One of my favorite quotes comes from an episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit. Olivia Benson tells a rape survivor that "people who have gone through unfair, horrific experiences have this will. And when they get support, a chance, they cannot only survive, they can thrive." As a victim of multiple sexual assaults, this quote has been so powerful to me.
I had just turned 14 when I experienced my first sexual assault. I was at my house with my boyfriend at the time and he forced me to give him oral sex. I cried and tried to fight it but there was no use, I was trapped. This happened 3 other times before I was finally able to gather the strength to end the relationship. However, once I ended that relationship the abuse continued. He proceeded to stalk me for six years until I was finally able to get a restraining order. I wish I could say this was the only experience of sexual assault I've had but unfortunately it's just the beginning.
When I was 18, I was in a long-distance relationship with a guy from California. Over Christmas break, he flew out to see me. While he was here he got me drunk and raped me. I remember fighting him off and begging him to stop only for him to look at me and say "you're feisty when you're drunk." The next day I had to take him to my family Christmas party to meet everyone. I'm very close to my family so having to take my rapist to meet them was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I had to pretend nothing had happened while feeling numb and empty inside. I knew I couldn't do anything about it because I was his only way back to the airport. Once that week ended and I took him to the airport, I cried for hours knowing I was finally free and I'd never have to see him again. We broke up a short while later.
These two assaults are just the beginning of my story. I have been assaulted and raped numerous other times, one of them happening just a few weeks ago. However, despite everything I've been through it's never held me back. I've lived a happy life and I've been able to thrive and blossom in life. How? By being true to myself and never losing touch of who I am.
I believe everyone has the ability to thrive after a traumatic event. It just takes some time and work. Somethings that I've found beneficial is sharing my story. Once I went public with my assaults, numerous women showed me their strength and stood beside me to share their stories. They told me I wasn't alone and helped me realize that I can be as strong as them.
Sometimes the most important thing to help you thrive is others. I can wholeheartedly say that the reason I've been able to thrive is because I have a good group of girls to back me. It doesn't matter if those girls come from a sorority, an on-campus organization, a church, or even just friends you met at a coffee shop, other girls can be some of the most uplifting and powerful sources to help you grow. I know in my darkest moments calling up one of my besties and asking for their help has been so empowering to me. I truly could not have made it this far without my gal pals.
I have lived a happy life. Most people believe that because I've been raped, assaulted, and stalked that my life must be miserable, and that's just not true. I do everything a normal college girl does. I go out with friends, I study in the library, and I have amazing opportunities coming my way. Although I still deal with the effects of my trauma every day, I never let it hold me back. I am more than a victim or a statistic. I am a survivor but more importantly, I am thriving despite my past.