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Break the silence that surrounds sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, relationship abuse, stalking, hate crimes, and identity-based violence. Share your story here on our anonymous blog.

To speak about an experience with any form of interpersonal violence is difficult, but it is also empowering. Breaking the silence reduces shame and helps others to speak out about their own experiences.

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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

At fourteen, I had no clue who I was or what I wanted. The most frustrating part was that no one cared to hear about it. Until one day someone did listen.

One of the workers at the barn where I rode took interest in what I had to say, and I found myself hoping he would stay with me for forever. Then one day he was gone. I was itching to talk to him, so I searched the usual places. But I couldn’t find him anywhere. A week passed and no one said much about his departure. All I heard was that it occurred in the dead of night. In my naive youth I didn’t dwell too much on it…that was until hushed, hurried voices stopped speaking whenever I walked into a wash rack occupied by my trainers. A short time went on before I grew curious and I started observing. I knew that my best friend hadn’t been out to the barn in a while but no one seemed to be questioning her absence. That is, no one except me. Then one day I remember so vividly, I was standing in the cobweb-filled alleyway of the barn, trying to balance on a green hose, waiting for my mother to pick me up, when a girl I barely knew began talking about her. She wasn’t making sense.

“the trailer…”

“when no one was around…”

I asked what she was talking about. The girl’s dark green eyes bulged, she stumbled for speech before managing to say, “oh, you haven’t heard? Well aren’t ya’ll friends?” I drew a sharp short breath. Of course we were friends! Best friends. We shared everything. We always were laughing, goofing off and getting into trouble. So I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to tell me. Until I heard the unforgettable words make their way out of her throat like gravel, the words dropping out of her mouth like rocks. “He raped her. Didn’t you wonder why he left so quickly?”

Everything within me froze. My heart. My brain. My breath. I don’t remember what she said next. I think she explained the whole situation to me. My mind couldn’t grasp any of it. The fluorescent lights illuminating the darkening alleyway buzzed in my head. I had never entertained the idea that something so tragic could happen to someone so close to me. Suddenly I was not so na├»ve; I was learning how life really worked.

I wound up back at home feeling like a zombie, not remembering how I got there. So many thoughts were running through my head: How could she not tell me? Why wasn’t anyone stopping him? What if it had happened to me? I flashed back to a few weeks prior when he had invited me into his trailer and told me, “I have something to show you. I redid my bedroom. You have to tell me what you think.” He brought me in and I stood in the doorway and complimented the newly painted walls. The smell of freshly smoked cigarettes seemed to be trying to run me out of the room. As I looked, he pushed me. I was surprised by the force of his hand on my back. Then I turned to see a twisted grin on his face. My heart pounded in my temples. Then his roommate walked into the trailer, warning us with a slam of the door and plastic bags on his feet to protect the floor. We both looked back, startled, and I made my hurried escape, head bent and heart racing. At the time I did not know why I had felt the urgency to just get out. Looking back, I realized it could have happened to me. I questioned why it had not been me. I wanted to take all her pain away. I wanted to talk to her. But she didn’t want to talk. She never seemed to want to talk now. The usually chatty girl was now forcing out her robust laugh that used to come so freely. Nothing was right after that.

Later I learned she wasn’t pressing charges for the integrity of our trainer’s barn. Plus, no one knew where he was, and he had been using a fake name. I didn’t see how someone could just get away with something so cruel. Where’s the justice? Did he know how much he had ruined? I stopped talking to anyone and my emotions built up. I didn’t dare trust anyone to hold such a powerful key. I had gone from innocent to alone and betrayed. I had trusted this man, and he had returned my trust by devastating my best friend’s life. She was never going to be the same, and I was beginning to realize neither was I.

I kept it in and started to take out my feelings on myself. I tried to snap myself out of the out of body trance and live normally. My best friend was doing it and the crime had actually happened to her, so why couldn’t I? I kept up appearances for a good while and felt proud of myself for being able to shut down my feelings completely. I reasoned that if I let no one in, then no one could hurt me.

I turned bitter, but now, after struggling with an eating disorder and depression for four years, and after thinking it through over and over and telling people my story, I’m sorry that any of this ever had to happen to anyone, but the fact of the matter is that throughout the course of life, however horrible it may be, we have to endure hardship so that we know how to love and treat one another. Life is about changing, and loss is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we stop living.

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