“I never imagined this could happen to me.” Everyone says that but it is true. I would never have imagined this happening to me. To be abused by a complete stranger is emotionally tarnishing. Don’t get me wrong, I still live a great life. It has its ups and downs. This crime hasn’t completely disrupted my ability to be [intimate] with someone but, then again, I have been with the same man for several years and he helped me through.
Still, I walk the streets with that sorrow, that hesitation to look directly at someone. I struggle with the aftermath of my attack with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I make it through because I am strong. Nevertheless, I can never completely trust strangers and, as such, it is difficult for me to form new relationships.
Really though, the attack impacted all my relationships, not just the new ones. There is the inability or hesitancy to form new relationships and then there are those relationships that have disintegrated because the people don’t exactly know what to say or how to act so they avoid me. But, really, what can you say? There really is nothing they can say or do to make it “go away” or make things “better”.
Before the attack, I was an exotic dancer in a nightclub. It wasn’t great, but not bad. After everything happened, I thought to myself that I just couldn’t keep doing this. I had to make a change. So, I stopped dancing and joined a group called, Victoria’s Friends. It’s a Christian group that counsels and helps women to get out of exotic dancing. They were really great to me.
Now, I am in school and am enjoying it. I am going into Cosmetology. It is something that makes me happy, something creative, something fun.
The Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia helped me learn better ways of coping with the attack. When I first came in, the nurse examined me and completed a forensic rape exam. Afterwards, the counselors helped me start the process of bringing my attacker to justice. And, I did receive justice. The man was caught and sentenced to life in prison plus 205 years. He was a young boy, 17 years old. I was 21. I never understood why someone that young would do something like this.
I treasure the Sexual Assault Center for all they have done for me. To this day, I still attend therapy there where I meet other people like me, people who can understand what I have been through.
I make jewelry and sell it to raise awareness not only about sexual assault but also about how the SAC helps people like me. I try to give back to the SAC by donating the proceeds from my Jewels for Justice. Somehow, helping them helps me to heal.
Currently, I work at a small restaurant downtown. I told the owner and manager about the SAC, what they do, and my story. They joined with the Sexual Assault Center to host a “Dining to Donate” where 10 percent of the day’s proceeds are donated to the SAC.
Basically, my advice to everyone is to never stay silent. If you are sexually assaulted, speak up! You need to report it. You will never find peace, otherwise. It is too easy to remain mired in the past when nothing has been done to fix what happened. Silence is the true enemy.
-As told to Marisa Yapko, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.