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Little by little as I began to speak my truth, I began to reconnect with the person inside that I thought was lost and beyond repair.

My rapist wasn’t a stranger. I’d known him since I was 16. He’d been a boss, a mentor, even acted as a protector against the inappropriate advances of another manager. He was a friend… someone I grew to trust and confide in.

In reality he was none of those things. He was cunning and manipulative, controlling and punishing. By the time I realized what he really was, it was too late .

It wasn’t the first time I’d been hurt by someone I should have been able to trust, but it was, by far, the worst assault I had endured. I was 20 years old, 8 months pregnant and something inside me had been broken in those hours, and I had no idea how to fix it.

His threats and my shame silenced me instantly. So instead of reaching for the help I so desperately needed, I went home, got in the longest bath I’d ever taken, and walked back into my life as though nothing had happened. I wore sweaters with extra long sleeves until the bruises healed, and for over 20 years I threw myself into being the best wife, mother, and employee I could be. I graduated from college and was even hired as a manager. To most people, I appeared driven, successful, and was the sort of person who always put others first.

Inside, however, I was broken, ashamed, and fearful that the illusion of my happy life would come crashing down around me. I suffered in silence with anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. Over the years I learned to cope by developing a binge eating disorder.

Year after year passed, and I excused my panic attacks, I covered up my flashbacks and the agony in my heart. But in the end the mental and physical exhaustion took its toll and I ended up in inpatient treatment for the eating disorder.

Admitting that I was powerless over my unhealthy coping mechanisms was the thing that saved my life. Little by little as I began to speak my truth, I began to reconnect with the person inside that I thought was lost and beyond repair.

When I began to truly believe I was not beyond help, I stopped asking God why, and began asking him what it had all been for? What was the purpose for all the years of pain? And the answer came. I had become a woman overflowing with compassion and empathy, God had developed in me a heart to walk alongside other women who were seeking healing of their own.

Today I am living my life again, I am finding peace, I am able to recognize the strength it took to survive, and I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside women who have survived sex trafficking as they seek healing and restoration of their own.

The pain I endured  that night was admittedly worse than anything I have faced in my life. But given the choice, I could not in good conscience ask to have been spared of it. Why? Because by no other road would I be the woman I am today. A woman who can sit with another in their pain, knowing what it is to feel broken and helpless…. but able to share with certainty that there is hope and new life after sexual assault.

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