Tag Archives: survivor

Maybe it is all me


I read a Facebook post once that was called You’re Allowed to Leave and it had many statements in it that I really value.  Statements that have been so important to the last 6-8 years of my life.

Statements like

  1. “You’re allowed to leave someone you love if they’re treating you poorly, you’re allowed to put yourself first if you’re settling and you’re allowed to walk away when you’ve tried over and over again but nothing has changed.”
  2. “We sometimes look at leaving as a bad thing or associate it with giving up or quitting, but sometimes leaving is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
  3. “Leaving allows you to change directions, to start over, to rediscover yourself and the world. Leaving sometimes saves you from staying stuck in the wrong place with the wrong people.”
  4. “Leaving opens a new door for change, growth, opportunities and redemption.”

And it made me miss writing and paying attention to the blogs I follow.  I need to remember those things more often to stay present in my life.  To remember how far I’ve come in rediscovering myself and growing.  To remember that it’s ok to change, it’s ok to ask for change, and that where I am now is so much better than feeling like I am to blame and I am broken.  So much better then believing that my ex was right in saying “maybe it IS all you” when I commented that he wasn’t taking marriage counseling seriously because he was just waiting to hear that it was all my fault.

I can always tell when I’m getting complacent with my mental health.  Because I start to think about all the things I decided I would do when I left my marriage, some of which I didn’t do.  And in every conflict I feel like “yep, it really IS all me.”

I know that’s not true, don’t I?  But I go right back to it when things go wrong.  And then I wind up here, where I start thinking that it MUST be true, it is me who is not capable of healthy relationships.

And then I remember it’s ok to protect myself first.  To love myself first.  To remind myself of my value.

And that still feels great.  I really do know that I am not to blame for everything and that I am not broken.  I know that I own my feelings–as a victim, a survivor, a mother, a friend, a coworker, a girlfriend, and all other things I identify as in life.

I have written lots in the last couple years, but published none of it to this blog because I started to want to hide again. Not because I’m unhappy, not at all. I just started to wonder if I needed it.

I do. Not for recognition, but validation. And accountability. If I publish the things I think, then they feel real and I read them again and again when I need each reminder.

And because guess what? I am doing some really awesome things in my life.

I’m in a relationship that I value deeply and when we go through tough stuff, I know that we will get through it together. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I want to.

I am good at my job and I like it. I feel valuable and I love the people I work with and the people I serve in my role.

I’m still in therapy. I need it like some people need meds. It’s what makes me process and understand things without just laughing everything off and never being vulnerable.

I’m getting my body healthy. I took my body down with stress. I saw a naturopathic doctor and it changed my life. She looked at me as a whole and found ways that I could become healthy and not struggle with the same things and just be given med after different med. and I work with a personal trainer. I’ve lost inches, gained muscle, lost fat, lost weight, gained weight, and I feel like I finally found a way to be happy in my body. Not every single day, but most.

When you’re a survivor, you can sometimes despise your body. It’s a struggle for me. But I’m so close to putting that struggle behind me, and so I took a huge leap this year and said “pick me.” And they did. (I’ll probably tell ya, don’t worry.)

All those things happening in my life? I made those things happen. I am making those things happen every day. And that really IS all me. That’s a good thing now instead of being a phrase that felt so negative to me.

If I had never left, I wouldn’t know the many things I know today. And that too really IS all me. I left. I own that. I needed that.

And I’m ok.



I reported my rape, but I don’t know if I’d make that same choice today


Rape accusations and stories are in the news a lot lately. Whenever I see an article, I have two immediate reactions.

One is complete emotional pain for the victim. Because without question or hesitation, I believe you. And I hurt for all you will go through now, and possibly forever. You have done something extremely brave by telling. By reporting the crime against you. I wish for you to have strength, support, and hope for what lies ahead of you. I believe in you and I am so proud of you for being brave. For becoming a survivor.

After my feelings for the victim comes anger. So very much anger. I have an immediate anger for how the media reports these stories because they aren’t taking any time to do it right. I get so mad that they continue to lack the ability to inform without further perpetuating this rape culture that is all around us. The culture that blames the victim and questions why the victim didn’t do a better job of avoiding the crime. The culture that immediately defends and feels badly for a football player whose career might now be ruined or a celebrity who “has no reason to rape” because they are plenty popular and/or good-looking to not have to rape someone.

Newsflash idiot reporters: rape is not about sex, it’s about power and destruction and humiliation and it is a CRIME. A crime that the criminal absolutely knows he/she is committing.

Let me tell you what happened when I was raped and reported it. I spent THE ENTIRE night explaining what happened to multiple people. To nurses and doctors and detectives and my loved ones. The humiliation of having to say exactly what happened to hospital staff and then again to police was almost more than I could handle. I asked to leave several times. The judgment in their eyes and their questions was so clear.

The news media on campus and in the city were all over the story by the next day. Printing my statement word for word. As if saying that I was raped was not enough. The details for everyone to read. Why??

It was 1993. Sadly, the news media has not improved at all. In fact, I would argue that now it is a lot worse. My name was never used and my face on tv during the hearings was blurred out. Not that it mattered since my name was quickly dragged through the mud on campus. I mean, after all, I was just some nobody who accused two precious athletes of a terrible crime. Why should I be allowed to feel safe in my dorm or walking on campus? Everyone there knew who I was, but at least the whole country wasn’t watching.

I was way better off than the victims of current times. Victims who are so quickly called liars, gold diggers, sluts, and so many other disgusting things. The second a report is out there the victims also face massive judgment on every social media site. I know I shouldn’t read the comments, but I always feel drawn to them. I always have that shred of hope that people will defend the right person. That people will say “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “I believe you” or “you’re amazing and brave and not at all to blame for what happened.”

Those comments are almost never there. And that makes me tremendously sad. And so so so angry. If I am filled with anger and guilt and shame just reading the horrible comments, then I just can’t imagine what the victim is feeling.

I did read the articles about my rape in the papers. And it was awful. But the newspaper wasn’t online and the articles weren’t posted on Facebook and Twitter. After a long semester of stubbornly refusing to be pushed out of my college by the harassment and lack of support, I made the choice to leave. And I could leave the media behind me.

Knowing what I know about what victims face in the media these days, I can’t say that I would be brave enough to report the crime and to make it through all of that. I don’t know that I would want to report it knowing that for the rest of my life I would feel the way I feel going to a doctor for even a routine check up or having some stranger recognize my name from a news story about the college I attended.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you’re a victim of rape, you can find the courage to report the crime and the strength to go through with holding the criminal or criminals responsible for their actions. I hope that you will stand tall and know that I’m proud of you for being brave. That I believe you. And that nothing anybody in the media could possibly say will make me have less faith in you as a survivor.

Be strong and be you. Because you are awesome just the way you are.


Creepy quiet


I have not one, but two repair people coming to my home today.  This gives me a lot of anxiety.

I think when people think of survivors of sexual assault, they think of people who have anxiety related to walking alone at night, going to nightclubs, excessive drinking at parties, and other situations the victim “shouldn’t have been in” which put her at risk and now cause anxiety.  I can’t say that I feel comfortable walking alone at night because I don’t.  I won’t walk my dogs at night, I don’t like coming home after dark from being out somewhere, and I don’t enjoy complete darkness in my house.  I even have trouble exercising in my own neighborhood during the day when I’m alone because, at times, my mind starts to wonder about my safety.  Thankfully, I am not completely controlled by my level of anxiety and I am still able to get myself to do many of the things which make me anxious.  In addition, in my rental home and now my own home I feel completely comfortable even when I am alone.  I LOVE that feeling because it gives me an enormous “marker” of how far I have come in my healing.

I think what people don’t think about in terms of survivors of sexual assault is that it can affect EVERY single area of life from then on for many survivors, not just those “risky” environments.  I am one of those people.

Going to the regular doctor is horrible for me.  Being “put under” at a doctor or dentist is just an awful feeling.  On one such occasion, I had to reschedule because I just couldn’t manage to calm down enough to have the stupid procedure.  Being on college campuses is not enjoyable for me.  I have trouble in elevators sometimes.  And being in my house alone when repair people have to come in is REALLY difficult for me.

With repair people, I think I felt a bit better when I was married.  Which is strange because I was still alone in the house during the day when repair people would be there.  The way I deal with it now is to make sure I ask a lot of questions about the person before they come out to do the work.  I always expect to know the name of the person who is coming to my house, I do NOT accept a company telling me just the company name and an “I’m not sure who will come out.”  And when that person arrives, they had better have some ID and some personality.  I won’t be keeping you in my house to do whatever it is I’m supposed to pay you to do if you are super creepy.

Since buying my house, I have had to deal with a lot of different people for different house stuff.  Most have been fine and I get through it ok the majority of the time.  Lucky for me, the only guys who kind of gave me the creeps (so far) were here on a day when the best boyfriend in the world (mine) was here, and even though he was supposed to leave to get home for some appointments of his own, he stayed until they left.  I didn’t even have to ask, he just gets me and could see my discomfort.  He absolutely rocks.

The guys were creepy quiet.  I hate that.  If your job requires you to go into the homes of people every single day, please learn how to look at and talk to people so you are not creepy.  One had shifty eyes too.

In any case, I am waiting for 2 separate repair folks to come today.  I hope they aren’t creepy.

Fingers crossed.


The monster at the end


Growing up I always liked the Little Golden Book called A Monster at the end of this Book.  I own a copy still.  I feel like this book has been kind of coming to mind a lot lately as I get closer to this week being my week to disclose in group.

In the book, Grover from Sesame Street is telling the story and it is a really cute read.  The idea is that right from the start he is scared because there is a monster at the end of the book and he is afraid of monsters.  He comes up with different ideas to get the reader to stop turning the pages and getting closer to the monster.

This is how I am feeling as days go by because I would do just about anything to avoid this week’s group therapy session.  It is my week to tell my experience.  I can absolutely choose how I tell it and what I need to say in order to move toward healing, but I can’t imagine saying any of it out loud.  When I think about having to say it, I can’t get a breath.  The guilt I feel and the judgment I assume is the “monster at the end of the book.”  Rape culture is so focused on victim-blaming and what did the victim do that she/he should have done differently.  I know these people in my group therapy are “peers” and they, more than anyone else, understand how I feel most days, but it still feels like they will tell me how wrong I was or how it wasn’t really rape, or how maybe if I just did/didn’t DO x y or z it would not have happened to me.  I don’t know how to say it because saying it will make it feel so…real.  So…mine.  And I don’t want it.  I want to just give it away or stop turning the pages so that the monster is never something I have to face.

I started during the last week to write out my disclosure so that I could just read it, or so that at least I will have written it the way I think I need to say it to be most healing.  To try it out.  I can’t get through it.  I will, I hope, but so far I just can’t get myself to write it out.  And if I keep going and tell the story, either written or out loud, then the judgment will come.  I’m certain of it.

The “monster” at the end will come.  The monster feels like me.  What did I DO?  What should I have DONE?

In the story of Grover, the reader finds out right along with Grover that the monster at the end IS Grover.  That all along he was terrified of what was coming and at the end it is just himself.  Lovable, furry Grover.

This book is giving me hope.  Hope that at the end of this disclosure is just me.  That I built it up and made it a monster, but when I get through it and it is over I am left with me.  A wonderful, healing me.  A rediscovered me.  A me that is not at the end of a journey or at the end of a horrible story, but instead a me that is only beginning.

A me that can be accepted for exactly the person I am inside and have been all along.  A me with no more need to hide.


Major Meltdown


Today feels like it is all too much.  Today I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything.  I feel anxious, I feel scared, I feel unprepared to move forward.  I feel to blame.  I feel like I should have DONE something.

I don’t know what.  I kept myself as busy as I could, but now it is night.

My group therapy has reached the point where we will begin disclosures.  This is the reason that this weekend was a major meltdown weekend for me.  I don’t want to do the disclosure.  I don’t understand what I should say.  It can be whatever we want to say.  What I need to say for healing.  I’m terrified to say any of it out loud.

It is so risky.  It feels so heavy.

The last time I had to say any of this out loud was on a witness stand.  It did not go well and was all over the tv and print news.  I testified in front of a packed-to-capacity courtroom where the judge had to stop the proceedings several times to ask people to act appropriately.  A courtroom where some people made sexual gestures at me and were warned that they would have to leave if it continued.  Why in the world was that behavior accepted at all??  The judgment I faced that day feels like it will be present for the disclosure.

On some level I understand that it will feel so different in a room full of people who understand many, if not most, of my emotions.  But that isn’t helping me want to go through with it.  If I don’t do it, I don’t successfully finish the group.

I WILL finish the group.  I just don’t know how.


Then a victim, now a survivor


I was sexually assaulted many years ago, and at that time I attended a group therapy setting only a few times. It just wasn’t for me at that time. This many years later, when I decided it was time to completely work through the daily feelings I have from the sexual assault it was very difficult to make that first phone call. I avoided, I justified, I made myself just way too busy to make the call. Finally, I called to say I was interested in services. And just so I am clear up front I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE HAS TO BE A PROCESS OF SOME KIND TO SCREEN PEOPLE. I support that process, I really do. However, it was difficult to make that call and then I found out that it would be one of several calls I would have to endure BEFORE I could get into any group therapy. Thankfully, they had control over making those calls to me, they weren’t additional times I had to get myself to dial the number. After the phone calls, I had to make an actual appointment to go in and talk to someone face to face about my assault and my readiness for group therapy. Not one time, but MANY times. It was frustrating and I wanted to quit a lot. Every time I walked in, I was a victim. Once I started talking, I was always glad I made it to the appointments. But it felt like so much work each time to get there that I sometimes wondered if it would really be worth it.

Again, I understand why this screening process is in place and necessary, but I made those calls as a victim and I walked into that office for those individual sessions as a victim.

When a person is raped, they are a victim of a crime. This seems easy to understand. However, from the first second of an assault to every day of the rest of your life, you feel some level of shame as a victim. People say things that make you feel to blame, people don’t believe you, people feel you should be “over it,” and so it is increasingly difficult to talk about it to anyone. You feel like a victim over and over again.

Making that call, going into that office for the first time, it is scary and made me feel like a victim.

I made it through all of my individual sessions and was ready for group. When the day came for the first day of group, I was ridiculously early because I didn’t want to be late. But I couldn’t go into the building. I sat in my car. I got out and back into my car. I went to a gas station and got a drink and thought “that’s ok, I can try again another time.” There was no part of me (for over an hour) that wanted to go into that building and face my fears. After talking to some friends for encouragement, I went into the building.

It was one of the very hardest things I have ever done.

I am so very glad I did.

That day was uncomfortable, but as we introduced ourselves and talked about the process we would be going through for group, I found comfort. Comfort in the space and comfort in the people around me. People who fully understood that walk into the building. People who felt like victims that day walking in, and who I hope felt as good as I did walking out.

The validation of meeting that challenge made me so excited for what was ahead in therapy. There are bad days, sure, but having a place to go where people absolutely understand is an enormous weight off my shoulders.

I want that for anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault.

I was once a victim, but from now until forever I will choose instead to be a survivor.