YWCA McLean County is on a mission to end sexual assault.
Sometimes the first step to taking your power back over any situation is to share your story, this is an opportunity for you to do that. One that can be anonymous if you prefer. We invite survivors of sexual assault, their partners, and loved ones to let their voice be heard and share their stories. Your stories of heartache, fear, and triumph. Wherever you may be on your healing journey, we invite you to share your experiences in your own words. Please write your story in the “Contact Us” section and after approval, your story will appear here on the blog site.
Remember – You are not alone. If you live in McLean County, Illinois and would like to speak to someone about your experiences. Please call 2-1-1 and ask for YWCA Stepping Stones. YWCA Stepping Stones provides free and confidential 24-hour assistance for sexual assault ans sexual abuse victims and their families in McLean County. Learn more here. If you are not in McLean County, Illinois, please call the National Rape Crisis Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit their website here.
Stories may be edited for brevity, and identifying information, please allow up to 72 hours for your post to be published.
Trigger warning: The following content may contain explicit descriptions of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and other forms of violent acts and may be triggering to survivors.
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The first entry is from Kristi Mills, one of several women assaulted by ex-Bloomington police officer Jeff Pelo, who agreed to her name being published. Today, she lives in Chicago.
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 helped me realize its not my fault, learning about red flags, help me to build my self-esteem.
I was raped at knife point at the age of 24, I had low self-esteem about myself, I thank god im still alive.
He was a family member. I never told. How could a person break a family up and what if others found out that my brother was trying to sexually assault me? Would would be shunned? I never came forward all those years. I kept my mouth shut as to not embarrass my family. Later in life, this family member would be charged with rape and convicted. Still no one wanted to believe he was capable of that. After being released from prison this family member would once again abuse another family member and this time it would be my 11 year old daughter. This time he was reported to police even though another family member insisted that my daughter not tell and this matter be handled internally by the family. Victims such as us don’t get over it. Please don’t say get over it. Please don’t say time heals all. The pain I still feel today is overwhelming. The family member who did this still believes they were never in the wrong. He violated me and then attempted to do so with my daughter. I have survived over the last 30 years wishing someone would have believed me. This still haunts me to this day. Some of my worst moments in life revolve around childhood where a family member was holding me down on a bed attempting to tape me. Hush. Don’t tell. Threats. Lies. Cover up. My anger at times is still explosive because there has been no consequences. I think this goes on more than people realize. When will we learn to listen and see the signs? If I have learned anything…it is not my fault. It is not my daughter’s fault and if anything I have started to say I am a survivor. One day maybe I can talk more and set my demons free. The only truth in this matter is that I survived and so did my daughter.