Saturday, October 1, 2011

RAINN day 2011

RAINN day was last week.

I have been delaying posting about it. On purpose.

RAINN stands for Rape, Assault, Incest, National Network. It is a national support group for those who have been raped etc. The website for more information is here.

To tell you the truth, RAINN day was a very difficult day for me. I am still processing the feelings that came up. Forgive me if I am too honest for you on this post. If you can't handle this topic...well...that's probably part of the problem.

Cory talking to the local media. See the report here.

Its been 16 years since I was sexually assaulted back in college.
The first three years I told one person and made that person swear not to tell anyone. I then, believe it or not, convinced myself that it didn't happen. Its hard for me to believe that I actually felt I had "forgotten" it. Looking back there were so many signs and signals that I was giving off.
This is me a couple of months later..I changed everything about me. My hair. How I dressed. Everything. Because I had convinced myself that it didn't happen, I repressed it, I didn't know why I felt so driven to change myself. Now I understand.

Last year I left RAINN day feeling empowered. I felt my burden had been lifted. I felt as if I was on the right track doing the right things.

On the lawn was a percentage of the students at Dixie College that, according to National Statisitcs, have been or will be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.

This year I felt trapped inside my own anxiety. I couldn't speak. At all. I couldn't talk to the students, I opted out of speaking to the press, and I couldn't even say a word as we passed out ribbons. Nothing. Nada. Silent. Just like "he" would have preferred. He threatened me if I ever spoke out about it. This year I felt like I let him win.


I found myself contemplating my feelings as we walked around and handed out ribbons. Why was I feeling this much anxiety? Why couldn't I get the stress under control? Why couldn't I release it like I have so many times?

Was I doing something wrong?

Was I not suppose to do this anymore?

I had never questioned myself on whether or not I should be a voice for sexual assault victims. I always knew that it was part of my path in life. That it was something I needed to do. Did I not need to do it anymore? Life is SO much easier when I don't have it on my mind. Or when I am not surrounded by people who are telling their stories of survival. Or when I don't have to dwell on the fact that in Utah 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted or raped.

I don't have this much anxiety all of the time. Recently is has only been when certain things have triggered it. Like RAINN day. It is all encompassing. It is a real feeling, not something that I pretend or imagine. The only way I can describe the anxiety on these bad days would be to imagine a loved one and then think of how you would feel if you thought something was wrong. That their safely was in danger but you didn't know. That is almost how I feel. It makes me sick to my stomach, my heart beats really fast, my body freezes up, its hard to think, and I could puke. (lovely thought I know!)

I am so grateful that I don't have that many bad days anymore. There was a time that I would feel this way for days and days. I would stay on my bed frozen. Afraid. Distressed that "he" would find out that I had told someone. Discouraged that I would always feel that way. Panicked that I couldn't get the images out of my head. The smell of his cologne. That cold knife. I hate that knife.

Looking back on RAINN day I can see how I was allowing myself to slip in an unempowered state. I didn't allow myself to speak my story, which strangely enough really helps me. I didn't prepare my mind by running in my head the things that I would be saying. I had been having a lot of really good days and I didn't think I would be affected. I assumed that I wouldn't have any problems. Which, of course, was absurd.

It took me days to get over the RAINN day funk. I am still processing the questions that came up. I've never considered it a choice I needed to make. I don't have to do this. I don't have to speak out for raped victims. It doesn't have to be my voice.

The day after RAINN day I attended a constitutional rally of sorts. It was held at our local commonwealth that Luke attends. Funny thought, the only things I was hearing all evening was "The hard things can be the great things..."the hard things are worth it".."if we don't do the difficult things then who will?" and all sorts of other inspiring words. It didn't give me comfort. It was as if the Lord was sending me all of these little tender mercies to help my confused heart but it just made me want to cry instead.

My saga continues. In my heart I know I need to be an active voice in the fight against sexuall assault. I have so many things I want to say. Things that I can hear myself saying to the youth about it.

I can't have fear in the way anymore. I have no room for fear with what my Heavenly Father wants me to accomplish in my life.

Find the courage.

Find my voice.

>deep breath<

Don't be afraid.

Teen violence press conference

"Teen Dating Violence. It Happens in Utah" Press Conference

In fall 2010 when Cory and I did RAINN day I thought it was the hardest thing I had ever done or could ever do. Well, today I felt like I had a day where I stretched and grew! Today I was a participant in the press conference as the booklet "Teen Dating Violence. It Happens in Utah" was released. I was incredibly nervous. Cory and I went up a day early so I could relax and get ready for that didn't happen. I had myself so wound up and I had anxiety to almost put myself into a panic attack. It was insane! Thankfully I have a very patient husband who helped me calm down and was there whenever I needed him. Just before the press conference I was able to spend some time with one of my favorite Shakespeare friends (Hi Andrea!!) and it really helped me calm my nerves. (Nothing like talking about gory MacBeth to calm me down! ha! It was great!)

The gals that organized it were great. They were so kind and considerate. They went out of their way to help us feel comfortable. Even while I was boo-hooing as I spoke, they quickly grabbed me some tissues. I was so glad to have met them. I could really tell that they genuinely cared about the issue and for Sara (the other gal that spoke) myself and the others that had their stories in the booklet. Thank you Katie McMinn and your helper. :-)

Ok about the picture below. Sara was the 16 year old girl that went before me. I was doing really good right until she started speaking. She talked about the nightmares that she has, about the triggers she has, about not feeling safe and it really struck me how similar our healing process has been. It really struck a chord with me and I had a hard time keeping my emotions in check. I promised myself that I would stay emotionally present and not check out. ( If I "checked out" I would have read my statement like I was reading any other paper, I would not feel connected to me, almost as if it happened to someone else. Make sense?) I knew I would be able to give my message well since I had practices it extensively (at least it felt like extensively) but when I heard Sara it brought a big rush of emotion that I was unprepared for. I knew what she had gone through and how hard it was. My heart aches for her. She will have some hard days, but she is strong and can do anything. Her abuse happened only 2 years ago and she has come so far already! She is definitely one of my heros.

In case you missed it and would like to see the press conference, here is some links to choose from.
KSL story with video -there is a link to a video of my entire statement on this page as well as the news report...I haven't figure out how to post the video directly here. Carole Mikita was very nice. While I was speaking I could feel her strength and knew that she cared about the issue. However, the stats at the beginning of her story don't jive with what I am familiar with. The national stat I am aware of is 10% teens have been physically hurt in the last year. In Utah is 1 in 5 (20%). I think I am going to have to find some updated stats.

Deseret News Article -it has that LOVERLY picture from above.

FOX news story with video -I am not featured here, but it is still a really good story.

Teen Violence Booklet with my story published in it. This is the online version. My story is on page 8-9.

Along with my sweetie Cory, my mom and my cousin Celeste came to support me. My Aunt Nancy also came by. It meant so much! I know that it has not been easy for my loved ones and friends to watch me go through the healing process and for them to go through it as well. Their strength has carried me when I didn't think I could walk. All of the kind comments, emails, texts, phone calls strengthened my courage and my determination to overcome this nightmare. My earthly angels were everywhere. What a blessing. Thanks everyone.