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“Should’ve stayed; were there signs I ignored?

Can I help you not to hurt anymore?

We saw brilliance when the world was asleep;

there are things that we can have, but can’t keep.

Who cares if one more light goes out?

Well, I do.”

— “One More Light”, Linkin Park, 2017

It was late summer of 2000, and I was looking at my friend Alec with perplexed curiosity as he stood next to his mother in my kitchen telling my dad how divorced life was going. Despite the awkward nature of them having this conversation, I was curious to know what Alec wanted to show me. For weeks, he had been gloating about a new CD he had bought of the “best music in the world”.  Even better than the “Marshall Mathers LP” that we listened to in my room on low-volume last week? Even better than Dr. Dre’s “Chronic 2001” CD? There was no way it was better than KoRn’s “Issues” or Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other”.  Nothing could be more raw or edgy than those CDs.

We went to my room and he said, “Dude, you have to hear this band. They are the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” He put the red-colored CD into my JVC 3-disc changer boom box, skipped to track 8, and pressed play.  The hauntingly simple piano riff with the dissonant, scratchy vinyl beat started in the background and then: “It starts with one…” Behold the smooth, baritone timbre of Mike Shinoda as he proceeds to explain to us how he designed this rhyme to explain something in due time. I was mesmerized by the beat, the music, the voice, the flow…but nothing could have prepared me for the shrapnel-loaded, volcanic eruption that came into my ears afterwards, telling me that “in the end, it doesn’t even matter”. Enter Chester Bennington.

I was hooked. I couldn’t stop listening to “Hybrid Theory”, the highest selling debut album of any band in the 21st century. Each song moved me in a way that inspired me, empowered me, and most importantly, accompanied me.  It accompanied me through the start of what would create every difficult and challenging time in my life. Chester Bennington was a powerhouse to my teenage angst. He never let me feel alone when I was isolated for weeks on end while my divorced father would go on dates or stay somewhere else. His voice made me feel strong when I was bullied and beat up, humanized as I battled drug addiction. Chester Bennington emancipated me and helped me find the vigor to break the chains that had attached themselves to me after being molested by an older woman as a teenager.

In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone, Chester stated it was just him and his father for a long time.  His father worked for years investigating child-sex crimes. “He was hardened by dealing with the shit of the world every day. So he brought a lot of that home. It was a very emotional situation.” The interview continues to allude to periods of sex abuse and drug abuse in his own past.  “No one in my family molested me,” he said with certainty. “It was people who were around me. Coming from a broken home, it was easy to fall into thinking ‘This is OK.’” The abuse Chester suffered came from an older boy from the time he was 7 until he was 13 years old.

As a young boy, I related to these emotions. I followed every interview, written and recorded, of Chester. I heard him say things like “I was tossed around like a rag doll in school for being skinny and different looking,” or “I was a lot more confident when I was high,” and even mentioning not wanting anyone to thinking he was gay or lying due to his sexual abuse.

“I felt like I had more control over my environment when I was on hallucinogens or drinking,” Chester said.

According to RAINN.org, survivors of rape and sexual assault are:

    • 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
    • 6 times more likely to use cocaine
    • 10 times more likely to use other major drugs
    • 13 times more likely to become addicted to alcohol
    • 26 times more likely to become addicted to drugs

Furthermore, survivors of rape or sexual assault are 4.1 times more likely to simply contemplate suicide, while they are 13 times more likely to have attempted suicide than “non-crime victims”. Sexual abuse can be considered a certain death certificate. It should never be this way.

I am familiar with the pain of being isolated, alone, bullied, and trapped. I have been sexually assaulted, molested, raped…whatever term you choose. I have been addicted to drugs.  I have contemplated and attempted suicide. However, I am not alone in this. I found solace in the music of Chester Bennington. I found solace in those he has inspired. I found comfort and peace with those who have been here for me while I continuously face these demons. I know to be honest about them.

We are here with you. There is help and there is always a way to find strength, no matter how dark the storm may be. A Voice for the Innocent is a community of support for those that have been affected by rape and sexual assault. You are not alone.

Depression and anxiety, no matter the cause or severity, are monsters in themselves to battle every second of every day.  Our friends in To Write Love On Her Arms and HeartSupport are here to provide support. You are not alone.

Drug and alcohol addiction/abuse are perhaps some of the most overlooked demons a human being can face. Our friends in MusiCares are here for those in the music industry who are affected by these ailments. Let any of these organizations know if you need further resources to find help.

You are not alone. There is always help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Crisis Text Line: text VOICE to 741741

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