The First Step Toward a New Life
"I was raped."
Never in my life did I think those words would be coming out of my mouth. It was always one of those things that I figured would never happen to me. After all, I knew how to protect myself. I knew how to keep myself safe. In my head, rape was something that happened to "other" girls, not me. It was something that I heard about on the news or watched on TV via episodes of "Law & Order: SVU," it was certainly not something that was ever supposed to happen to me. I was never supposed to be attacked while I slept by a person who said he loved me, yet apparently didn't understand the word "no." I was never supposed to have my life thrown into complete turmoil like this. I was never supposed to be one of the "other" girls. I learned quickly that there is no "supposed to" in life, there is just "what happens."
So why, after all these years, was I going public with the most private thing in my life?
I am doing this because in January 2012 I saw a documentary called "Tapestries of Hope," about Betty Makoni, the founder of Girl Child Network, and her work with child rape victims in Zimbabwe. I watched these girls speak of their horrifying ordeals. I listened to their stories, listened to how they are now battling HIV, AIDS, and how at 12, 13, 14 years old they are now mothers to babies born from rape. I watched and listened. I saw their extraordinary courage and their inspirational strength. I saw how these amazing girls were able to stand up and make sure their rapists were brought to justice. They made sure that the men who did these horrible things were never able to hurt another girl again. I saw girls who, as children and teenagers, had infinitely more courage than I did at 20 years old. They had the courage to report it, to fight back and to scream from the roof tops that they will not sit by and do nothing. I, on the other hand, didn't press charges.
As I watched this documentary I realized that I needed to do whatever I could to help these girls. As I watched this documentary I realized that I found my purpose. In these inspiring girls I found the girl I used to be, the girl I wanted to be again. In these girls I found my strength again. I found myself in these girls. Most importantly, I found my voice and I am no longer afraid.