Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Am No Longer A Rape Victim or a Survivor...I am a 'Thriver'

16 Years Old
A few months after the assault.
I was 16 years old when I was sexually assaulted.  I was told I was lucky.  It could have been worse.  I could have been killed. I didn’t think I was lucky, though.  The life I wanted and saw for myself was taken from me.  I was saving myself for love…not marriage mind you, but I knew I would only be with one man.  I fantasized about my first time.  It would be wonderful, my very own love story, for the history books.  It was not, sadly.  I was broken physically, and in shock.  I could love on some level, but I didn’t understand if, or how, someone could love me back after what had happened to me.  I was told, “It’s normal to feel that way.” 

For years, it was a lot of people just talking to me, telling me what I was going through was “normal”.  No one really gave me the tools to heal.  Just talk.   I didn’t want to talk; I wanted to do something about it.  I remember very clearly, the moment I found hope in changing my circumstances.  I was in a sexual assault support group.  The councilor gave each woman a handout with three columns that read; Victim, Survivor, Thriver.  She explained each column and asked us to say which one we identified with.  At 26 years old, I was teetering between victim and survivor.  I had allowed the rape to define me for too many years. Some days I pitied myself, others I was just getting by.  I so desperately wanted to be thriving.  I wanted to be the carefree, strong 16 year old girl that I had been.  I didn’t know it was possible but this handout gave me new light.  Up until this point, everyone told me I would have a hard road ahead of me and I would never be that girl again.  It was this instant, in this group, when I realized, no matter what, we all have a hard road ahead of us.

It doesn’t matter what traumatic event you have faced, Life is not easy.  Still, when you boil everything down, we have one decision to make: will your life be about love or fear?  For so long, I had lived in fear.  Fear of love.  Fear of getting close to someone.  Fear of life.  I replayed events over and over again, hoping to gain some knowledge to my questions.  Why did this happen to me?  Was it my fault?  What could I have done differently?    It was this moment I decided I was going to choose love. I made peace with the past not knowing the answers to these questions. 
When I got home from group that night, I sat down on my sofa, my cat Jack was snuggled beside me, and I wrote down my new life’s mantra; “Everything I do in life, I do for love.”   I decided right then and there I wasn’t a victim anymore.  I wasn’t going to live my life just surviving or getting by day to day.  I was going to thrive!       

My little man, Jack
We've traveled the country together for over 10 years.
He's given more love than I could ever return in this lifetime.
When I read aloud my mantra to Jack, he reached his little fuzzy black paw to my face and he meowed back which I interpret as either “I concur!” (Or “Where are the treats, lady?”)

 It wasn’t long after, that the universe took over.  I had said aloud what I wanted and everything that I didn’t love was forcefully removed from me…Mainly my job.  Once I made the commitment to my life being about love, it became so. This loss fueled what I’ve always wanted to do; write and travel.  The choices I made were easy to make once I decided. Do I love it?  Does this serve who or what I love? Does this serve my purpose? 

26 Years Old
I decided I was going to thrive, not just survive.
What better way to thrive than with chocolate! 
This wasn’t a heal-myself-overnight type of situation.  I am human and it took a long time to undo a lot of the habits and false comfort I had surrounded myself with.  With each year, my mantra become stronger.  My purpose more clear.  Whenever I hit a bump, I reminded myself what I am about.  “Everything I do in life, I do for love.” 

After my assault, I had flashbacks and horrific dreams, my body paralyzed or shaking.  A boyfriend was usually shocked and freaked out next to me.  “Do I hold her?  What do I say?  What is going on?”   Now, when I do feel a flashback coming on, I am able to slow the process down, seize the moment, allowing more control over the situation.  I haven’t had a flashback in two years.  I still have nightmares, but they are few and far between.  I wake up crying, reach for my cat Jack.  I hold him in my arms, sometimes squeezing him a little too tightly like one of those stress dolls with the bulging eyes. He touches his fuzzy paw to my face and I remember I am lucky. 

For me, thriving is a mindset.  Yes, it’s easier said than done.  I have moments when I am scared, when I feel the fear creeping back in.  At these moments I remind myself of all the good I have in my life:

-I have a wonderful, supportive family.
-I have great friends worldwide who love me for me.
-I have a big-personality cat named Jack.
-I have a growing business that is going to help my community.
-I live on a beautiful island that I am in awe of everyday.
-I live in an amazing community that takes care of its own and is so supportive.
-I am resilient and strong.

I love my life.  I am grateful for this.  Because of my assault, I have met so many amazing women, I have traveled the world and I am on the path of my true purpose.  Who knows the type of life I would have had if I had not been raped?  Who knows the type of person I would be?  I do know that I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy.  Which brings me to what matters to me most: The only way to truly stop another person from being sexually assaulted is education, and to speak up.  I didn’t tell anyone for over a year about my assault.  I covered my bruises with clothing and make-up.  Most of the physical damage no one could see, and the emotional damage I was able to conceal as well.  Rape shouldn’t be happening.  No one should have to worry if they will be attacked, or if their loved ones could become a victim.  I would love to live in a world where rape didn’t occur. I want to live in a world where, if it did happen, it wasn’t taboo to talk about, and communities would stand in support of the victims.  Help those who need it, so that we end the cycle of violence. 

I’m lucky to live on an island that has a resource to help those who have been sexually assaulted or abused.  If you’re on Nantucket this Valentine’s Day, Friday February 14, 2014, please join the One Billion Rising global event to be held in the Nantucket Atheneum Library park at 5pm.  If the weather is poor, the event will take place in the Dreamland Theater.  This event is about love and rising above violence.  Come show your support.  If you’re not on-island, the One Billion Rising events are worldwide.  Search for an event locally.  Here is the website .

"Everything I do in life, I do for love."

 "One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is Love."  -Sophocles


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  2. Wow ! This is truly amazing and inspirational. Thank you for sharing, Dorothy ! xo

  3. Dorothy, thank you. I am coming up on five years of surviving a violent rape and beating on Halloween. Not a day goes by that I don't think that rape defines me or affects me. The world is full of triggers, but your post sparked in me the actions I need to take to gain and maintain control. Thank you for sharing your courage. Xoxo.


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