April 16th, 2013. That’s the day that the traumatic memories of my most violent rape came to the surface. I was sitting on the couch flipping through my CD binder pulling out and listening to discs at random as my husband and I unpacked boxes after moving into our first home with our young daughter. When the memory first filtered through my consciousness it took my breath away and I immediately burst into tears.
A few weeks later as I continued to process the memories I began to write everything down. Several months later, after struggling to process the information on my own I reached out to a therapist and began the long arduous journey to recovery. As trauma therapy often works the memories and emotions came to me in waves, as much as I was able to cope with over the course of the next three years.
I addressed nearly every other aspect of the brief, toxic relationship with my rapist aside from the rape itself through talk therapy, and by recording it on a personal blog. While I spoke to my therapist about the rape, I was stuck in denial for quite a long time. I was aware of what happened, and yet I didn’t want to accept it. I don’t know how much of that was the nature of trauma itself, or my rapist’s continued albeit sporadic involvement in my life.
I endured the stress of my recovery mostly on my own, ready to heal but not ready to share the details of my trauma with my family. I honestly can’t remember how it came about, but eventually I was discussing the particulars of my therapy with one of my younger sisters and she mentioned A Voice for the Innocent.
She encouraged me to share my story, speak my truth, and continue on my path toward recovery. I created an account several months before I actually gained the courage to write everything down, but soon completely on a whim I submitted my story in late 2014. It was simultaneously the most terrifying, and liberating thing I’ve ever done as I hit submit and my story went live on the website. For the first few hours I checked it obsessively, concerned that my rapist might find it even with the great care I had taken to protect my identity. Then I received my first comment. It was encouraging, and validating which inspired an entirely different wave of emotions surrounding my memoirs. Suddenly the memories were associated with compassion and empowerment vs fear and misplaced guilt. Soon after the first comment popped up, another one followed just as encouraging. Several more flowed in through the course of the next few weeks and each of them touched my heart so deeply.
That was the gentle push that I needed to continue toward my complete recovery. The next year, April 2015, I took part in a blog series highlighting my entire recovery journey for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Each time I spoke of my struggles I received so much encouragement. I also received many vague comments of “me too” years before that phrase entered mainstream conversation in regards to sexually based crimes.
It was then that the decision to publish my work beyond my small blog became final. My therapist had suggested writing a book when I first began my recovery, but I resisted anxious that my story wouldn’t be well received or accepted. I didn’t feel worthy to share my story with the world, still mired in the shame of how I became a victim.
After experiencing the overwhelming positive and encouraging support from those here at AVFTI, the wall that I built around myself slowly began to crack. In May of 2018 I finally reached the end of my recovery journey. I put the trauma that consumed my life for over a decade to rest and published my memoir.
I have trouble describing exactly what I felt when I received my first print copy of the book. The small crack in the wall suddenly gave way as it crumbled and all of the anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, apprehension and other negative emotions surrounding my past was set free; a butterfly exploding from its cocoon in resplendent fluorescent colors.
I am eternally thankful to AVFTI and all of the wonderful volunteers for the part they played in my recovery journey. I’m stronger, empowered and finally free. I wouldn’t be without them.