He was 15. He was strikingly handsome, and told me he loved me. He controlled everything I did, and yet made me feel lucky to have him. He taunted me. He belittled me. He hit me. He raped me. I was 14.
I never told a soul.
It took me almost 25 years to realize that this was the biggest mistake I could have made. As a would-be writer, I have always felt that my writing was practice for the day I would finally write about this one pivotal event in my life. That I would practice on less risky topics until the day I would be ready to put it down in words. It was too raw, too personal, too shameful to tell anyone. I’ve come to discover that until I write about the rape, I cannot write anything else. It needed to be my first story.
My husband was the first person I ever told out loud. In full detail. He knew, in his heart, that this man…this boy…had hurt me in some unfathomable way. But I couldn’t bring myself to tell even him, the gentlest and most caring of men. There was fear still that he would leave, that he would hurt me too. That he couldn’t handle it.
Then one day a dear friend shared her story with me. It was really a story within a story. The story of how she met a woman who was being abused. My friend told this woman, a young girl really, about her own history of abuse. And how sharing her story made a difference, to both the young girl and to my friend. I went home and pondered this. The next week I made a decision to share my story of rape. I met with my friend and told her that she had inspired me to share something I had kept deep in my heart for 25 years. The story poured out, mingled with tears. I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted. Now two people knew my secret. And they still loved me.
I am sharing my story with you, in hopes that it will inspire other women…young and old…to share their own stories. My pastor once told me that 1 in 3 women have been abused in some way. I think that number may be even higher. It is only by telling these stories that we can gain power over them. We can rise above the event, the man who hurt us, the pain it has caused us.
And come out stronger.