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As a young girl I was raped by one of my childhood best friend’s older brother. He raped me while I slept in the same bed as my older brother. The police believe he raped me more than once, but it was inconclusive. Being awake just once even, is a memory so vivid, I don’t think I will ever forget it; the night when a hero of mine turned into a villain. My heart was racing so fast that night I thought it would beat right out of my chest, but fear left me paralyzed. I could not move while he undressed me, my tongue felt as though it had been turned to stone as he raped me. I felt betrayed and broken. Terror filled my tiny little body; I did not even mention that night to my parents until after we had moved to a new state. It was only by the grace of God that I was able to tell them and get help.

Throughout the following years I went to therapy. I found hope and happiness in my family and my faith. I still struggled deeply with anxiety and depression, although I would never admit it. I was always a very stubborn child. I did not trust men and I hated the way they would look at me or talk to me. The only men in my life that I truly trusted were my dad, my two brothers, and my God. Everyone else seemed untrustworthy or too good for me, at that time I was viewing myself as damaged goods. In junior high I wanted to overcome the nightmares and flashbacks that constantly filled my mind. I did not want to be scared anymore. I remember the first time I let a boy hug me around my waist. His name was Darius and I was 12 years old. It seems so silly to remember something like that, but I do. I felt safe in his arms and he gave me butterflies. 

Later on in 8th and 9th grade the sexual harassment would start. Boys filling my locker with condoms, calling me derogatory names, breathing on me with their drug-filled breath forcing their kisses and hands all over me, putting me down and breaking my self-worth. I constantly felt like the little girl who was raped so many years ago, over and over and over again. Yet, I held onto hope. I knew God would help me get out of it. I just knew it, but one thing that held me back was allowing fear to stop me from reaching out to those who could help. Towards the end of my freshman year of high school I finally reached out to someone. It was a boy that I had become really good friends with, best friends even, and we started to date. He was the first boy I ever let kiss me before. I trusted him and told him all the trials I had previously in my life and how damaged I was. He made me feel beautiful, until I started not being enough for him. 

He began to use these secrets I told him against me and put me through an emotional abuse I had never known before. I loved him but if I didn’t do what he wanted he would threaten to hurt himself. He would begin to cut and break himself, he would threaten to kill himself. He would apologize when he saw how much it broke me to watch him do that to himself, but it never stopped him. The only way I could stop his pain was by giving in to whatever he wanted to do. In the attempt to try and save his life, I lost my own completely. It was a dark time in my life, but I never gave up hope. Despite, the seemingly never ending abuse and countless tear-filled nights, I knew that things would get better. 

My family and I moved again, to the other side of the country and I thought I was free from him. He did not want it to end. I was his drug in our intoxicating relationship. He would fly out to see me and once took me on a road trip down to another state. One day, I decided it was time to stand up for myself. I told him I did not want to see him anymore and that he could not fly out to see me; that it was over but that what I wished more than anything, was that he would be able to find real happiness in life. Not just passing moments of pleasure and lies. Happiness and joy that would last. That was the first step in my path of empowerment and peace. God has given me the strength to be the joyous and strong woman that I am today. Through Him I have found what it is like to trust again, to love again. 

To anyone who may read this, if you have ever felt like damaged goods or as if the dark days will never end – I want you to know you are worth it and hope lies ahead of your path. When you are feeling lost and broken, know there are remedies for all darkness that befalls you. Whether you find peace in God or in the beach waves (or both as I do) know that there is peace out there and happiness for you. Know that YOU are BEAUTIFUL and if anyone tells you or makes you feel otherwise, they are wrong. Keep your head up. You can be loved, you are loved, now love yourself. 

After, breaking it off with him I never thought someone could actually love me. I hoped and pined for someone who would love me and all my flaws, but I just did not think it was possible. I was too broken, abused, used; I was damaged goods. Then, during my first semester in college I met a boy who made me feel special again. I took it slow, really slow, because I was still so scared. He would constantly tell me, “I want to take things slow, because you are worth the wait.” He would tell me how beautiful and special I was. I did not think it was real. Eventually, I opened up to him about my past and the most amazing thing happened - he loved me even more. He was careful with me and made sure never to cross any boundaries that I had. Through his love for me I began to love myself again. Through God’s love I was healed. My scars, that were deeper than what eyes could see, started to heal. I saw the beauty which I beheld and I believed in it, I believed in me. 

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how far away it may seem. No despair is too great to be overcome. If you feel lost, REACH OUT. There is help. If you feel broken, realize you are not. Look into your eyes and behold the beauty within you. You are special. This path to light and happiness is possible. It will be hard, I still struggle and I think it will be a constant fight in my life – an uphill battle. But I promise you that if you chose to fight this battle and take this path it will be oh, so very worth it. It will be the greatest journey, you will ever take it and it will only become greater and brighter as you share it with those you love. Of all the things I have said in my truth, I want you to remember this truth that applies to each and every one of us: there is always hope, choose to believe in it and choose to believe in YOU. Don’t let fear stop you from speaking out and reaching out. I thank my God, my family, my best friends, and the boy who believed in me. With their help I have become strong, but I first had to make the decision to speak up. Hope my dear friends, faith, and help – they are there for you.

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