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When I was in middle school, I had severe pain in my hips. When I would go to doctors, they wouldn’t believe me. It wasn’t until about two years later that a chiropractor took x-rays and we discovered that my hips were crooked – my right one higher and more forward than my left. The relief of validation, that the pain I was experiencing was not “in my head”, consumed me. And although some of my anger settled, I was still incredibly frustrated with the doctors. Why should I trust doctors to take my pain seriously in the future? I went to them needing help, but they did not believe me.

I was bullied periodically throughout my childhood, but the worst of it was during my freshman year of high school. The specific details are not important, but it was by one person at school whose opinion mattered a lot to me, and it happened every day for the entire school year. The hardest part was that it was almost always done in front of my best friends. My friends would just laugh it off, like a joke. And if it wasn’t around them, it was around other students. And even though it happened at least once a day for a whole year, I only remember two times where a friend stood up for me. Still, I am very grateful for those two times.

Right before my chemistry final exam freshman year, I was studying on the floor of a hallway. With a group of his friends, he came up to mend started saying really hurtful things. For the first time, I broke down crying in front of him. He and his friends walked away laughing, leaving me sobbing on the floor with my face in my hands. One friend came and sat with me. My friend, who wasn’t aware of anything that had been going on, thought I was crying out of test stress and sat with me while I composed myself. Words can’t convey how much it meant to me to have someone with me in that moment.

I am very fortunate to have never been the victim of sexual assault. I’ve had scary situations, and I am extremely grateful for the people who were around me in those moments who’ve prevented anything awful from happening. To some extent, I can relate to people who think others won’t believe them. I’ve been in situations where it felt like no one believed me, and where I’ve felt like I had no one. I’ve also sat with and consoled friends while they opened up about their sexual trauma, and each time my heart broke when they spoke to their emptiness and loneliness. It has always been so clear to me that it was not their fault, and they didn’t deserve what happened.

And that’s why I work to support survivors of sexual violence. I distinctly remember the times when I’ve felt utterly alone, which makes me extremely grateful for the times when I’ve had someone, and I am now doing research on the treatment of PTSD. I know that there’s a lot of bad in this world and I just want to be part of the good, in any way I can. Over the past few years I learned no one should ever feel alone, and no one ever really is.

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