One year ago, I was in the midst of a jury trial as a victim of sexual assault.
Oof, that is not an easy sentence to write.
After I testified, I wrote and read what is called a victim impact statement. This letter is heard by the prosecution, the defense, the judge, and the entire courtroom.
I remember sitting on my bed, sick to my stomach at the thought of reading my feelings in front of him. Being vulnerable in front of a monster, who took advantage of me at my most vulnerable, the man who got off on bringing me to the brink of death, and my raw fear, terror, and agony.
Sexual assault is never any easy thing to experience, or hear about, or talk about. It’s not an easy thing to write about either, pain aside. There are no words in the human language strong enough to encapsulate the feelings. It definitely is not easy to write about when you know you will be reading in front of the monster, whose actions are haunting your dreams, stealing your joy, and terrorizing your soul.
I sat down on my bed with a pencil and paper. I could feel my heart pounding in my throat. My ears were ringing. I felt a stinging heat course through my body until my face was flush and perspiration was beading on my skin.
My heart starting pounding faster and louder. My mind flashed to the morning after, so disoriented I was trying to use the hospital bed remote to call my best friend and crying at my failed attempts, thinking to myself, “This is my new hell. I will never survive this.”
It then flashed to the weeks that followed that were full of terror and agony and the repeating thought, “How will I ever survive this? I cannot live like this for years. I cannot live like this for another day.”
My mind snapped back to the present. I could suddenly hear every car on the street and dog at the park. The sound of spring, the sun shining, and people out soaking up all the joy the sun has to offer. The terror started to consume me as my mind suddenly flashed to him. “He doesn’t deserve this power,” I thought to myself. “Not a man who gets off on terror. He does not deserve to have this effect on me. I won’t allow it.”
I looked down, touched my pencil to the paper, and let it all pour out. To be honest, I don’t remember anything that it said, except one thing: “I don’t know what happened to you in your life that created this darkness inside you, but we all have things that have happened to us, and we all have a choice. We can all decide to let the darkness consume us, or to choose light. I will choose light.”
I remember looking up as I finished, completely unsure if I even read the words properly. My heart was pounding in my throat. To my surprise, there wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom, if you don’t count the defense. I could hear sniffling and see the look of pure compassion in so many watery eyes.
I did not know how I would survive; I just knew that I would. I knew that if I chose love and light in every decision, thought, action, and behavior I had that I would not be consumed by the darkness. I filled the darkness with light and love.
Don’t get me wrong, this was still pure hell, but I made the decision to not unpack and live in this place. I needed to love that place, find compassion for that place. So, with every choice of love, another answer of love unfolded.
A year later, something has happened that I thought would have taken many years: I have returned to myself. I found peace and a home within myself again. I am home in the same body that was once on the brink of death, that was beaten and violated, the same mind that was once terrorized day and night by vivid flashbacks, the same soul that felt shredded and gone to the darkness. I feel peace.
This is because I chose love.
I made a commitment to myself that day that no matter how horrific the circumstance, no other human being could ever take my power to love, no matter how deep the violation. It took time, and it did not happen overnight, but slowly the love built. In the depths of my darkest hour, it was difficult to call on anything that evoked the feeling. It was hard to remember it and feel it purely, so I would focus on my daughter’s belly laugh and let the feeling of love consume me.
When I think about her little baby face with dimples and a giant, openmouthed smile—falling backward, holding her tummy, and chuckling from deep inside with such pure unadulterated joy—I am filled with so much love and light. It is the type of love and light that warms you up from your deep within your soul, moving outward and igniting every cell with light, until it consumes your body and brings the most genuine smile to your face.
I would then try to go to that place before reacting or making decisions. I would also go to that place and try to focus that love on myself.
I started with the major decisions in my life and was eventually able to stay with this feeling of love. I turn this feeling toward myself and toward the humans and animals around me. I try to stay in this place in times of frustration or rage and in times of grief and sorrow.
Eventually, my goal is to be able to turn this toward him. But for now, it is showered within me, my relationships, and my life. I chose love and light in the absolute darkest moment of my life, and it truly saved me.
One year later, I am still here. I survived.