Fear, sorrow, embarrassment, angst, confusion, emptiness–the feelings are all a mess. The moments are all a blur. Nothing seems to make sense. You sometimes hear, sometimes don’t, about all the scenarios happening–rape, abuse, bullying, assault–but never think “what if that happened to me.” You think to yourself, “but that won’t happen to me… it just won’t.”
Yeah, that’s what they all think. That’s what they all thought.
That’s what every survivor thought to him or herself before they were the ones being taken advantage of. Taken advantage of by the individuals they never imagined would do such a thing. It could’ve been a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a family member–but in that moment, it didn’t matter anymore. Being in the moment, so vulnerable, scared, distraught, it all became a blur. It didn’t matter who it was or what was happening anymore. It all became a nightmare… surreal.
3 days later: “I’m confused… I don’t even know what exactly happened. I.. that night… I can’t even remember. It’s a mess… I’m a mess. I can’t talk to anyone. No one can know.”
6 months later: “I hate myself, my body, everything. My friends don’t know why I’m not hanging out with them anymore. My mom doesn’t understand why my grades are dropping. I’ve lost so much weight from my stress and anxiety. I can’t do this. I’m done.”
1 year later: “A year has gone by and that one night, that one hour, has changed everything about me. It has changed every day of my life moving forth. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to talk to–but I should talk to someone. I can’t keep this to myself any longer.”
2 years later: “I never knew there were so many others going through the same thing as me. I thought I was alone but no. I’m not alone.”
4 years later: “The past 4 years I have felt as though I was a victim. I was a victim of that night and that night had changed me in every way. I believed I could no longer be who I was since then. But after reaching out for help and seeing that there are so many other individuals who had gone through what I did and we were all battling the same war, I knew I was not alone. I knew I was not a victim, but a survivor. That day does not define me. I will not hide behind a face of sadness and confusion, giving you the satisfaction that you’ve owned me and controlled my future since that day. Today I stand in front of you wearing a smile on my face and showing the world I am here and I am the same human from 4 years ago but stronger, happier, and not defeated.”
A little over a year ago I became friends with a remarkable individual, Ali Miller. She is one of the most vibrant and charming humans I’ve ever met. She was my inspiration for this project.
Here is her story:
“This August marks 4 years. 4 years since a man decided my body was his to rape when I was unconscious. 4 years. 2 of those years were spent hiding my face from the camera, I was ashamed of my body, I thought it was his, it was like my own being was destroyed because I STILL don’t know what he did to me that night. 2 years of hating myself. But then, there was 1 year of realization. Realizing that what happened to me was not right, what happened that night when I was 17 years old happens to millions of men and women. That was the year of acceptance. But then there was 1 year, this year, of HAPPINESS. A year of taking back my life, of loving myself and loving my body, a body that I thought was damaged and disgusting. A year of telling the world about that night and STARING and SMILING into the camera because I am no longer silent. My body still feels like his sometimes, that night is still apart of me, it still hurts. But now I can look back at it and realize that it’s been 4 years, and I. Am. Still. Here.”