Sometimes starting out is the hardest part. No matter what I’m trying to say about it, nothing comes out right. I sit here and stare at a blank screen and my heart is bursting to tell you about this amazing person and her strength and courage and her just all-around bad-assery but I don’t know where to begin. Do I start with my story? Hers? No, I can only start with mine as that is the only story I know.

Or maybe a statistic. Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Here’s another one… another one that relates directly to me. 60% of sexual assaults go unreported. And yet another… Approximately 73% of rape victims know their assailants. All three of those statistics include me. But here’s another one…

I’m a SURVIVOR.

I never really thought of myself that way until all-around-internet-badass, Stacy of Jurgen Nation (among many other things) told me about a project she is working on. A documentary she is making about the survivors of sexual abuse called the I Survived Project. (TONS of great info at that link, by the way).

Years ago, I was the victim of a very brutal sexual assault at the hands of someone I knew. Someone I thought I trusted and considered a friend. And more than anything in the world, I was ashamed. I was humiliated. I was… a victim. And because of that, I didn’t tell anyone. I never reported it. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my friends. And when, about 8 weeks later, I realized that I was pregnant as a result of this attack, I remained quiet. I had an abortion. I tried all I could to just sweep it under the rug and for years and years, I thought I was FINE. I shrugged it off as a footnote in the history of me. What, that? No big deal. I’m good.

But you know what they say about fine…right?

I was a volcano. I was so full of rage and hurt and blame and humiliation, all these unchecked emotions and I spent the better part of a decade trying to erase them with any drug I could get my hands on. While trying to blot out the black hole inside me, I nearly killed myself.

But I was fine.

Before I go on, let me be very clear on one thing. I have NEVER, for a single millisecond, regretted my decision to terminate that pregnancy. And I never will. It was the right choice and I’m so very lucky that that CHOICE was available to me. I would make it every time given the same situation. And should I ever have a daughter in that situation, I hope will all my heart that it will be a choice available to her as well, it may not be the one she takes, but I beg that it will be there for her.

I moved on. I went about my days, my weeks, my months. I tried to forget, block it out, erase it… who knows. And to this day, I can go for weeks without thinking about it. But last year, as I was trying so hard to have a child, the attack kept finding a way back into my mind. Not the pregnancy or the abortion, oddly enough. But the attack.

I would lie in bed at night and if I closed my eyes, I would find myself caught in that moment. That one second where you realize that your life is about to change. Forever. Victims of assault know that moment. It’s a flash where you realize that this is about to happen. You have been overpowered. You are the victim. You have lost. I remember that I just went slack. I tried to feel all the air leaving my body and just shrinking into nothing. When that didn’t work I tried to imagine myself completely full of cement, a rock, impenetrable, for lack of a better word.

As he slapped me and forced me to open my eyes and look at him, I tried to imagine the ceiling falling and crushing him to death, the fact that it would have crushed me too seemingly trivial. And then it was over. As quickly as it had begun. Some people say that their attacks seemed to make time stand still, mine was a blur. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe that makes me lucky.

These are the things I buried deep inside myself. But today I face them. Yes, he got away with it. And yes, I’m to blame for that. I’ve not seen him since that day and I have no idea what I would do if I were to catch a glimpse of him somewhere. I don’t even know if he still lives here. I don’t know if he ever did that to anyone else, I can only assume he did. And to that person or those people, I am sorry. I am partially to blame for you being a part of this horrible secret society. In no small way, I took your hand and walked you personally to your point of no return. I hope that you were stronger than I was, I hope that you were brave enough to speak his name to someone, to point to him and make him acknowledge and pay for what he did to you. And if you did that, you are MY hero.

We hold these things in. We wait for them to erupt. They are a living and breathing thing inside of us, something that, whether we admit it or are even aware of it, they color every relationship we have. They affect our ability to love and trust. We may never be fully healed but we can be there for each other. We can be stronger than the people who hurt us. We can pool our words and our stories and our tears. And maybe we can give someone else the courage to speak up. Or at least to know that they aren’t alone.

I’m a survivor.

(Deep breath, eyes shut, hit publish.)

Thank you so much to Stacy for being so full of strength and courage and beauty and taking on such an overwhelming project. Please, if you have a story to share or are as moved by this project as I was, go to the I Survived Project website to learn more.