When I started this project; I was afraid that I would fail. My progress has been slow, but I am incredibly grateful for the people who have trusted me to share their stories. The feedback I have received has been extremely positive, and I hope to publish a real book in a couple years that will make a serious impact in shattering the silence that surrounds sexual violence. April is sexual assault awareness month, please take the time to read and let me know what you think. I am so grateful to know Angela Rose, founder of PAVE. This woman is incredible. To know more about her and PAVE go to http://pavingtheway.net
Angela Rose - agent of change and assault survivorI was kidnapped from a parking lot in broad daylight the summer after I graduated from high school. I was walking towards my car, singing Natalie Merchant, and I stopped because I felt this person about ten or fifteen feet behind me. I put my key into the lock, and he came up behind me and pressed a knife to my throat and threw me in his car and bound my hands behind my back. He used bandaids and sunglasses to conceal my eyes.
I felt like a captured animal, there was no where for me to run and nothing for me to do. I had no control. He pulled over, after driving for however long, into a forest reserve parking lot and sexually assaulted me.
I did whatever I could to consciously remember details; because, I thought to myself, if I get out of this situation alive, he is not getting away with this. That really helped to keep me present in that moment and very vigilant. There were clues that this was not his first time.
He wound up letting me go hours later, and I went to the police. I told the detective that he had done this before; I knew it. The detective didn’t believe me. He asked me if I was lying about everything. It was so re-traumatizing.
Finally they put two new detectives on the case and they told me that they would do whatever they could to catch this guy. They did, and it turns out that he was on parole for assaulting and raping other women and murdering a 15-year-old girl.
I vowed to make sure that he would stay behind bars and not hurt anybody else. About a week after I was kidnapped, I made a plea through the media in Chicago. I said, “I know that I am not the only person he has done this to.” Four other girls came forward. I got together with them and we fought for changes in Illinois state law. It was really powerful. We were doing something proactive and positive out of a really negative and hard situation.
I had an incredible support network with my community, had the support of the other survivors from this man. That makes all the difference in healing. If people feel supported, if people feel like they have a voice, it really makes it so much easier to heal.
The surviving came with using my voice, learning that I could help other people, really helped me make that transition from victim to survivor. I love helping people. I love helping people overcome trauma -- not only going from being a victim to surviving, but thriving.
I started PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment) when I found out that everyone had a story: old high school teachers, friends and family, men and women. They would share with me that they had been assaulted or abused. And so often they would say, “Angela, I’ve never told anyone.” So I realized there was a need to shatter the silence of sexual violence.
PAVE’s logo is a phoenix because it’s a bird reborn out of its own ashes. We can choose to take these really negative experiences in our lives, and allow them to transform us in a positive way. What happened to me, I wouldn’t wish on anybody, but I would never change it. It helped me realize this inner strength that I never even knew existed. I feel like because of what I went through, there isn’t anything that I can’t get through.
I have this incredible gratitude for life, and that came out of my experience. To know that my life could have been over at the age of 17, makes me profoundly grateful for small things like flowers blooming or the clouds in the sky. There is hope. We can heal, and we can live happy and joyful lives.