Rape is a touchy subject, but I believe we all need to beaware that it does happen, and sometimes to people we love. The person Iinterviewed was raped when she was younger. She is now a successful woman, wifeand mother. She is one of the strongest people I know, and stands as an exampleto all of us.
At what age were you raped? Did you knowthe person?
I was 23. I had just met him that night. I felt sorry for himbecause he was sitting alone. My friends and I were having a party, and so at thelast minute, I had asked him to come.
How did you get past thisevent and go on with a "normal" life? How long did it take you to beable to do this?
It took me two years to feel somewhat normal. I became arape crisis volunteer and learned about what victims feel. I turned to myHeavenly Father to help and heal me. I talked to other victims and becameeducated about rape. I talked to a rape counselor, and she really helped. But ithas only been recently that I overcame the fear.
Did you reportwhat happened to police?
I never reported it because I knew no one wouldbelieve me. Back then they would have thought it was my fault, or that Iconsented because I was at a party and I had invited him.
Do youworry that this could happen to you or your daughters?
Yes, but I can'tlet it rule my life or change my decisions about what I want to do, or where Iwant to go.
I worry for all of my children; I think I worry more thanother moms. I just try to be careful where I let my children go and with whom. Idon't let them ride bikes too far away from home or walk anywhere alone. I'm veryprotective.
What effects did the rape have on your life?
It changed everything. It devastated my soul. I saw my soul as a battlefield. Aonce-beautiful city was rubble, destroyed. I had to build my identity from thefoundation of my soul. My personality even changed for many years - until I foundmyself again. I've raised my kids never to restrict someone's freedom to move,and to act for themselves.
How did you feel afterwards, and howdid you handle it?
I felt lost, guilty, dirty. I felt like damaged goods,less than what I was. I felt unlovable; I didn't value the gift of my own love toothers.
At first, right after, I was in a state of shock. I really had ahard time coming to terms with what had happened. I repressed a lot, and it tookseveral months to remember the event and put things in order. I feltrobbed because something so valuable was taken from me. My freedom to choose formyself was gone, and I was robbed of my virtue, even though I didn't do anythingwrong.
I had panic attacks for over a year. I had horrible nightmares andstill do from time to time. For many years I was afraid of the dark, though Inever had been before. I also became slightly claustrophobic. I still don't letpeople I don't love or know well in my space.
I decided I wanted to be asurvivor, not a victim. I faced what happened to me head on. I dealt with how itmade me feel. I paid attention to my own behavior, so that I could fully overcomeit. For many years, I didn't like men. I never felt hatred for my attacker asmuch as a general dislike of all men.
I had decided not to get marriedbecause I figured eventually he would hurt my children or cheat on me. I finallycame around because of the good men in my life - my dad, brother andbrothers-in-law. And I saw some really terrific men who were good fathers anddevoted husbands.
I finally forgave my attacker, and I leave it to God tobring out justice.
Who was the first person you told?
Itold one of my sisters and a lifelong friend, "I think something funnyhappened last night." I knew I had been assaulted, but it was so hard to sayit out loud. Then, I told my other sister, but I couldn't bear to tell my parentsbecause I knew it would break their hearts. So, my sister told them. Then, I hadto call my boyfriend of two years and tell him. It was heartbreaking foreveryone. There wasn't one person in my life who wasn't devastated and broken byit.
I felt like I was in a glass room, where I was suffering and in pain.My family knew it, and they were in pain too. I saw them outside this glass roomwanting to help me and make things right, but they couldn't. No one could. But itwas comforting to see them there, and know they loved me so.
I feelspecial because I survived a real heartbreak, a real loss to my soul. I havetriumphed as a woman and an individual. I am a survivor!
Do youfeel that this made you stronger in any way in the long run?
I feel I wasa strong person to begin with. It weakened me in many ways for a period of time.But I was, and am determined to be whole and I think that saved me. It has forcedme to find ways to be who I have always been meant to be.
I am morecompassionate with others. I understand people better who have been abusedphysically, sexually or emotionally. I can reach out to someone who is sufferingand help them find their way back to the light, back to a life free of pain,sorrow and hopelessness.
I feel stronger because I've had to overcomesomething that shoved my face into dirt and brought me to my knees.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.