There are more mornings now where I wake up without my first thoughts being a panicky search for an intruder. I can almost see the whole thing being just a figment of my overactive imagination. Maybe that wasn’t really me that woke to a man in my house. Maybe the attack was something I saw on TV or in a movie.
But I know that’s not true. I know it was real. I know it will always stick with me. No matter how long it’s been, no matter how far away.
Thirteen years ago, I awoke to the figure of a man in my bedroom. I lived alone and knew something wasn’t right. Little did I know that he had been planning this moment. Researching me. Gathering his tools. Waiting for the right moment.
The perfect moment for him was the completely wrong moment for me. Eventually though, it would be the exactly wrong moment for him, too. Little did he know, the woman he thought he had researched, selected, and prepared for, would turn his world as upside down as he turned hers.
My life as I knew it ended that very moment. I didn’t realize how much of an impact one moment in life really could have on a person’s psyche. The confident woman that I had finally found again after my first marriage had dissolved a few years before suddenly became a terrified shell of a person.
Fear ruled my nights and my days. Terror was my constant companion. Every noise was a threat, maybe a sign that he was coming back. Yet, somehow I found something in me that let me come forward — at first, I think it was the shock that allowed me report it so quickly, and a little bit the terror from thinking he might come back to finish me off.
No matter how scared I was (I never went back to that apartment alone again), I found a way to move forward with the investigation. I drew strength from those around me when I really just wanted to hide. From everything. Yet somehow I found a way to put it away, yet acknowledge what happened.
I made my way through the eventual trial. Realized that while this happened, and I can’t change it, I can find a way to respond that was all me — it wasn’t him making the decisions anymore. I found my voice, and used it to try to help others, which led to the 20/20 episode, and the Investigation Discovery show, and the Primetime: Crime piece.
Medication, therapy, friends, and family all helped me find a way to get from one moment to the next, an hour at a time, then a day, then a week, until I made it here. Thirteen years — it’s a strange number to celebrate. Yet here we are. I still can’t take a shower without thinking about what happened, can’t hear that water running without a little shiver of fear.
I don’t have a panic attack about it though, or at least not as often. I still check the locks, a lot. I still listen to noises a little more closely than most. I still have the moment where I freeze as I prepare to react, just in case. I’m still a little over aware of things around me. I think I will always be a bit hyper aware. A bit unsettled. A bit scared. But I always know I’m not alone.
I found a husband who loves me, even with the quirks and crazy. He knew about me before we really got involved, knew the massive amount of baggage that follows me. And he still signed up for the combat duty that is being in my life. He was willing to tough it out, even knowing that he couldn’t fix it, that he couldn’t make it better. But he’s here for me, no matter how scared I get, no matter how many times I check the locks and ask what that noise was.
I’ve surrounded myself with people: close friends, family, and my husband. People I know I can trust with anything. Whether they know it or not, I’m thankful every day they are here and in my life. Thank you for being here for me because I don’t know how I would have done it, and still keep doing it, without you. You let me know, just by being here, that it’s OK to just be. I can be weak for a moment, or strong. Scared or confident. You help me be whatever I am at the moment — and that’s so important.
And most importantly, I won’t hide from what happened to me. I’ve found my voice (something not everyone can do), so I speak not only for myself, but for everyone who can’t find that voice in the hopes that someday they can find theirs.
Thirteen years ago today, I woke up to a man in my bedroom doorway. He bound me, raped me, and left me there terrified and broken. What he didn’t know was that he didn’t manage to completely put out the spark of who I was. That little ember managed to use that fear, that terror to rebuild me. It will always be with me. I’ll always have those moments. But I’m still here, still recovering, and still surviving.
YWCA was given permission to use the exact words and name of the survivor.