I’ve referenced telling my story for BARCC in previous posts but haven’t actually told it here. This is the 5-minute version I tell at speaking engagements. Obviously, condensing a 25-year journey into 5 minutes is no easy challenge, but here it is:
When I was eleven, my parents, brother, and I went to visit my grandparents in Oregon. I loved visiting my grandparents. My grandmother was full of energy and creativity – we would wake up early and go pick blackberries by the ocean, talking about life and sharing stories. My grandfather was somewhat of a mystery to me, but I had great affection for him, especially because he was sick with Parkinson’s disease.
On that trip however, in the summer of 1988, my grandparents molested me. My grandfather felt my breasts while my parents and brother were
out for a walk. And my grandmother took a bath with me where she touched me Inappropriately.
Now, this wasn’t the first time I was sexually assaulted nor would it be the last time, but it was the first time I told anyone.
That night, I told my mom what had happened and I remember that all the color drained from her face. I thought she was mad at me, and I felt scared about what was going to happen. She left the room, and I heard lots of talking and whispering. The next day, my dad sat my grandfather down for a talk. I heard muffled, intense voices. And then we stayed the rest of our visit.
When we went home, everything went back to normal. Except I didn’t feel normal at all. Over the course of the next six years, I just felt worse and worse. I tried to cope with my feelings the best way I could, but I was just a kid. Some things helped – like writing and doing well in school – and other things did not – like starving or cutting myself.
When I got to college, everything hit rock bottom. While I had always been able to keep it together on the outside, my self harming behaviors peaked and I felt things starting to spiral out of control. I just wanted to die. I didn’t think there was a reason to go on but I was too afraid to take my own life. I was stuck.
I needed help, and there was a part of me unwilling to give up. So I found a therapist and she helped me navigate my way back to health. I was also fortunate to find two different intensive healing programs that really worked for me: The Opening the Heart Workshop and the Sierra Tuscon eating disorder program. It took a lot of time and energy, and I was fortunate that my parents were willing to pay for the treatment and therapy I needed. My therapist was really creative in the way she helped me find my way – and she believed that I could survive, heal, and thrive. She created a space that allowed me to explore all the parts of myself, examine the places I was broken, and piece myself together again.
Healing from sexual assault is like healing from any physical or psychological trauma. I will never forget what happened to me. If I close my eyes, it’s all still crystal clear. But I’m not afraid of it anymore, and it doesn’t impact my life in a negative way. Like any scar, it’s a part of who I am, but it’s not all of me.
Today, I am happily married with a little boy of my own. One day, I will talk to him about sexual assault and it’s aftermath so he can be a compassionate ear to others.
I speak about my experiences because I can. I am one of the lucky ones who found a way back. I speak about my experiences because I want to give hope to other survivors, and more importantly, open the door for friends, family, boyfriends, and girlfriends to talk about these kinds of traumas without fear or shame.
My story is just one of millions of stories around the world, stories of things that happen in shadows. The antidote to shame is light, and I hope that my story can light the way for others to share theirs and find community and healing.