*Please be aware that this post may be triggering for some individuals and does contain talk in regards to sexual assault.
I’ve never loved April Fool’s day, but for the last 7 years I have hated this day with intense passion. It has been a day that resurrected so much of the pain my past has held. It has been a day I was often lucky to arise out of bed during. It has been a day of bitterness, but mostly it has been a day of reflection and of sadness.
Today, while I still don’t like April Fool’s day, has been different. Today, I met with many of the reminders of why I hate this day, I tied a ribbon around them, and I walked away. Determined to leave what today is for me in the past, where it belongs, and allow myself to enter into the avenues and areas around me that I have been closed off to for 7 years.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and many advocates are spreading the color teal around the world as a reminder that sexual assault has a place in so many peoples lives and that that fact needs to change. Preventing sexual assault is not about changing who we are as people in order to not be “victims”, men or women, it is about education and awareness.
Today marks 7 years since my own sexual assault. Something I have never publicly and even rarely privately discussed. I pass the park next to my former college almost daily and yet refuse to enter. My children ask often to play at the park by the lake and I refuse. They ask why and I have no answer for their young ears. The reality has been, that I have not been ready to return. The park holds no joy for me, only anxiety and sadness.
7 years ago my life and the path it was heading towards changed. Many struggles, as well as many blessing grew from this one painful and defeating time in my life. While I am stronger today than I was that day, today, I recognized my own weakness still. I’ve spent 7 years hating today, 7 years hating a place because I have no person to face and never will. 7 years avoiding a main attraction of my own town. Most of all, I’ve had 7 years of pretending to be free from it all. Free from all the emotional baggage that day gave me.
Today, as the sun shone high in the April sky and the temperature hit nearly 65 degrees, something unheard of this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, I made this walk.
The same walk I made 7 years ago. I made this walk today with the support of a dear friend who helped me handle 7 years ago. He stood with me cracking jokes and forcing smiles out of me as I made one of the hardest walks of my life.
I woke up this morning and felt ready to let the multitude of emotions inside of me go, finally. I purchased a roll of teal ribbon, met my friend, and walked into that park. I walked as I had walked that evening and I stopped at an ever growing pine tree. There are many in the park, but this tree, this tree is where my life changed. So it was here that I tied my teal ribbon, it was here I reflected on all my life was, is, and what it will be, and then…
I walked away.
Today, I walked away physically but also I chose to walk away emotionally. Today, I am done letting 7 years ago be my voice. Today, I am done pretending. Today, I am done refusing when my children ask me to go to the park and play.
Today, I am Free.
Finding personal resolution to sexual assault comes to each person differently and that is absolutely okay. For me it has taken this 7 year anniversary for me to truly say I’ve said my goodbye to the physical, emotional, and mental turmoil of the last 7 years. 7 years for me to see myself as a survivor.
If you have suffered sexual trauma and assault please know that there are advocates and supports in your corner and that no matter how long it takes you, you can and will find a level life point. Please do not be afraid to reach out to someone for support or even to just talk. Please know that my message box is always open as well and I am always willing to lend a listening ear.
Remember that prevention of sexual violence is possible. Below are some ways that everyone can make a difference in advocating and working towards prevention. Everyone has a role and each is extremely important to ending sexual violence. For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness and the teal campaign visit nsvrc.org and help end sexual violence.