asleep, this one kid give me a wedgie. Etc.

I woke up. I moved closer to the window. Now that they knew I was awake, they couldn't do anything.

It took me years to be able to sleep on a school bus again.

The months passed, and things grew worse. The comments intensified, and the touching began. Here's where my memory begins to get a bit hazy in spots. I remember very distinctly my shoulders being frequently touched, held, etc., just in ways that were wrong, and I remember telling the boys to stop, but they didn't. They never listened to me, no matter what it was.

This continued twice a week (when the club met) until about March or April. And then one day...I finally broke down. I couldn't bring myself to go there anymore.

Earlier in the year, we'd had an assembly on sexual harassment. I remember beginning to laugh. And then realizing my faux pas, I immediately covered my mouth. An angry administrator demanded to know who had laughed "because this isn't funny." If anyone there had a right to laugh, I was the one.

So, that day, I came home on the bus, hysterical. I broke down and told my mother what was going on. She called the school, of course, and my teacher met me at the library one day to talk about it.

I denied that anything that would hold up as sexual harassment in court was happening. I was dead wrong. He suggested some sort of signal to call him over if something were going on. I denied that. I denied everything. It's so surreal now; it almost doesn't feel like it was the same person I am now. Because it's not, of course. In any case, he gave those boys a warning talk. And that was it.

Here is the part for which I can never forgive the school. I was scared, and I was in denial. After that, the school did nothing to help me. Here is a child who is crying out, who is obviously having problems, and as soon as she starts the denial, a natural phase of reaction to trauma, this child is ignored. And to this day, the school hasn't improved. My sister has also been sexually harassed, and despite repeatedly contacting her counselor, nothing was done.

That summer, I put middle school behind me and excitedly prepared for high school.

I am now in my senior year, and for the first three years of high school, I was thrown into the midst of a vast identity crisis. I was scared to death of anything male. I assumed anything with a penis wanted to rape me. I remember getting into a discussion one day in English and being utterly shocked when one boy said, "Because no means no."

Then there was the matter of what actually happened in ninth grade. Despite being a decent swimmer, I didn't join the swim team because the coach was male, and I was very scared of being in a bathing suit in front of him, because he was also a teacher of mine.

And then there's the matter of my ninth grade gym/health teacher. He was a soccer coach and had just been brought on as full time teacher that year. The first time anything happened, we were doing something in the computer lab, and I was tracing a diagram from the computer screen, as the worksheet instructed. He came over, put his hand on my shoulder for just a bit too long and said to calm down, I didn't have to do that. I jumped in my seat because the touch shocked me so much.
We began sex ed near the end of the first semester. I was sitting in the front row. I remember that eerie way he looked at me whenever we had to say the answers out loud. Penis, vagina, etc.

And then we started a gymnastics/tumbling unit in gym. I'm not exactly the type who's naturally talented at that. I was having trouble, and he helped me. "Helped" me. He touched my legs in a way he really shouldn't have, and it was just the attitude, the tone in his voice, that made it all wrong.

He was fired at the end of the year. I don't exactly know why. I know my mother called in to complain about his teaching, because we never really got to contraceptives. We were handed a worksheet, and that was all.

He was gone.

In 10th grade, I had a break from these attacks.

In 11th grade, I got a gym teacher who is known for being notoriously creepy and perverted. We did fitness testing at the beginning of the year, which included pull-ups. He put his arms around all the girls' waists and legs to "make sure we didn't fall." It was really quite inappropriate. He also stared at our legs when we used the leg curl machine in the weight room.

I didn't do anything about it because at the time I was on the pill for severe menstrual cramps, and I have no idea how skewed what I saw was. The pill can apparently make you more nervous and more emotional. So I didn't report anything because I wasn't sure if what I had seen was as terrible as I'd made it out to be.

Then, this summer, a few more things happened. The boy I mentioned way back, the one who made the rape comment, had since moved. He was also on the swim team, and he was doing well. He emailed my coach to say thank you, and my coach said he was shocked to hear that said boy had feelings. I was too. He posted the email, and it drove me crazy. I ripped it down, crumpled it up, spat on it, and threw it in the trash because I couldn't stand it being there.

That summer I worked as a lifeguard. One night in July we had an in-service to practice saving people. I was paired, ironically, with one of the boys from 8th grade who'd been among the more severe group of perpetrators.

In one type of save, you have to grab someone from behind around their chest. This boy was a far cry from the partner I'd had during my classes, who was very respectful about it. He grabbed my breasts, and I was too shocked to move or think or say anything. I was completely frozen. My brain was saying "Liz, it's okay, it's just a drill, this is all part of it, he doesn't mean it," but as the seconds passed it was clear that he did mean it. I managed to throw him off me.

I have vowed never to return to that pool again, as a swimmer or as an employee.

These events, isolated into little incidents, don't seem so bad. What made them so catastrophic for me was the fact that they happened every Tuesday and Thursday from October to April one year. That they just kept happening over and over and over. The nightmares did a huge amount of damage. For years I experienced terrifying nightmares of being raped, of being forced into prostitution, of being involved in murder... My mind had become, permanently, an extremely dark place.

I struggled immensely. A few times in 8th grade I wanted to kill myself. I remember distinctly walking on the sidewalk into the school one January morning. The sun was glinting everywhere and reflecting off of the stale, week-old snow, and I remember just walking, just wanting to die.

Suicidal thoughts plagued me sporadically for the first two and a half years of high school. One morning in tenth grade, October 25, we had a fire drill during third period English class. That year I was in a class with one of my best friends, and as we walked out, I just started sobbing, because I was just so overcome, so afraid that I would go home that day and hurt myself. I had a history test later that day, and I was afraid I'd fail it if I took it, but I couldn't bring myself to go to guidance to get help. I lived through the test, and I got home, and I walked into the kitchen. I started staring at the knives aligned so perfectly, so refulgent against the magnetic strip on the wall. To this day I thank swim practice for saving me, because had I not had practice that day, I don't know what would have happened to me.

But no matter how much I wanted it to end, there was some small part of me that clung to life, some part of me that refused to allow them to win.

I fought. I fought HARD, dammit. And in four years, I'm almost back on track. Emotionally and mentally I am definitely on track. I'm different now than I was then. I'm stronger, so much stronger.

As for physically, I can't really say. I've never had a boy/girl/[insert non-binary gender]-friend, so I don't know how I'm going to respond in that area. I know with certainty that I am better now than I was before, because casual contact no longer freaks me out. I don't jump when someone touches me anymore, unless, in the odd case, it's a surprise and they grab my shoulders from behind, because it brings back instincts from eighth grade. That rarely happens, though.

Nevertheless, I feel so on top of my life right now. I feel so much stronger and so much prouder of who I am and what I've been through. I learned some hard life lessons early on.

I've tried sharing my story in a more vague format, in an essay I wrote for English class, but it failed. No one seemed to focus on the survivor part; they all focused on the victimization. By sharing all the details, that's something I want to change in people.

So here is my second attempt. I am a survivor. I am a stronger, better, more determined, more confident person. And even though this struggle nearly killed me, I think that in a way, it was worth it. I don't think I would trade in my experience for a life without what I've gone through. I know myself frighteningly well. There are some things about life I understand, too, some invaluable lessons I've learned the very hard way and am using to help my friends.

I've forged my own identity, and it's no longer stained by fear.

I am Liz, and I am a survivor.

Katie from New York, NY | 15-July-03
"Violence is the last expression of powerlessness." ~my mom

I was raped by my first love. As a final attempt to regain control of his turbulent world after I broke up with him, he found himself incapable of taking no for an answer. In the short term, I felt like he had, in a sick sort of way, gotten back the upper hand. I feared that I would be controlled and defined by my victimization for the rest of my life.

Almost a year later, I know that's not true. His act of violence is an expression of his weakness, his inability to control himself, and it has little to nothing to do with me. In the end, he victimized himself more than he did me.

My life will not be dictated by the destructive forces of violence and anger. I am not him. I choose forgiveness and love.

"I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong." ~Leo Rosten

claire from New Paltz, NY | 24-April-03
It was kind of like the end of that movie Kids. Though it has been 5 years now, it is still clear. When I see a face like his, I see fear. Now trust me, I don't fall into any of those stereotypes of "she was asking for it" or "she could of stopped it". How could I have stopped it when I was passed out on a bed with my boyfriend? So listen ladies, it happens. It happens to your best friend, to your lover, to your family. It happens next door, across the street, in the safety of your home. I was drunk, passed out and violated--waking up to it. Does this count as rape? It took me 4 years to realize that it did. Just because I wasn't pushed down and held down doesn't mean that what I experienced was any less violating. There are no degrees of rape. There ARE many survivors out there. I am one of them and am always ready to talk.

anonymous from Little Rock, Arkansas | 24-February-03
I was raped by my mom's best friend's son when I was sixteen years old. I was a virgin. He was 37. I was going to stay at his house because he was doing my mom "a favor" by taking me home (from Oklahoma to Arkansas). He seemed like a nice guy. I would have no reason to question him because our families had been close for years. His mom is a saintly woman, and although I don't blame her or have any animosity towards her, it is difficult to be around her now or to hear about how the family is doing because of what he did to me. On the way to his house from his mom's, we talked about life, dating, and other things. He genuinely seemed interested in hearing about me, not in a sexual way, but in a friendly way. I told him that I was saving myself for marriage but that I had done things other than sex before. He seemed to think that was noble of me and said someday I might change my mind about waiting. When we got to his house, he pulled into the driveway and I was awed by the beauty of his house. It was in an awesome neighborhood and was very elaborately decorated and designed. He gave me a tour of the house and then showed me the guest room where I would be staying. I asked if I could take a bath before bed, and he said sure, and gave me a towel and washcloth. I had to take a bath in his bathroom because the house was brand new, and the other bathroom hadn't been finished. He walked in halfway through my bath to hand me a razor, and I was sort of embarrassed but I kind of bent over so he couldn't really see anything. Still, I guess I just didn't think much of it. After my bath, I put a blue robe on and went out to say goodnight. He asked if I wanted to see his room. We went in there and he started kissing me. I admit that I was flattered because he was so good looking and older and rich. But I also felt uncomfortable. We started messing around and touching each other, and I still felt awkward, but i didn't want to seem like a baby. So I didn't say anything. Then all of a sudden, I felt something inside me, and I was in shock or something. I remember thinking, that can't be what I think it is. No. No way. I said "stop it, no" and pushed him up off me, but he didn't move. He kept doing his thing and didn't get off me until he had come. I started crying and rolled over. He started comforting me. It was sick the way he had just taken my virginity without my permission and then asked me if I was okay. Well hell no, I'm not okay you moron. Of course I didn't say that. I was too freaked out. I thought about calling my mom while he was gone the next day, but I was too afraid of what she would say and the way it would make me look. so I didn't tell her. She still doesn't know, and that was almost 8 years ago. I have told friends and other people, but I can't bear to think of breaking my mom's heart by telling her that her little girl was raped. I know it would kill her, and she would blame herself for trusting him to let me stay at his house overnight. I also know that her best friend (his mom) is the only true friend she's had, and I don't want to take that away from her. So for her sake, I chose not to prosecute. But my way of dealing with it was horrible. I smoked pot and got drunk and things like that, and just started having sex like it was nothing. All my values went out the window. I had no reason to try to maintain purity when I had no purity left to maintain. I didn't care anymore. I became numb. I went on this way for about a year until I found peace through Jesus Christ. It was still hard to deal with, but it became bearable, and I started to heal when I stopped trying to handle it on my own and let God help me. Now I work with other sexual assault victims. I feel that if nothing else, my experience has enabled me to help others and to empathize with them.

Sara K. from Long Island, NY | 12-May-02
I was 16 and on a cruise with my family to Bermuda. I don't remember many of the details of the night I was raped...pieces come back to me more and more... but I guess the "important" things I do remember.

Each night I would go out with my "friends" I had made on the ship, and get into the bars. They were for 18 and older, and I always somehow passed for that age. All the friends I had made were older, prob around 19 or 20...but being 16, I thought I knew it all. I was never really a drinker in high school, but thought I was so cool drinking with everyone that each night I drank and drank. One night I had ended up kissing one of the staff members on the boat, only to be caught by another staff member... and sent back to the club. On the last night I was drinking at the bar with my guy friends...and that same man I had hooked up with walked by and told me not to drink too much tonight...sarcastically. I just laughed... and kept drinking. I don't remember how much I had to drink that night- and maybe that has to do with my memory...but I was def drunk. I was on the dance floor with my friends drinking still, and saw that man- Tracy. He came up to me and asked me to go hang out with him... I thought nothing of it and we left my friends. He asked me if I was really 18, and I playfully told him, that of course I was... but I think he knew I was lying. He was 24. He also knew I was a virgin, from a conversation we had had the previous night. We continued to talk among a bunch of other people in some type of dining room... or something like this. There were people around I remember. We exchanged phone numbers and he said he would call me whenever he came into port in NY. Yeah okay. After that, he asked me if I wanted to go somewhere private, with just the two of us. Thinking who I was... and just that we would hook up again, I agreed. I remember meeting in some type of small control room?? I don't remember it well. The next thing I remember is being on the floor and him taking my pants down. I honestly thought he was going to go down on me... I never thought of having sex- b/c he knew I was a virgin... and I don't know... it just never crossed my mind. I was so naive. The next thing I remember is being in alot of pain. I didn't know what was going on, I think I blocked out the memory due to fright and prob the alcohol. I remember making some groan painful type of noise, and he quickly told me to be quiet- or we would get caught. He weighed heavily down upon me... and I just remember gripping to the floor and contorting my face, b/c of the pain. I didn't realize he was having sex with me right at first. Stupid, I know. Finally, when I did... I kept trying to I guess, wriggle out of the situation or something...but for some reason I couldn't. I remember him saying "Do you want me to cum inside you?" and then I thought "Yes! He hasn't had sex with me yet!"

Not realizing he meant CUM. I kept saying NO NO... and the only thing I remember after that is being brought to my feet... trying drunkenly to put my feet back in my sandals... and being left completely alone outside the room. I ran downstairs back to the club... and when my friends saw me they knew I had sex. I was crying... bc I couldnt explain what happened to me... I didn't recognize it as rape until long after the cruise. Luckily, I was raped on the last night... and when I went home one of the girls from the cruise took me to Planned Parenthood to get the emergency pill (he didn't use a condom) and to get tested. I never told my family and had to sneak to PP each time I needed to get tested. Once I found out that I was free from everything... I never brought it up. Three years later...I finally told my family. It went well.... but I mean, what can they say?

I still look at that night and wonder... what happened? I still blame myself even though I know it isn't my fault... I just thought, maybe he didn't realize I didnt wanna have sex... I mean I vaguely remember saying no- but now, thinking of my face...my body language (laying there rigid as he thrusted in and out of me)- that said no. He knew I was a virgin, he saw that I was not happy... He actually called me about two weeks later. I remember getting out the shower one wkend morning and hearing his voice. I fell to the floor in my towel, just crying by the answering machine...why was he calling?? didn't he know what he did to me??? Thats when I really began to doubt the rape. Was it rape? Then why did he call? I will never know why he did I guess, he never called back.

In this past year,I found women's studies at my current college and fell in love...

Through my school and now this new major, I am able to speak and learn with women just how prevelant these assualts are. It's sickening. I hate it. People think I overexaggerate about these issues... but reading others stories and living through my own, I know I am not. I never realized how much that night had affected my life until this past year. My freshman year of school I stayed in an emotional abuse relationship, just bc I was too scared to get out there and meet men. I still am angry at men... even though it is not everyone- but still, try explaining that to a young girl whose frist sexual experience was rape. I am still cautious in everything I say and do with men... but I guess I am slowly healing on my own and by breaking my silence... and hopefully in the future- changing this world for the better. I just wish I knew how to make the pain go away for good, take away the mistrust and memories- from myself and everyone.

Stay strong women... and men. We need to keep speaking out... although it is one of the hardest things to do- to say your story outloud or even type it out. We are not alone...horrible as it is... STAY STRONG. *much love and support*

Jessica Sears from Greenwich, CT | 11-May-02
In April of 2001 I was raped by my former neighbor in my apartment. I had been sleeping and felt someone on top of me. At first I thought it was my boyfriend, who was asleep on the couch, but when I opened my eyes, I realized it was not. I screamed and my boyfriend chased my attacker out of the house and called the police. The police caught him minutes after he left my apartment and he is currently in jail waiting for prosecution.

Within days, the attack took it's toll. While I had been assertive and independent, everyday activities like going to work or out with friends seemed to be very dangerous. My boyfriend and I moved into my parent's home to recover.

I was very fortunate to have the support I did as I began the recovery process. My parents and partner listened to me. I went to counseling at my local Sexual Assault Crisis Center. I have been able to move through the healing process, though I suspect it is one that never ends.

Talking was so essential to me. My view of my self and my safety in the world around me was deeply damaged and I am incredibly grateful for the support I received as I worked to rebuild it.

I still have hard days, when I resent the direction my life has taken, but for the most part I am proud of the way I have walked through the healing process.

For the first anniversary of my rape I went skydiving with my partner and my father. My mother and closest friend waited on the ground. I felt as though I reclaimed the day for myself.

Anonymous from Dallas, TX | 16-April-02
When you are a 14 year old girl the last thing you are concerned about is being raped. I was a very naive little girl at 14 and went along with anything my older sister was doing. One day she took me with her to her boyfriend's house. She decided once we got there that I should stay at his place while they went out. Her boyfriends roommate was there. His name was Mike, I never knew his last name. My sister and her boyfriend left me alone with this guy, he was 28 years old and a body builder. I wasn't frightened, but then again, I didn't think I needed to be. He started to kiss me and I tried to push him away, but he was getting angry. He kept forcing himself on me and I couldn't fight him off, he was too big. He forced me to perform oral sex on him, which to this day, 14 years later, I can't do to anyone. Then, he raped me. He took my virginity, my innocence, and my childhood. I am so lucky that I didn't get pregnant, I would have killed myself. He threatened to kill my mother and my sister if I said anything to anyone. So, I kept my dirty secret for 6 years. I didn't tell anyone what happened to me until I met a girl who had been molested by her father. When she told me what had been happening to her for years, I finally felt like I could let it go. It was so good to be able to tell someone what happened to me and how it made me feel. I don't feel like a victim anymore, I know I am a survivor. My healing began when I told someone what happened and when I told my mother. It took me ten years to tell my mother, I knew it would break her heart, but I did finally tell her. I am 28 now and rarely think about that time. I have one regret, not telling someone when it happened to me so that he could have been punished. I feel guilty thinking that there may have been more women subjected to this man, but I didn't know what to do. I was a scared little girl.

I am currently working on a Sociology paper in which I am focusing on rape. I have chosen this subject because it is still a part of who I am. Because of what happened to me, I have made different choices than I would have otherwise. I am a much more careful and aware individual. I know that I am not invincible and that it could happen again, but I won't let it.

To all of you who are survivors, I hope that you can move forward and not let what has happened to you ruin your life. There are so many wonderful things that life has to offer, don't let anyone take that away from you. I have found a wonderful man that I can love and trust with everything I am and he knows that I was raped.