Forever a Fighter and Advocate, Katie

Grey Sweatpants and a baggy t shirt. Specifically one of my dad's t shirts that I had stolen because it was big and worn in and comfortable and safe. I guess not safe. It didn't protect me like it should have.

Shaking and bleeding and picking up my best friend's sweatpants off the floor because I had forgotten my pjs and she let me borrow them for the night. Borrowed out of love. A love that couldn't protect me and would later fall apart.

I was sleeping on the floor in a bundle of blankets when you put your hand over my mouth and grabbed me roughly by the wrist, dragging my awkward 13 year old body to your room just a few feet away. How many nights I had spent in the same house as you. How many times you teased and ridiculed me and your sister. When you went to college I didn't miss you. You weren't my favorite brother. The other one was because he ignored me. You were cruel. Before you became a monster, or maybe you always were, you were cruel. Maybe that was the point? Or the plan? To tear me down to nothing so when you physically ripped my body apart, we would both feel like I was less than. Or was that just me?

Your parents knew, mine don’t. My best friend knew. I was blamed. Their story turned a scared 13 year old girl into an aggressor. I seduced a 19 year old. With my awkward 13 year old body hidden behind my dad's t shirt and baggy grey sweatpants. I had been provoking him. I was at fault. I had asked for this. I had asked for the bite on my inner thigh so deep that it left a scar now buried behind stretch marks. I had asked for a hand to cover my mouth so tightly it left bruises on my cheek and chin only visible behind my eczema. I had asked for the years of trauma and mental scarring. After all, I was 13 and wearing my dad's t shirt and baggy grey sweatpants, how could you resist?

My best friend was no longer my best friend. My friends were now people I kind of talked to in class and at lunch. My family were people who were in the same house as me. I couldn't tell anyone, how could I? I asked for it. This is something I would believe for almost ten years.

I was 21 and in college, seeing a counselor for my depression and anxiety and I just spit it out one day. I hadn’t told a single person before then. She made me write it down but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to admit to someone else what I myself didn’t know. She wanted me to believe it wasn’t my fault. That I hadn’t asked for it. But I wasn’t ready. So I disassociated myself from my own experience. I've admitted I'm a survivor but reliving my experience was too much so I twisted the story to make it bearable. I thought I was the only one who did this. In reading our April book “Not That Bad” edited by Roxane Gay, I realized I’m not alone. I told various versions from something close to the truth to something completely different just so I could mentally handle it.

What I’ve written above is my truth. It is the full story and something only a few people in my life know. So why write it down now? Why share it with all of you, most of whom I don’t even know?

Because there is power in taking control of my story. And there is power in knowing other’s have stories similar to mine. I went through it alone and I know I’m not the only one. There is power in numbers. There is power in talking about it, to start tearing down the stigma. And with power comes change. Changes that will start taking us seriously and start punishing those guilty of their crimes.

So here’s to ending my silence, standing with others, taking control of my truth, and fighting for all of us. My power is my voice and I will never forget that again.

Forever a Fighter and Advocate,

Katie

**If you’re still with me, thank you. And I have one more thing to ask of you. April is sexual assault awareness month and PAVSA is doing a world of good in our community for those who have experienced this trauma and violence. Please take this pledge with me to Start By Believing - dedicate yourself to someone tells you there were raped or sexually assaulted, to support survivors on the road to justice and healing, and to help end the silence.