Content Warning: This content includes stories about abuse and sexual assault.
On January 19, 2020, I was in the mountains celebrating my birthday alone. I was taking some much-needed time for myself without my family. It was just me, myself, and I, enjoying the blue skies, beautiful snow-capped mountains, and birthday shout-outs from loved ones all day long.
After getting off the phone with a girlfriend who’d called to wish me a happy birthday, I decided to check my beloved social media birthday greetings. I noticed a new friend request. So, I clicked the notification and to my surprise, I’d received a new friend request from the man who tried to rape me in high school. Immediately my gladness, joy, and peace turned into the exact moments on that bathroom floor fighting for my life. That moment became my present-day nightmare. I hadn’t thought about this man or what he had done to me in years. It was a figment of my long-lost imagination, the kind of figment you bury and forget about.
For a brief moment, I allowed those thoughts to become my reality. I began to sweat and get angry. My heart started beating as if he were in the same cabin with me in the mountains. The pain of that struggle to break free from his grip—from his attempt to rape me—was staring me right in the face, daring me to say something. Daring me to stand up for myself, even though I was in the room alone.
If I can be honest, I began to cry. Not from a victim’s standpoint, but out of gall and sheer anger—the audacity that he thought it was fine to connect with me. What made this man think it was okay to send me a friend request, so he could catch up with me or take a deeper look into my 30-plus years of joy, pain, accomplishment—my life in general? He had some nerve!
As the tears came down, I thought about the strength I had that night fighting for my life. I imagined my Grandma Josie, in the 1900’s, fighting her attacker at just 13 years old. She fought, but unfortunately, she didn’t prevail. This story lived on in our family as a reminder. (Most generational secrets were kept quiet, but not this one.) In my mind, I channeled my fight and hers. Every punch, every kick, every slap led me closer to my freedom—from victim to victor!
I could hear my mother’s voice saying, “Kick him harder! Don’t you give up!” My imagination was in overdrive. His arms were stronger than mine, but I didn’t quit. His was determined to take something so precious that I had not given to anyone else yet. He overpowered me, but I didn’t stop fighting. God’s strength was within me. A loud knock on the door of the girl’s bathroom saved me. I fought until that knock interrupted. My strength remained until the end, and that strength is within me still.
After I calmed down, I called another girlfriend who’s a therapist. I wasn’t calling the therapist; I needed my girlfriend. She spoke life back into me. “You are strong. You’ve got this! He did not win then, and he won’t win now. You are victorious, remember that! Resilience is your strength. You are not that teenage girl on that bathroom floor. You are a powerful woman, changing lives. This is merely a distraction to get you off course! You are strength!”
Her words blanketed my heart and comforted my soul. Every piece of strength inside me rose up and silenced the past and its painful memories of an unsuccessful attempt to steal the very essence of God’s workmanship within me. He didn’t win then, and he won’t win now. He’s not the first to violate my innocence. As a child, I encountered molestation from many men. Just like I survived those, I would rise above this too.
What started out as a horrible experience on my birthday turned into a strength fest. I realized I’m stronger than I thought I was. What tried to take me out only showed me just how strong I really am. Needless to say, I blocked him (after writing a few choice words). Then, I deleted the notification. There’s strength in the delete button!
I’m good now—I mean really good. And I’ve decided to seek therapy for my past pain, so I can be good and healthy.
If you or someone you know is seeking help from sexual assault, visit Rainn.org or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673Leave a Comment