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Cover 05/22/2013

The Survivors Project

Excerpts from ebook that gives sexual-abuse survivors a chance to tell their stories

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I’m no longer as scared of elevators as I was immediately following my rapist’s attempts to get me in one, but I continue to be extremely aware of anyone traveling with me. I barricade my front door every night, and my bedroom door on the nights I’m alone in the apartment. I haven’t conquered my immediate distrust of strangers, particularly of the male variety. I doubt I’ll ever get to a point where it’s simply a bad memory. However, because of the happier moments of the past two and a half years, this is something I tolerate. Since being raped, I have started and completed graduate school. I’ve been a bridesmaid in four weddings. I’ve held down a job. I’ve traveled. And most importantly, I have not allowed the trauma I went through to taint my interactions with the people I love.

I was raped. In those moments of victimization, the rest of the world disappeared. All that existed were the seconds, and each second that I was still alive was a victory. Afterward, it was almost shocking that the world still spun. But life continued on, and I continued on with it, even when the preventive HIV medications I had to take afterward made my body ache and caused me to vomit everything up. Even when the voice in the back of my head told me to just lie down and not get up. Everything will not be OK, and even though that hurts, I can accept it. Most days, at least. I’m still a work in progress. But I can accept the things that aren’t OK, because I know I will be. Not every moment of every day, but overall. I’ll be OK. I actually plan to be much more than that. I plan to be happy.

So, instead of clinging to the fallacy of “everything’s going to be OK,” I’m turning to an idea that I have more belief in. If you have the courage to put in the work and effort, everything can be dealt with. It’s not a fast process and it’s certainly not an easy one, but it’s possible. And that’s the closest thing to a guarantee that any of us will ever get.

Diata* (not her real name)
Gender: Wombyn
Age: 25
Age abuse occurred: 5-12

My father was a revolutionary of sorts. I can recall him preaching and praying passionately in some of Washington, D.C.’s most impoverished and neglected neighborhoods. Ramshackle houses and project buildings long deserted by humanity were the areas targeted by our church for “street ministry.” Essentially, church was set up in the street, or in barren, abandoned parking lots. I was very young then, maybe 8 or 9. I can remember the green, broken glass and crumbs of concrete that somehow broke off from the curbs and sidewalks.

Loud speakers propelled the scratchy sounds of prophets screaming for redemption, and the band kicked a gospel beat for the people to move to. Ministers laid hands on the otherwise washed-up, hopeless and faithless ghetto masses. And there was my father, reaching out to these men, women and children. I have memories of pride as I sat in the metal folding chairs set up for the street congregation. I straightened the wrinkles in my pink dress and smiled as two white observers beamed about the efforts of my father. I beamed, too. I saw that my father had a genuine heart, a spark within him for his God and his people.

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