It was the first semester of my freshman year in college. I lived a couple of hours away from home and was loving my independence, until an incident occurred that made me feel completely out of control. I was visiting a family member of a friend, the relative was much older than we were, and he isolated me and made some big assumptions and actions. The whole thing happened quickly and was so shocking that it took me some time to process.
I drove home to my parents the next morning, and told them everything, showing them torn clothing and bruises while gulping for air. My parents reacted in the best way possible:
- They believed me. There was no questioning of my motive, understanding or my memory of the events that had occurred.
- They supported me. My parents encouraged me to go back to my university town and go straight to the police. For almost a year after that, we were embroiled in pressing charges against a prominent person in my community. The court date was re-scheduled and changed several times and my Dad was there each time.
- They rooted for me. My family was understanding of the stress this situation put me through, and they encouraged me every step of the way, never suggesting that I should leave school, keep quiet or pretend nothing had ever happened.
The assault made my introduction to college much more challenging than I had expected, but it also gave me clarity about what was truly important to me; safety and respect. It is so difficult to convey the helplessness of having little to no say about what happens to your body, while simultaneously questioning yourself. Over time I changed my major to work professionally with survivors of rape, domestic violence and incest. I would never wish a situation like this on anyone, the fear and doubt that ate at me was sometimes paralyzing, but I learned from firsthand experience the importance of responding from a place of love with belief, support and encouragement.