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Melissa's Truth

Melissa's Truth 

When I was asked to speak today at Vera House's Report to the Community I was a bit hesitant at first. While I have shared my experience before with selected individuals I had only once before shared it publicly and in that instance, the media was not involved. Among other things I was concerned with how others would perceive me and my experience. I was worried that I would receive different treatment from individuals who had not previously known that I was a survivor. It then occurred to me that my exact fears were part of the reason why rape and sexual assault still occurs. That the societies in which we live in have made it taboo to discuss this vicious crime in which the body is violated and the spirit is maimed. The stigma that is attached to rape, sexual assault and domestic violence makes it difficult if not impossible for some individuals to seek help. Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence all thrive on secrecy and silence but they are not merely a personal issue, they are a societal battle.

My story is no better or worse than anyone else's. Four years ago I was raped by my ex-boyfriend in my own room. I had been at a party earlier in the evening at my best friends place and all of my friends were there. I remember having two drinks but feeling like I had more. It was later determined that something probably was put in my drink though it couldn't be proven. At the end of the evening my ex-boyfriend offered to bring me home since I was feeling ill, was disoriented and unable to stand up and walk very well. My friends didn't think anything of it since they all knew him pretty well. What happened next no one could have predicted. The man who I trusted with my life, who I had spent the last year and a half with and who knew me inside and out climbed into bed with me, held me down and raped me. I tried to push him off me, kick him, do anything I could to stop him but I couldn't move any part of my body. To this day I do not understand nor will I probably ever understand why he did what he did. All I know is that on that night, at that moment, he forever changed who I am and how I will view the world.

Since this was someone I knew and trusted I wasn't able to verbalize what happened to me. While I knew I didn't want to have sexual relations with him that evening, while I knew we did anyway, I didn't know it was rape. I didn't want to tell anyone what happened that night, I was afraid that it was my fault. He was someone I knew and trusted, someone who I had had prior sexual relations with. I had been drinking that evening and was worried that I someone did something to cause this. I never sought counseling and I never reported it. I went for a medical exam merely to make sure I was physically ok but emotionally I was falling apart. I doubted everything I did and said for a long time after that. I was afraid to be intimate with anyone for a while and then I didn't care anymore because it didn't matter anymore to me. I didn't matter anymore to me. It took a long time for me to get to where I am today. I now know that there was nothing I said or did that caused him to rape me. No matter what I drank, how well I knew him, what our prior history was he was the one who made the decision, not me. It is a never-ending battle though, it never gets easier but you get stronger every day.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries,
Leaving behind the nights of terror and fear
I rise
In daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
I rise
I rise

—"Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou

I am currently finishing up my Masters in Social Work and plan on working as a therapist in the field of rape and sexual assault when I am done in May. I am currently interning at Vera House New Directions Rape and Sexual Assault Services and am very active in prevention and education work as well as counseling work. I am involved annually with the production and planning of the Vagina Monologues, which sheds light on the issues of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence both nationally and internationally as well as the planning of Take Back the Night, a march, rally and speak out that allows individuals to come together to take a stand and make their voices heard. Thank you for being here and listening to my story and the other women here. I would like to commend them both on their courage and strength. You are truly making a difference. I would like to leave you all with this one thought. Nancy Venable Raine said, someday we will all march to the capitol carrying flowers, and we will leave them on the steps. We will celebrate anniversaries. We will give names. The month, the day, the year, the hour. We will stop being alone. We will stop being silent.