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I am not a victim. I am a SURVIVOR!

Posted on September 01 2015

I am not a victim. I am a SURVIVOR!
When I was 13, my life changed forever. I met a high school boy. We became good friends: we liked the same movies, foods, and subjects in school. But we bonded most over our love of music. He invited me to a concert where his band was performing. The next day, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes.

He was my first kiss, first real date, and the first boy I brought home. He spoiled me with gifts: flowers, jewelry, and a cell phone. He told me I was the love of his life. I know now that I was being groomed, but, at the time, I loved the attention. After a few months, things took a turn. He started calling me every hour to "check in”. If I missed a call, he'd break up with me, which left me heartbroken. He wanted to control my life: the way I dressed, how much I weighed, and whom I spoke to.

Then, it happened. I said "no”. But no was not an option. Worthlessness, shame, and confusion became constant battles. I worried about what people would think of me, so I kept it a secret. My life began to spiral. I suffered from depression and anxiety. I transformed from a goal-oriented, straight-A student who had won awards for English and music, to a student who skipped classes and forgot homework. Out of concern, my guidance counselor pressed me for answers. After three months of silence, I told her the truth. I had been raped.

Coming forward, I finally confided in my family and friends about what had happened. Though it wasn't easy and took months and years of counseling, I learned to accept that what had happened to me was not my fault. I slowly began to heal and love myself again. I began to understand that only I had the power to transform myself from a victim to a survivor. In 2011, I was finally in a place where I could help other victims. So I did.

I created The Survivor Network, an organization that provides a peer-to-peer/victim-to-survivor online support platform where victims can anonymously and confidentially submit messages and connect with a survivor of sexual assault. Our survivor contacts are not trained advocates, medical professionals or lawyers. We are simply people who have been victims, who want to be there for others. My organization provides a safe space and a number of resources—including a public forum, blog and resource portal—with the central goal of supporting victims and creating a community of survivors.

My organization will bring together a community that will change the way our society treats sexual assault. As survivors of sexual violence, we are the face and voice of a crime that has no geographical barriers.We have the power to help victims become survivors. You CAN be a survivor, too.

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