Entangled,Engaged , and Empowered : From victim to survivor to conqueror
I was born on Valentines Day , a day set aside to remember those we love ,to eat candy and to well urr eat our hearts out. I never really liked sharing my special day with this holiday because I always felt devoid of love in my heart. I didn’t need a reminder that I didn’t have the privilege to love or to be loved. It is this feeling of unworthiness that lead me to find a place to call home ,find a refuge from the storm and peace in the chaos of my mind.
In the early 90’s my mother came across Sister Missionaries in the street and on Christmas Eve, she and I were baptized. Each time I entered the chapel,I knew that I was different, yet I felt loved and accepted for the first time in my life.
As my membership turned from weeks into months, I began to realize that there were certain differences I had to hide. I cringed every Sunday that I pulled on a dress and put on heavy mask so that God would love me. I silently cried when I realized that I couldn’t never marry who I love.
I became entangled in this idea that my picture had to match everyone else’s portrait. The more I tried to correct the images on my mural,the more distorted they became and the lines blurred. On the outside,my image matched my friends around me but behind the canvas,I was slowly tearing away from the frame I had built.
Just as the canvas of my life hung on bent nail of despair, I found myself violated on my 14th birthday . I was targeted by an older( Later found out he was almost 19 ) young man . He started the evening off by sitting closely by me during the fireside that preceded the dance. When I tried to change my seat, a youth leader said I was not being Christlike. I sat through the meeting as he quietly groped me and whispered digusting things.
Later on, he requested to dance with me and another leader encouraged me continuing dancing when I tried to pull away. This young man then pulled me into the center of the dance floor and continued to touch me inappropriately and force me to touch him.
Some of his buddies came around us to watch and for a moment he let go. I was able to break free and made it into the hall. I told my friend (who was not lds and attended my high school) and she told me not to go back into the dance. She and I went into the restroom together to chat.
On the way back out, she stopped at the hall phone to check in with her parents. I told her to meet me in a room (a primary classroom) so that we could hang out there until our ride came. As I was walking to the classroom, I was pulled into another room and raped by this young man.He told me he knew that I liked girls and that he was going to show me what a real man love was like. He said he was going to marry me and after that I blacked out.I woke up drugged ,in pain and my life would never be the same.
I immediately became engaged with sorrow , depression, and the death of my soul. The ring of the situation hung about my neck like millstone dragging me down towards death. It was lengthy engagement that concluded with a mental breakdown in my early 20’s. After I was that wrinkled piece of paper,that wadded up piece of gum, and the half-eaten candy bar.
Therapy, love, faith and hard work has done much to bring about the healing I need. Healing is a process of reconnecting and accepting that ones picture is forever different but not without benefit. Healing is a system of breaking off the engagement one slow ,painful, intricate piece at a time. Emotional and Mental Healing is really no different than Physical Healing. The bigger the injury the longer it will take to recover. Healing from trauma is as process that to me lasts a lifetime.
As we untangle and reconnect to ourselves and others in a positive way, we grow from victim to survivor to conqueror. No matter where we may be in this journey, it does not reflect on who we are as a person . We are are wounded and no one has the right to judge us for our response. At the end of the day, it is the person in the mirror to whom we should have the most loyalty and compassion.
I have learned that while life experience affect who we are , we still have the power within us to be our true authentic selves. We are powerful,wonderful and great just because were born . We do not owe anyone an explanation for actions,the way we feel or how we react to those who abuse us.
As my birthday and “engagement anniversary” approaches, I decided to share my story in hopes of giving a voice to those whose stories are not yet told. So often we think of conquering as negative.That in essence, we are taking over or taking back something from someone else. To me a conqueror is someone who finds the will to stand -up when everyone else says they should sit down. A conqueror’s glory is not that she “overcome adversity” but that she wakes up every morning even still. She may not get dressed or comb her hair or even brush her teeth. There is no failure in this ,only victory because she has woken up to face another day.
I am a conqueror simply because I am me and I am enough. and so are you.