Reflections from the Walk

It has taken a week of reflection to gather my thoughts from the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.  I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster since the event.  It took a few days for it all to even fully sink in.  Now that it has, I can honestly say that I am in awe of the people I had the honor of meeting there and still amazed that so many men willingly put on high heels just to stand up and walk with us. 
I was nervous about speaking about my rape in public.  I know that I tell my story here, but it is different when you see the faces of those you are writing to and getting an immediate reaction from those faces.  I was grateful to my mom for being there with me, supporting me, like she always has.  She has been my rock through all of this.  One of the people I had the honor of meeting was a 16 year old girl, named Kaitlyn, who was also there to tell her story.  Kaitlyn was sexually assaulted when she was 15.  She had the courage to press charges against her attackers. We decided to stand together at the microphone in order to support each other as the other spoke.  Kaitlyn told her story with poise and strength that is uncommon for most 16 year olds to possess.  I was so proud to stand by her side, meet her family and to now be counted among her friends.  
When it was my turn to speak, I told my story and the reaction I got was not something I even remotely expected.  People in the audience came up to me, thanked me, and said how brave I was for coming forward and telling my story.  Others came up and told me their stories.  I met women who have lived through hell and were still able to smile and be thankful for the life they had.  One woman, Tina, came up to me and thanked.  She told me that she had been raped 29 years ago by her then husband, while she was pregnant with her oldest child.  Her husband beat her and then tried to cut the baby out of her belly.  What she told me next still brings tears to my eyes.  Tina had never really talked about it before.  She said she felt silly even telling me about it because it happened so long ago, but after hearing my story she was ready to talk about and deal with what happened to her.  She said she was inspired by my strength.  Tina, if you are reading this, it is I who is inspired by your strength.  I am in awe of you and your spirit. You are a beautiful soul.  If you are reading this, please get in touch with me.
Over this last week, I have had trouble coming to terms with the praise people were giving me for my speech.  I don't think I did anything brave.  If I was really brave I would have pressed charges 13 years ago.  The brave ones are those who decided to take a stand, like Tina and Kaitlyn.  The brave ones are those who refused to remain silent.  Don't get me wrong, I recognize that I had the strength to  stand up and tell my story at the Walk, but I do not count myself among the truly brave.  I am happy that my story impacted so many people.  I hope that the college students who were there will take our stories back with them and tell their friends the true impact that rape and gender violence has on women. I hope they left with an understanding of the devastation it has on the lives of the victims.  I hope they left with an understanding that rape is not a sport. It is a violent, horrific act that is the worst violation imaginable.  I hope they left with a crystal clear understanding that no does indeed mean no.  If they took that away with them after the walk, then I would feel I deserved a little of the praise that was so generously bestowed upon me by those in attendance.
I want to thank the amazing women who organized the walk and the wonderful people who run Laurel House. Preston and Steve from 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia, thank you for being the Mcee of the event and participating in the walk. You gave great publicity to the cause.  Thank you for that. You are all heroes in my eyes.