I’ve never told my story before and I’m not telling this story because I want sympathy, because I don’t. I want to tell my story in a setting like this because I know there are so many other women out there struggling like I was.
At the age of 15, I was raped by someone very close to me, someone I considered family. I kept it in a full day, 24 hours I was living in a haze, not able to tell anyone because I felt ashamed. I felt that it was my fault and I let it happen to me. When I finally did tell someone the next day, they laughed at first thinking I was making a joke. When the tears started falling down my face they realized it wasn’t a joke. I then had to go to the hospital. For a barely teenager, who was only beginning to see/have a woman’s body — having to get a rape kit done was traumatizing. I felt just as ashamed having to bare myself to a stranger as I had felt the night before. I had lost a piece of myself the previous night and now felt like I was losing a piece of myself again being examined; having to turn my clothes in from the previous day for evidence, having to get hair samples, getting underneath my nails scraped, then the numerous shots and medicines. At 15, you shouldn’t be stressing about the possibility of getting an STD or hepatitis. I was a 15-year-old girl who had just been raped then through a rape kit, and the police department has the nerve to send in a male detective. I had to recount minute by minute what had happened to me then skip a year later when the trial finally happened, I once again had to recount every moment again.
For years I had nightmares and relived the pain over and over again. There were parts of the city I refused to travel to in fear I would run into him. There were times I was afraid to even wash my face before bed because when I closed my eyes I would see his face.
One day I realized that I can’t be afraid of him anymore, I can’t let him control my life, control my future. I will not be a victim to him or to my past any longer. I survived being raped, I survived the trial, I survived telling my story on the stand while having to look at his face, and even though he didn’t get the sentence he deserved, I am still here and stronger because of it.
I walked this road with invisible scars for 16 years. I used to think everyone who looked at me could see these scars, could see how broken I was, knew that I was damaged goods. It was only recently that I realized this horrible past I went through is why I am strong today, it’s why I am me. I am done being a victim, I am done suffering, I am done letting this define me.
When I am having a bad day, whether it be a fight with my husband, my kids are being monsters, work has me at the edge, I remind myself that I have survived something so much worse. I can get through everyday problems because I’ve gone through the toughest day of my life before and I survived. Our past shouldn’t be this dark cloud that looms over us, it should be the wind pushing us forward. I know that is such a hard thing to grasp because it’s taken me 16 years to! And yes, I will have days that I fall again, and I will think I can’t get back up, but then I will need to remind myself where I was and where I am now.
We, women who have been abused, whether emotionally or physically, are not victims, we are survivors. We are where we are today because we survived our past and we are stronger because of it.
Ashley Hamilton is a 31 year old wife and mother of 2 boys. She enjoys writing in her spare time, going camping, and spending time with her boys.