April... a time for warmer weather, sunshine, flowers starting to bloom, but April is also an important month for many: it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). What does that even mean, sexual assault awareness month? It is a time for us to raise public awareness to sexual violence, a time for voices to be heard, to educate, to learn and to grow. While we should strive each and every day to teach others about the idea of consent and what that means, this is a month to promote these healthy interactions between individuals.
I am the one in five women* who will be raped at some point in their life. I am the one in three women* who will experience some sort of sexual violence during their lifetime. I am one of the 63% of individuals* who do not report their sexual assault to law enforcement. These statistics are astounding, and while I am speaking to this as a woman, let’s not forget about the one in six men* who will encounter some form of sexual violence during their life.
I want to share a little part of my story with you. I don’t like to call myself a survivor because I’m not sure that is the right term to use, but I went through something like a lot of other people out there; however, there is more to my story than just being raped or sexually assaulted.
When we look back to high school and all the silly things we did as kids, do you ever wish there was something you could change? Would you change how you behaved? How you acted out or decided to take just one more drink at a party? When I was 16, I lost my virginity at the hands of my rapist while I was at a party. I was naïve and never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen to me -- this traumatic event that I tried to put out of my life forever, thinking I would never need to tell anyone what happened.
Even 14 years ago, there was such a she said/he said on sexual assault situations that I knew going to the police was not something I wanted to do. I wanted to forget all about what happened and move on… until that fateful day came that I couldn’t forget.
The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the worst days of my life. Knowing I was having a rapist’s baby at 17 years old, I finally had to come clean on what happened to me to my family. I was a good kid, made good grades, but I had a wild side like most teenagers do. So when I told my mom what happened, at first she did not believe me (which is exactly what I knew would happen and why I wanted to keep it all a secret). I also didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was 5 months along; my periods were already spotty because I was very athletic and at the time, I thought there was no way I could get pregnant from JUST one time (this shows how naïve I really was).
I made the decision to have my son, but I knew I could not keep him. Adoption was the only answer for me. He needed a family who was stable, who could provide for him. I mean what could I, at 17, give him when I was still a kid myself? I had to make the hardest decision of my life when I chose adoption. I would never change it, because I know he has a better life than I could have given him at the time. His birth was very traumatic, but in the end, I know I made the right choice. I know my love for him is eternal, and even though he came into the world from circumstances out of my control, he made me a birth mom. His family is more than anything I could have wished for him.
There is a lot more to my story, but I just wanted to share a piece of it and tell you that if you are going through what I did, just know you are not alone. Reach out to me or anyone; talk about your experiences. I can only hope that sharing this with you helps to know that you are strong, that you can overcome this, that you can have an amazing life.
I have since been blessed with the most amazing daughter on the planet. I am the lucky one that she calls “Mommy” every day. My first pregnancy might have been traumatic, but my pregnancy with my daughter and her birth was very healing. It helped me to close those wounds that I had been holding onto for years; it helped me to overcome obstacles and finally, I was ready to share my experience instead of feeling ashamed about what happened to me. If you have been sexually assaulted, just know IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Do not blame yourself like I did for years.
You are stronger than this!
*NSVRC. National Sexual Violence Resource Center. https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics