*Note: Most Still Standing survivor stories are shared anonymously. However, as the creator and Executive Director of Still Standing I have chosen to share my story with my name attached to encourage and empower, and also be transparent with, our supporters and survivors. The following content could potentially be distressing. Please read only as you are able.*
My journey with Still Standing began in my personal life long before I ever knew Still Standing would exist. Much of my personal story contains surviving my abusive and neglectful parents, but my history of sexual assault started in college.
3 of 4 survivors of campus sexual assault are Freshmen or Sophomores. I was one of those 3.
Just a month into my freshman year (September 2010) I was raped in my dorm room by a newly formed acquaintance. Fearing I would be blamed (and blaming myself at the time), it took me a week to disclose the assault to my Resident Director who informed the police. Talking to the police was like being victimized all over again. They questioned me in my dorm room (where I had no desire to be but had nowhere else to go) and made me feel as if it was my fault even though the female officer was supposedly “specially trained” for sexual assault situations. I made a police report, but declined the rape kit. It had been a week and I knew that beyond 72 hours it was unlikely that they would find anything to help. Coupled with the fear of feeling victimized and embarrassed by the kit itself and the fact that I was feeling blamed by the cops who were supposed to be helping, I was sort of glad when the situation ended after my police report was filed. However, a couple years later I found out my report was refiled by the Saint Charles Police Department from a rape to a sexual misconduct, which made me feel victimized all over again because the assault clearly met the definition of rape. I am not 100 percent sure because I never visited a doctor, but I believe I may have had an early miscarriage about three months later.
73% of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger. My second assault was my “dad”.
In November 2011 I was spending Thanksgiving Break with my best friend and her family whom I had lost contact with for seven years as they moved around. We had reconnected through a mutual friend on Facebook and all was well until the night before I left when my best friend’s father, who I had looked to as a father figure and even called “Dad,” sexually assaulted me while his wife lay sleeping next to me on the same bed. The next day, after I was back at school, I disclosed to his wife what happened. She and her best friend picked me up from Missouri, drove me back to Kansas in the middle of the night, and then helped me talk to the police in Kansas – sitting with me for hours at the police department as I gave my statement to a male officer after having requested a female officer and less of a public space (we were in the reception area of the offices). Fortunately, my case didn’t go to trial because my friend’s father took a plea deal. He got a year of probation, had to pay court fines, and his wife divorced him. Justice? Not so much in my opinion, but it was something in the wake of losing my best friend over the incident and feeling like I had torn apart a family (despite internally knowing I hadn’t).
My “Accomplishment Twist”
A year and a month later, in October 2012, former Lindenwood University professor Jennifer Lorentz asked me to help create Still Standing, and that is where my journey to healing – I believe – began.
I struggle with depression, self-harm, and body image issues as a result of those many years of hell – in addition to enduring the abuse by my parents as a child. However, I run and manage Still Standing and am very passionate about it. The Facebook page has even reached 122 countries outside the United States (at the time of this writing)! I gained my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in law enforcement in May (2015), started my Master’s degree in Non-profit Administration this August (2015), have two nieces, a nephew, another nephew on the way, and two godsons I adore, and have an amazing support system in my husband (married October 2015), my friends and family (including the in-laws), my former professors, and my church.
My journey from victim to survivor has been quite the ride and it isn’t over. There are some days I still struggle to get out of bed, still struggle to remind myself nothing has ever been my fault. There are days when everything is bright and happy, but my emotions don’t match. Sometimes I see Schneider trucks on the highway and still cringe (my best friend’s father drives for Schneider). But for every moment I’m out of bed when I’d much rather stay curled under the covers, for every Jamaican accent that doesn’t careen me into tears (my first rapist was from Jamaica), for every genuine smile or laugh, good day or the ability to trust another male, for every survivor that I get the chance to help, I know I am successfully walking down Survivor Road – “big” and “small” accomplishments alike. I am still here – still achieving, still moving, still standing — and no one can take that away from me.