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I've never done this before.

I've never talked about this to anyone other than the therapists I've worked my way through since I was three years old. I'm 21 now and still terrified to talk. But I guess this is part of the healing process, of me getting that part of me back.

It started back before I can remember. My parents are divorced, and my dad is an officer in the army. I would spend weekends at his house where my mother wasn't allowed. I was only allowed to wear clothes his family bought me. At the apartment I had my own room, and in it, a mattress. That's where I got locked for hours on end, being sexually abused by him and sometimes whoever he brought with him. One thing led to another and he left my life for good with his new family, but the effects of the abuse have continued.

You know what they say about history repeating itself? I went through my second round of sexual assault the summer before my freshman year of high school—perpetrated by my best friend. I left high school after being bullied and fell into a party crowd. I became a drinker but I felt safe with that friend group and that feeling was all that mattered at the time. I didn't realize that I was putting myself back in more dangerous situations.

I was sexually assaulted by two 28 year old men on my 17th birthday and because of that ran into the arms of a man who told me he loved me and would protect me. I thought him telling me what to do and being possessive was him "keeping me safe." I figured he knew better than I did after my past. Boy was I wrong. Every time I spoke or moved it was the wrong thing to do, and I had the bruises to prove it. The word "sorry" became my mantra and I gave up. I figured there was a reason this kept happening—I was bad, I was worthless, I needed to try harder...then something clicked. On my 18th birthday (it was out of the blue, no real reasoning behind it), I got a job (he didn't let me work) and I started seeing old friends. I was sneaky about it but it gave me strength. I broke up with him not long after and it wasn't pretty but I was so proud of myself for doing it—I don't know where that courage came from. With the help from a select few I rebuilt a life without him. The threats and stalking slowly died down as he found someone else.

I felt like I was underwater my whole life. Every time I got a breath of air, something tried pulling me down and would succeed for a long time. I'm not saying I don't get scared still but it's like I can breathe now. In recovery, I can breathe.

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