TIA: When did it happen for the first time?
S: Right before my nineteenth birthday.
TIA: And you said it was someone that you knew?
S: Yes... I went all the way through from elementary school with him, except for the time that he was incarcerated in ninth and tenth grade
TIA: Can you tell us a little bit about after the fact - what you went through in those first few days and what it was like when you tried to file a report
S: I went home and I just cried. I just cried. I cried myself to sleep. I got up that morning and went to my boyfriend's house, and I actually got fired from work that day because I was late, and I wouldn't tell them why. Jake knew something was up... I wouldn't let him hug me. I kind of just blurted it out. He begged me to go to the police, but I told him I couldn't. I mean if I did, I would have had to tell my parents.
Anyway, two days later I did go to file a report. An older officer looked at me and said, "Are you sure you don't just regret it? You don't just want to get him in trouble?" I said "No - It happened". I was hysterically crying, pleading, and he didn't believe me. I decided to put it behind me then and there and just move on -- I thought if I could just forget about it it would be like it didn't happen.
TIA: So how long did it take for you to talk to your mom?
S: It happened in 2005. I told my mom in 2011.
TIA: What was it like during those 6 years to suffer in silence?
S: it was hard... it was eating me up inside. I was depressed, I was throwing myself into bad relationship after bad relationship. And then, one of them raped me too. I never told anyone because I couldn't remember all the details. I still can't process it because I just can't remember. I remember waking up in my car in excruciating pain and not knowing how I got there.
TIA: After you told your mom, how did you feel?
S: Like there was a huge weight off my shoulders -- like I could have my best friend back. I mean I didn't talk to her in complete detail about it because, you know, it's hard as a mom hearing something like that happening to your child. But I just knew I could come and cry to her - my mom is my rock. I don't think I could have survived all of this if it wasn't for her. If I had known that back then, I would have woken her up and told her right then.
TIA: So what was the fear about telling your mom?
S: I was afraid she'd look at me differently. She'd know I wasn't a virgin. I didn't want that taken away from me - I really thought you were supposed to wait until you were married.
TIA: So what happened next?
S: I got a restraining order against him. It was supposed to be for 5 years. He was incarcerated for 4 and a half years, but was released without me knowing. He continued to show up at my door, harassing me. I got really tired of living in fear. I realized no one would do anything, so I went to the courts myself. I realized I had to be my own advocate.
I then decided to go to the police academy. I decided I wanted to help people who have been in my position once I started moving through it. I wanted them to know that it isn't a death sentence; that you can work through it. I mean it's still going to be scary the whole time, but I wanted to help others that might not have the people to talk to like I do.
During all of this, I started taking a Women's Self Defense Class. That was the first step in me moving forward. I'm still really close with my instructor. I talk to him every day -- he's one of my biggest supporters. He knew what happened and knew I wanted to protect myself. He introduced me to a few people, a few others who went through this. It's so nice to talk to someone when you're feeling like shit and they just get it.
TIA: Can you tell us what it was like bringing your story to Take Back the Night?
S: Speaking at Take Back the Night was hard. A woman pulled me aside there and said, "can I talk to you"? She said my story hit her. She was gang raped and never told anyone - she was young when it happened. She told me she was ready to get help now, because of my story.
Some days I feel like a victim. Some days I feel like a warrior. It's a process. But talking about it helps me move forward, one step at a time.
TIA: How do you feel now?
S: My chest is a little tight but I feel okay.