Monday, December 26, 2011

Moving On, Living in the Moment

One of the most difficult things I have experienced from healing from sexual assault is moving on with my life and living in the moment. I felt like I had lost so much of my childhood and one day I was an "adult" but I felt as if I was stuck in time and I was still 14 years old, but I wasn't, the years were flying by. I felt as if I had lost so much time and I was afraid to lose more so I started to be so consumed with time, and doing things as fast as possible and feeling as if I could never accomplish anything I wanted. I also felt as if I was going through the motions, that I wasn't really living, I could not live in the momemnt. I was so consumed with the past and where I was going that I never focused on where I was in the present moment. Now, eleven years later I am still trying to practice living in the moment. I am taking this time, in the last few days of 2011, to remind myself how much I want to continue to practice and learn how to live in the moment. I am urge you to do the same thing. We can't live in the past, nor can we live in the future. We only have this moment and we need the live it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Healing Horses

When I was little I rode horses all the time. I became completely addicted to them and every time my parents and I went on a drive they would always shout out, "Horse!” when they saw a farm and I went on a trail ride every time we traveled. Horses are so powerful, strong and magical. I was never afraid of them until one time, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, I was thrown off. I was bedridden and in the worst pain I had ever been in due to a back injury, I even had to drop college classes because of it. The one thing I loved so much, had hurt me and I became afraid and it was heartbreaking. They became scary and unpredictable and my childlike wonder completely vanished and a harsh reality of these beautiful animals set in, that working with them could harm me. Then in 2008 when I was working on my BA in psychology we had several personal topics come up and I recall talking about how much I missed horses. My instructor encouraged me to face my fears and find again what my soul used to enjoy. So I did. I found a barn and started taking lessons. But my fear was still there; it even got to the point that I would have panic attacks and such extreme anxiety I could not even physically get on the horse. But I continued to push through, knowing that the fear I felt was a small price to pay for the joy and extreme exhilaration I felt after working with a horse. In 2009 I decided I wanted my own horse and I got Tango.  I loved him and the two of us got along perfectly, but then out of nowhere my anxiety, fear and panic attacks came back and for a while even just being near a horse would give me a panic attack. I couldn't ride him any longer. But I didn't give up. I started taking natural horsemanship lessons and working on groundwork and taking more lessons and this year I can finally walk, trot, lope on a horse without having a panic attack! I did my senior project in school on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and spoke about the healing power of horses as facilitators into our own insight and healing process and I have experienced first hand. Being a survivor of sexual assault it was so emotionally healing to know that I could control a 1200 pound animal, that I could tell him what to do and he would listen, that I too was powerful, could be the alpha and be strong and confident. When I work with horses I walk away feeling as if I could do anything in the world and being able to experience that feeling after feeling completely powerless during an assault has been incredibly healing and I highly recommend survivors to look into therapeutic horse centers. Contact me if you have any questions and I would be happy to help!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Story of Healing and Strength: Victim vs Survivor vs Living

I have been a rape survivor for 11 years now and I am starting to feel the label of being a "rape victim" slowly starting to rub off of my forehead. It is a long and difficult process to go from being ME to being a victim of a violent crime, to a survivor. I have come to the conclusion that I am both victim and survivor but the meanings change over time. I guess one could also look at it as I was a victim at the time of the rape and as soon as I was able to walk away alive I became a survivor, but that is something that can take time to own. This and many things lead to the difficulty of knowing your identity after being raped. At age 14 I was just trying to discover who I was as a person, then after being raped, I needed to discover who I was despite of it, and let me tell you, honestly, it took years. It is not that I disappeared completely, but that my true self was overshadowed by my victimization and as I slowly stopped feeling like a victim and more of a survivor. I was able to surface again, like coming to the top of the water to take a gulp of air. I no longer think of my assault on a daily basis, my fear of being raped again is no longer a compulsive thought, which for me was a huge step in the healing process. At the beginning I felt as if I had a big sign on me that said, "I was raped." I felt as if everyone knew and was looking at me and judging me. After I stopping feeling like a victim and more like a survivor, which by the way the definition from the dictionary is below:

Definition of SURVIVE from

intransitive verb

: to remain alive or in existence : live on
: to continue to function or prosper
So I was obviously surviving, I was breathing, waking up in the morning and going about my day. I was functioning. But I was not LIVING. I was existing and going through the motions of life, but not fully feeling it or experiencing it. I feel as if I am now finally starting to live, it took almost 10 years to feel this way and there was not one single event or day that I felt a change but just realizing that I did not think about my assault or have the fear of being assaulted again for a few days. That I went out at night with out feeling fear. That I am starting to pursue things that I enjoy and that make me happy. I am finally LIVING.

And I love it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Story of Healing and Strength: Intro

It has been 11 years since my sexual assault and 11 years since I started my path on learning how to heal and gather my strength to become the person I was meant to be, despite the fact I was raped at 14. I would like to begin posting frequently under "My Story of Healing and Strength" in hope others walking down the same path can gather hope from my posts. You will also see posts under "Healing Power of Horses" and "Phototherapy" as these are two of the things that have helped me immensely on my journey. Good luck on your journey, I look forward to sharing mine with you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Regain Your Voice: New Design!

Welcome to the NEW Regain Your Voice site! A very special thank you to Claudia Sutton for designing the new site! I look forward to posting on the new site!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ways to Protect Yourself and be Aware

*Information gathered from RAINN

While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted. These are some of my personal tips I follow that are recommended by RAINN.

• Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation. If I am going some place new I always make sure I have my gps with me or a map printed out and someone knows where I am going and when I should be back.
• Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around. I avoid isolated areas like the plague, I also fully try to trust my gut instincts and if something doesn’t feel right I leave. Which is also the reason I always drive myself places and don’t catch rides with friends.
• Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do. I always try to walk with strong tall posture, keys in one pocket, cell phone in the other and I look straight ahead and walk with a purpose.
• Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be. I am always ready to leave someplace I don’t feel comfortable and always have a backup plan incase I start to feel uncomfortable.
• Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable. When ever I am going to my car I have my keys in hand and try to have one hand free, and I am quick. I don’t hang around my car fiddling with shopping bag, door is opened, bags in and as I close my door I lock it instantaneously. It has become a habit.
• Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money. I need to get better about having some form of money on me, but I never go anyplace with out my phone.
• Don't allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know. This is the reason why I always drive myself places.
• Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone. A must, very important in order to be fully aware of your surroundings.

Sexual assault is a crime of motive and opportunity. Ultimately, there is no surefire way to prevent an attack. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines at 1-800.656.HOPE, and online at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Regaining Her Voice: Jennifer's Story

How old were you at the time of the assault(s)?

How old are you currently?

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault(s)? Where did the assault(s) happen?
Yes, he was a friend of a roommate. It happened in my dorm room.

Did you tell anyone about the assault(s) at the time?
The next day I managed to tell a girl I knew.

Did the assault(s) go to a court trial? Was there a sentencing? If so, how long?
No, I never reported it.

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again?
I don't know

What would you like to say to others about sexual assault?
Sexual assault is not what people think. It isn't something you see coming. It isn't something you can prepare for. It is a frightening, life changing, blood chilling moment where everything you thought you knew about the world changes and you don't know how to survive, or even if you want to. What I didn't understand until recently was that they can take your body, but you have to give them your soul. I believed that I had done something wrong. I believed it had something to do with me and I let those beliefs take who I was away from me. I gave him my soul. Now I'm taking it back.

What would you like to say about this project?
This project is a chance for survivors to reclaim themselves.

My Story:
I was a college freshman and I was a virgin. I had been in love a few times but it was little kid love, nothing that had led to anything. I wasn't sure how I felt about sex but I didn't really think about it. It wasn't central to my personality. I went through several roommates that year, one was a work-a-holic and was up all night so I couldn't sleep, one was a pot head who hung a huge tree branch on the wall and couldn't understand why I didn't just want to try drugs. She would always emphasize try like that somehow made it different from doing drugs. It just wasn't me. My third roommate was local, which I was not, and part of her appeal was that she 'belonged'. She was a New Yorker and she was cool. She was friends with cool people, they went out clubbing, they dressed well, they threw parties and because I was her roommate I was on the fringes of all of that. One night she went out and a bunch of her friends came over to hang out with her. When I was there they decided to hang out anyway. I was in heaven. It was like an acknowledgement that I wasn't some yokel but that I was almost a real New Yorker...or at least that they thought I was cool enough to be. I had never been a drinker, I had gone out a few times to a local place that didn't ask for ID's but I just didn't like the taste of strong alcohol and I didn't know there were other, sweeter, kinds. That night they introduced me to a malt drink that was some kind of coconut tasting thing. I drank it because it was sweet and I enjoyed the feeling of being tipsy. I was also enjoying the attention of one of the guys who was getting more focused on me than the other guys were. I was flattered. He was cute and he was cool and he liked me. Me, not my roommate, not someone else, me. As the night wore on we went to the store to buy more to drink, and my memory gets sketchy but I know we went back to the room and everyone hung out for a while but all of a sudden they were gone. He put on Sade and I think we were dancing. I know he kissed me and I liked it. Then I woke up on the floor because I was in pain. I was lying on the floor and he was over me and I truly didn't understand. Then I realized my jeans were around my ankles and he was half undressed too. As I got up I realized there was blood everywhere and that's when I realized what had happened. I didn't know what to do. I was in shock. He said I should clean up and we could get some sleep so I did. We got into bed and were only lying there a short time when the buzzer sounded. It was my roommates boyfriend looking for her and a place to sleep. I let him in and thought maybe he would make the man in my bed leave. Instead he all but passed out. Meanwhile over in my bed, he tried to touch me again and I was trying to find a way to convince him to stop when I heard my roommates boyfriend say 'see, I told her you wouldn't care'. I was mystified so I asked 'care about what?' to which he answered 'if we had sex while you were here'. Clearly he was not any help. Eventually we all fell asleep. I slept for an hour or so and when I woke up I saw the bloodstains all over the floor, our all came back to me. I wanted him to leave. I cleaned up, got dressed in which stretch pants, a white sweater and white socks and went upstairs to the tv room with my white blanket to wait until the men woke up and left. It never occurred to me to wake someone up, I didn't want to bother them. I did go through his wallet and found a slip with girls clothing sizes on them and in my head I thought, 'it could be for his sister or his mom'. I had, in my delusion, convinced myself he had done what he did because he liked me. I wanted to be liked so that made it ok. Which meant I could still function. Eventually he woke up and left but not until I had got back and forth for hours trying to see if they were awake yet. When he finally left he treated me as if we had shared something pleasant. I'll never forget him leaning on the desk by the door, his shorts covered with my blood and his face showing he wanted to get out without me thinking he wanted anything more than one night. I was relieved and crushed. I wanted it to be something he did because he liked me, which then made it ok in my head, but I didn't ever want to wake up on the floor again and be embarrassed by someone knowing he was trying to touch me. I finally called another local girl I knew. I would have told my roommate but she had gone home and the phone company was on strike and I couldn't have that conversation in the hallway by the front door. I called the other girl because she was a little bit wild but nice and I knew she would just come. She did come but when she did she told me the best thing was not to let him know that what happened bothered me. She helped me pick the sexiest thing I owned and we hung out in the tv room like we were waiting to hear from friends about our plans for the night. She said his friends had to see what happened didn't matter to me so he would know. I don't even remember what we did that night. All I remember about that period of time was that one of his friends, who was living in the dorm, but was one of the most scary and street wise and unsympathetic people I had ever met, was taunting me about how he had a girlfriend and it didn't matter what I tried I wasn't going to get his friend. After a few days I finally snapped and turned to him and said if that was what he thought then he should talk to his friend about how he had left the room covered in my blood. He never said anything to me ever again. I was in my early thirties when I finally stopped saying 'the first time I had sex it was not my choice' and actually said the word rape. I was in my mid-thirties when other events finally made it impossible for me to keep it a secret from my parents anymore. My father left the house and has never spoken to me about it. My mother was in shock and I tried to be fair since I had been living with it so I said I would tell her what happened if she wanted but that she didn't have to hear it. She said that for then she just thought it would be better not to. To this day she has never asked. I've been in therapy for years and I am finally starting to reclaim my soul but it is a constant struggle. Sometimes it takes so much of my energy that the rest of my life suffers but I keep taking it one day at a time. He took everything from me and you can't get everything back overnight but every time I reclaim some part of me I know I am one step closer to being whole again.

*** Click Here Share Your Story ***

Monday, July 11, 2011

Important News Article

Rape on a College Campus

Regaining Her Voice: Brandy's Story

How old were you at the time of the assault(s)?

How old are you currently?

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault(s)?

Did you tell anyone about the assault(s) at the time?

Did the assault(s) go to a court trial? Was there a sentencing? If so, how long?

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again?

What would you like to say to others about sexual assault?
Please, please please report it...I didn't and many don't but I should have.

What would you like to say about this project?
Great way to help those who are victims.

My Story:
I knew him and it happened in my apartment. 

*** Click Here Share Your Story ***

Regain Your Voice in National News!

I was recently interviewed by the Associated Press and they mentioned Regain Your Voice. If you haven't seen the article you can view it here:

Some fear chilling effect on women reporting rapes

I was surprised how far and wide the article spread, I found online that it even got to Hawaii!!

If you are visiting because of this AP article, where did you read about Regain Your Voice??

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Forgiveness, can one truly forgive the person who harmed them? I was recently asked if I forgive the man who raped me. My first response was, "Yes I chose to forgive him in order to move on and not be a bitter and hateful person. Later on in the conversation I was asked if I truly, honestly, really forgave him. When I heard it phrased that way I realized, no, I haven't really fully and freely forgiven him, I don't think it is possible for me to ever be able to say to him, "Oh, no big deal, I got over it, you are truly forgiven." I think "Forgiveness" is something we need to say has been given in order for us to start to heal, to be able to give something back to the universe, that we no longer hold the responsibility to contain that anger within us everyday. I think there comes a time when many feel they need to be able to let go of some aspect of their feelings, but maybe "forgiveness" is the wrong phrase to use in this step of the healing process. I think some people may also think that they are a "bad" person if they don't show "forgiveness" and it is something that is expected of us. Once I was able to release some of the negativity and hatred (as much as I dislike using this word, nothing else really compares) I felt towards him, I think I was able to concentrate more of my energy and effort on myself and moving forward with my life and the process of healing myself and my loved ones. I try not to think of him much, I try not to think of the anger and resentment I carry for him, because it brings me down. I wish he could feel the pain he has inflicted on my 100 times over, but I don't think it would change him, and that is not within my power and to wish this against him doesn't make me a happy person, but an angry and depressed one. Therefore I have had to let go of what I can't control and carry the wish that what comes around goes around and good people are rewarded and the others suffer in their own ways. What do you think about forgiveness?  Do you think you could ever truly forgive the ones who assaulted or abused you?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

To me, Independence Day means more than just celebrating our country, it means celebrating ourselves as well. Especially being a survivor of sexual assault it is important that we celebrate our Independence. We should acknowledge that we are independent of our attacker, we are independent of our emotional and physical pain, we are independent of our PTSD symptoms. Just because something horrible happened to us, it doesn't have to be WHO WE ARE. Today I celebrate my Independence from sexual assault and I know these negative experiences of yesterday do not define who I am as a person today but my strength will aid me in becoming the the person I will tomorrow.

From ME to You

Regaining His Voice: John’s Story

How old were you at the time of the assault(s)?
3 years old & 18 years old

How old are you currently?

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault(s)?

Did you tell anyone about the assault(s) at the time?

Did the assault(s) go to a court trial? Was there a sentencing? If so, how long?

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again?
I don’t think the first person will commit sexual assault again. I do believe the second person will commit sexual assault again.

What would you like to say to others about sexual assault?
Sexual assault is not fair and there is not enough awareness about sexual assault against males committed by females.

What would you like to say about this project?
I am thankful for such an opportunity to share my story.

My story:
My condition has taken me from being about to do 100 push-ups a minute; to becoming so depressed I could only do 1 pushup. The abuse I experienced made me an extremely shy guy, that engaged in few social activities, in fact I was shy to the point that I couldn’t even eat or drink in front of females. I thought I was at a point in my life that I was going to be okay and survive from being sexually abused at ages 3 and 18 until my drill sergeant further aggravated what had not been healed or emotional issues that had never addressed. I suffered from posttraumatic stress my relationships with my daughters did not exist because of the posttraumatic stress that my mind, body, spirit and soul has withstood since the age of 3. I joined the Army; to provide for my family, my children and all others before myself, that is how lived and learned to be. Now I have learned to live for God first then care for myself so that I may care for my children, family and all others. I pray to remain this way whether I am abused, misused or accused. Thank you kindly for hearing my story and I pray to start healing at some point because I’ve been hurting inside for a very long time and I just need some support from all of the angelic people that I know God has on this earth that will hear my cry and will pray for me. Thank you.

*** Click Here Share Your Story ***

Regain Your Voice: Share Your Story

You can share your story by leaving a comment below and by answering these questions:


How old were you at the time of the assault (s)?

How old are you currently:

Where did the assault(s) happen:

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault(s):

Did you tell anyone about the assault (s) at the time:

Did the assault (s) go to a court trial?

Was there a sentencing?:

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again?

What would you like to say to people about sexual assault?

What would you like to say about this project?

What is your story?

Regaining My Voice: My Story

At the age of fourteen, Eliina was sexual assaulted by an internet predator. She worked tirelessly with the local police department and with the FBI to aid in the arrest of her attacker. Three years after the assault she had the opportunity to testify against him in Federal Court and see him be taken away in handcuffs to Federal Prison. In struggling with life after the trial Eliina turned to photography as a way of expression and healing. After graduating high school she attended Art School where Regain Your Voice was born. In 2004 Eliina found volunteers for her project who were willing to be photographed and to share their stories of sexual assault and childhood abuse. The project soon after was on display in Universities and in art galleries all over the state, raising awareness and giving other survivors the courage they needed to also share their stories, to regain their voice that was once lost. Eliina has also volunteered with many organizations to promote sexual assault awareness including being a RAINN Speakers Bureau Member and has shared her story to numerous media outlets by appearing on national television and telling her story to magazines, speaking out on the radio as well as submitting testimonies to Congress to help change current legislation for survivors.

Eliina is currently working on her first book, Diary of a Rape.

About this project

I have learned that rape is something whispered about, or talked about from behind closed doors. This is a major problem. If people are not aware of what can happened to them they can never be prepared for when it does, like myself, I never even thought about rape. I was not aware that it could happen to me. The second problem is that a lot of people only believe that a stereotypical rape happens with college students at a party and someone drops a date rape drug into their drink. We were not taught to believe any different. It was only after group therapy that that I realized, anyone can be raped and anyone can be the perpetrator. I had soon learned that is not only a stranger, but more statically correct, someone that you know. I met girls that had been sexually assaulted by their fathers, uncles and brothers. The list was endless. I also learned that it can happen to anyone, anywhere at any age. My project is about standing up to show that this is a major problem. Most rapists actually pride themselves and take advantage of the fact that they do not think we will tell or stand up to speak for ourselves, I refuse to be a quiet victim any longer, it is time to fight. I believe in photography making a social change and this is a way that I can incorporate my passion of photography with my strong belief of helping other people. As survivors of this vicious crime we can not hide anymore, in the shadows of guilt and shame. We need to unite, stand up together and show America that this is a problem.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Regaining Her Voice: Melissa’s Story

How old were you at the time of the assault?
How old are you currently?
Where did the assault happen?
In my friend’s house

Did you know the person who committed the crime?
Yes, he was a co-worker and friend of mine.

Did you tell anyone about the assault at the time?
My best friend, who did not help the situation. I told my other friend, who ended up being really supportive and helped me through it.

Did the assault go to a court trial?
What would you like to stay to people about sexual assault?
That it happens all the time. I think it’s shocking how many women who have been assaulted do not even define themselves as rape victims. We tend to define rape as a stranger lurking in a dark alley, but it’s crazy and disturbing how many women are assaulted by people they know and trust. I also find it really disturbing how so many men have grey areas surrounding the topic of rape.

What would you like to say about this project?
I think it’s extremely important that women who have been assaulted are not kept silent. Being raped is nothing to be ashamed of.

We used to work as cashiers at a grocery store. We flirted sometimes, and he asked me out on more than one occasion, but I told him no. I was 19 then, and still having a hard time being firm when telling guys I was not interested. We had lots of mutual friends, and we would always hang out, have parties, get drinks. It was fun.
Once He and I were hanging out at his apartment (with another friend who he lived with). I drank too much and ended up kissing him. I told him the next day I had made a mistake and that I did not like him like that, and things seemed okay between us. A few weeks later, he had a party at his house, and I went over. I ended up drinking way too much, and I did not want all my friends to see me that intoxicated, so I stumbled into his room to lie down on the floor and I passed out.
Later on that night, I felt someone lift me up and put me in his bed. I was lying on my side, when I felt someone pull down my pants and start to have sex with me. It was Him. I started to struggle and he kept holding me still. I started crying and he acted shocked. He asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer.
The next day I woke up really early and left right away. He called me later and I went over to his house again. I think I was planning on telling him off, but I was just silent. He acted like there was something wrong with me. That I was being weird. He was being all lovely like we were a couple or something. I told him what had happened was NOT consensual. He said he knew, but his only excuse what that he was drunk. He said he was sorry. I never spoke to him again.
I only told one person for months. My former best friend, who basically said that it was my fault because I had kissed him that one time. For me, there is a lot of shame surrounding the topic of sex. When I actually want to do it, I have flashbacks and I feel disgusting. I go through periods of extreme frigidness, one of which destroyed my relationship with my ex-fiancĂ©, who could not separate physical intimacy with emotional. I am less trusting and more sheltered. Sometimes I like to think of the person I could have been had this not happened, but in a way, this experience has made me a stronger person. I have not really had much counseling, but I heal through speaking out about what happened to me, because things like acquaintance rape happen so often, still society does not look upon it as “real” rape, although the consequences are the same. I write poetry, and try to inform other people, in hopes that it might help other women who have had a similar experience.

*** Click Here Share Your Story ***

Regaining Her Voice: Chrissy’s Story

How old were you at the time of the assault?

I was 4 years old

How old are you currently?

I am 23 years old

Where did the assault happen?

From what I can remember, it happened in a

small dressing room that I had in my room.

Did you know the person who committed the assault?

The person that molested me was my babysitter.

Did you tell anyone about the assault at the time?

No, But I guess one time when he was going to baby sit, my mom could sense there was something wrong

by the expression on my face, shaking my head ‘no’. I guess at that point that was my cry for help.

Did the assault go to a court trial?

No, but I know that things were very different between our families from then on.

Was there a sentencing?

The only sentencing was for their family to never bother with ours again.

Do you think they will ever commit sexual assault again?

I really don’t know if he would. I feel like he may have just forgotten about it.

What would you like to say to people about sexual assault?

Do not stand for it if it’s happened to you or someone you know. It’s not fair being afraid your whole life thinking that you have done something wrong. It’s never your fault.

What would you like to say about this project?

I would like to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story along with many others.

It makes you realize how strong you are and how strong you have become from it.

I am twenty-three now, and have finally gotten to the point in my life where I’m not afraid of what lies ahead of me. Having this experience in my life has been difficult, though I am able to talk about it openly now. But through my years of growing up I have found it very difficult for me to be able to trust people. This person, who was once so close to me and almost felt like a brother, quickly took away my freedom of being a strong individual. I was four years old when I was molested by my babysitter. My brother and I grew up with his family; his family was almost considered a part of ours. We all attended private school together, went to church camp every summer, his mother was like a sister to my mom. From time to time I remember calling her aunt, and she was also my second grade math teacher. I never really understood what being molested meant until I was older. I know now that I was violated and completely stripped of my childhood innocence. Not only that, but a course of violent and emotional instability would take part in my life and would cause me to feel like I wanted to end it. Going through your life being afraid of everything, hoping and praying that life is not there to hurt you, is like not even giving you a chance to see what life is. Because of this experience and the problems that surfaced in result of this, has made me realized that I am a lot stronger than I think I am. Though this will never go away, it is now nothing but a memory and a closed chapter in my life.
*** Click Here Share Your Story ***

Regaining Her Voice: Sonia’s Story

How old were you at the time of the assault (s)? 1-16

How old are you currently: 35

Where did the assault (s) happen: at home; Woodbridge/Lorton, VA

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault (s): Yes, my father

Did you tell anyone about the assault (s) at the time: No

Did the assault (s) go to a court trial? No

Was there a sentencing?: No

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again? Yes

What would you like to say to people about sexual assault?

To the survivors: it is not your fault! To everyone: Teach your children self respect, self defense and LISTEN to them!

What would you like to say about this project?

I think it’s great that Eliina is getting the word out about the prevalence of Sexual Assault and its effects on both individuals and society as a whole.

My father started sexually assaulting me when I was very small, and continued until I left home at 16. When I was a toddler, he picked me up by the ankle and used my whole body to masturbate himself. When I was a little older he raped me with a variety of unpleasant objects, among them his long, narrow paper scissors, an unplugged electric drill, and my own umbrella. All this was done in secret, of course, although I suspect my mother was willfully ignorant of my misery.

Throughout my adolescence, my father would sneak into my room before it got light, sprawl his heavy body on top of me, and rape me. Pretending I was asleep didn’t stop him. Hiding under my desk didn’t stop him. Even cooperation didn’t stop him. After many years of processing and healing, I still awaken with a gasp of fear if my cat brushes against me early in the morning.

I blocked the abuse from my consciousness until I moved across the country from where I grew up. Soon after I started remembering, I cut off all contact with my father, and have never regretted it –he is not only a sexual predator, he’s also viciously critical and judgmental. I exchange email with my mother once or twice a year, but she continues to believe that the abuse is “inconceivable.”

Despite this legacy of fear and pain, I function well in the world. I studied Computer Science in school, and worked as a programmer for a long time, until I decided I didn’t like the corporate world and started training as a massage therapist. I now have a private massage practice and still do some computer contracting on the side. I’ve owned a condo for 10 years, and I’ve recently been fixing it up so my surroundings are beautiful. For fun, I ride my bicycle, write poetry, make ceramics, garden, cook, and read a lot.

In the area of intimate relationships, I haven’t fared so well. After a series of unhappy 2-year relationships with men, I fell madly in love with a woman and thought I had found my soulmate. She soon moved in with me and we had a commitment ceremony together. Unfortunately, she turned out to be extremely emotionally abusive and manipulative, and her behavior only got worse when I set boundaries around her treatment of me. Since we split up, I’ve done a lot of work to figure out how I can keep from getting involved with manipulative people again. I’ve read endless self-help books about trust and communication.

As a small child I learned lessons about worthlessness, disrespect, secrecy, and compliance. Finally, at age 35, I’m learning what my parents should have been teaching me back then. I’ve learned to respect myself, and to expect respectful treatment from everyone around me. I’ve learned to trust my feelings no matter what. I’ve learned to separate myself from uncomfortable situations simply because my comfort is important. I struggle daily to believe that I’m worthy of such tender self-care. Someday, I hope it will be second nature.