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Finding The Lighthouse

This is my personal memoir about being a survivor of sexual assault. I hope this can make a difference in someone's life and be the voice of help for someone in need. thanks for reading xoxo Leah

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Part 1of Finding the lighthouse

There I stood in my parent’s driveway; an insecure girl waiting for him to fulfill his promise of a day I would never forget. The hem of my dress nervously danced across the tops of my knees, and I could feel my anxiety increase with every minute ticking past his arrival time. My thoughts began to race around ideas of not being good enough, about the multiple times he cheated on me, about getting out of what everyone around me called a dangerous relationship. My one sole hope was he would pull up and actually follow through on his promises to repair things. But I could tell, the minute our eyes met through his dirty windshield, something was not right.

My parents were roaring insults about him from inside the house. Yes, even though the windows and door were closed, I could hear my dad saying, She will never get it! He is just going to use her! This happens every time! And then my mom saying, Brian, stop yelling - there’s nothing we can do about who she chooses to be with. I could hear these lines, there in the driveway, and now I can say those words stuck with me, even though I did not listen at the time.

I had to move away from the truth of these words, and almost unconsciously, I jumped into his gray Mazda 6.

“Come on! let’s go! take me to where your surprise is,” I said anxiously. Anything to escape the driveway.

“Okay… but first…” and he leaned over to me and put his hands between my legs. Right there in the driveway! I was so taken aback I reacted quickly, out of both shock (because I was in eye shot of my parents, still) and fear.

Instantly, I grabbed his pursuant hand and flung it away from my body.

“No!” I yelled. “ I don’t want to do that, or anything like that right now! Are you serious? You are like three hours late! And I’m not doing this in my driveway!” my eyes scanned him for a second, and I realized he looked like he was going to the gym - the furthest place I had pictured in my mind. We were supposed to be going to dinner! I was dressed so nicely! My hair, makeup, and outfit, were all in order for a beautiful evening together, and he looked like a complete slob. He was all sweaty from apparently mowing the grass. He even smelled of small engine oil. I became very upset, and nervous about what to expect in our ensuing time together.

In an attempt to get him moving out of the driveway, I began motioning towards the gear shift to get us out of there. He looked very matter of fact, stood mute to my comments about how he looked, and just backed out of the driveway like a robot.

We drifted into the streets, two people with an awkward silence looming around us, and he pulled over about a block into our journey. He said, “ Sorry I can only stay until 4:30.” My eyes immediately spotted the clock - 3:00. Hot tears formed in my eyes. Frantically, almost out of desperation, and now I realize that is exactly what it was - desperation - I said, “ I guess we can just talk at the park.” But a part of me had already made up my mind that I was going to break up with him right then and there! I was so over him at that moment. This night was supposed to be so different, and I had set it up in my mind that way, and then he showed up like he did! It truly was the last straw. I was done with this guy. I started to get ready what I was going to say to him when we pulled into the parking lot… and my parents’ words finally had found their way into my mind.

We pulled into a spot isolated from the other cars. Almost instantly, he became very aggressive and overpowering, touching me all over. When I looked in his eyes I could tell he was hungry for one thing. He moved the seats down allowing the trunk to open and he pulled me in.

“Come on! you know you want to, “ as he was taking off his pants.

“No! stop it! Seriously! I don’t! “ I had replied harshly and assertively. I began to resist him. He didn’t care. Every time I said no he would fight harder. He eventually grabbed my head and used force when he kissed me.With every second I was forced in the car I could feel my mind becoming detached from my body. My anchor which held me together was cut.

“How about now,” he said maliciously. Instantly terrified my hands clenched into fists and in that moment I would be changed forever. In that moment it felt as if we were out at sea and he pushed me off our boat, sinking further into the cold salt water from the impact of the push. I was drowning.

Part 2 of Finding The Lighthouse

HEvery single day after this painful event became worse than the last. I was a shipwreck. Too weak to fight for survival. My summer was ruined before it even started.

Rehab. Nine vials of blood drawn. Roommates to girls I did not know. Pulled from my home, my comfort zone. Pain. Severe emotional pain. An overwhelming feeling of isolation. The overwhelming idea placed in my brain everyone in here was sick. We had a schedule , a routine - yet nothing felt routine. Everyday felt strange, foreign, misguided. The amount of tears I had shed in that place could fill an ocean. Crying. Crying because I could see the sun for the first time in days. Confusion had set in, and I became resigned to the fact I would spend my summer being reconditioned like a lab rat.

The feeling of isolation intensified. All I wanted was to process my pain with the people I trusted; my family and friends. My mom could tell my internal pain was out of control when I had stopped eating and lost a lot of my hair. Even though I didn’t want to believe it myself, everyday I was turning more into a shell of who I once was. They didn’t know how to help me, so they put me in inpatient therapy, and then, rehab. I had no control over my life. When you’re stuck in cold water eventually you get numb to your feelings. And that was what I was. Numb.

From the day I was sexually assaulted my smile changed, my hair was coming out in massive clumps, my mental state was absolutely deteriorating and no matter how much I tried not to think about it - it was all I could think about. I could never escape the castaway feeling. No one around me could understand what this felt like. How much I blamed myself for this when it wasn’t even my fault! I said no and that should have been enough. Nope. Not according to the police, or him. Even when I was asleep I would see him in my nightmares. How could someone I had come to love do this? I found out during his police confession he cheated on me with about nine different girls, he even took another girl to prom. Again, my parents’ yells found permanent hold in my mind. They were right. I knew it, but it didn’t help me. He ruined the light inside me, burned it out of me. I was slowly dying.

My depression was so severe behavioral health specialists had to escort me everywhere I went, even to the bathroom. No privacy whatsoever. I wanted my bed, to see my dogs, to drink Dr. pepper, and most importantly, I wanted my life to be okay again.

But somehow, my luck with guys has never been good. I never knew what love from another man was like, so I didn’t know how to back out of this dangerous relationship. People tried to warn me of the signs, but I actually tricked myself into thinking he loved me. Love has a way to captivate you. I guess I just wanted to feel nice to actually feel wanted and useful for once. One of my biggest regrets in life is actually giving myself to him freely in the first place, to believe in him. But I didn’t know He was a taker. And the truth still hurts me - I never felt loved or good enough when I was with him.

How is it humanly possible for having no sort of remorse or guilt for ruining a life? Sadly, he committed this crime and got away with the act. So many survivors don’t ever share their story for their own personal reasons. For me, it took months to accept this actually happened. People don’t make it easy for the victims of sexual assault, that’s for sure. Especially if people know you had a sexual relationship to begin with. Somehow, no does not have the same gravity once the first threshold has been breached - no does not carry the same power. And that is a cold, brutal fact.

The day it occurred is the day my old self died. The lighthouse guiding me throughout life had disappeared, and I became an outcast in my own body. Every day in rehab was like treading water before you start to drown. It took so much time for me to start to change my thinking. It took weeks to build positive thinking around small things and situations. I ended up staying in rehab for quite a while.

Life isn’t fair - I know this because I’ve been told this cliche since I broke my favorite toy when I was little. You don’t have to tell me twice life sucks sometimes, but everyone has their thing that shapes them. Finding happiness even to this day is hard for me. Trusting others is the hardest. To determine what’s true in someone’s words is extremely difficult. But I’m surviving. All you have is yourself at the end of the day and no amount of anger, or sadness, or therapy, can ever undo what happened to me. The extreme behavior of an eating disorder still haunt my daily life. I used to not eat for four days to figure out how to control something in my life. The amount of anxiety in my chest was much larger than my appetite. In time I realized Recovery is forever. But in one way, to be stuck in the moment, to be trapped in my thoughts for months and months actually helped me discover self love. I realized no one else was there when it was four am and I was crying my eyes out but me.

Final part of Finding the Lighthouse

One day, my lighthouse came into view again. I remember the first day I saw it - she was small, far away in the distance, and I still had a lot of water to cross to reach her. Whenever I reflect upon this time period in my life, I feel a sense of pride for how far I have come. I am no longer alone in a sailboat during a hurricane. I have seen my lighthouse and I know she will guide me back home, eventually, with time. Her light, her image, is what helps me get through my bad days. She is my strength. I see her and I know I have to keep moving forward. I see her in my mind’s eye and point my compass to her. I feel empowered to find my way and discover my new normal. For once, my future feels like it is back in my control. My lighthouse is there, poised on the bright horizon, and I can feel her light guiding me.

Post script: Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This topic is so personal for me, and so many others out there have endured the same trauma. I wanted to use this story to potentially help any of the many suffering assault victims out there.

Always unconditional love for all the wonderful people who have helped me throughout this time, just to name a few;grandma Sandy, Grandpa Bob, aunt Donna, aunt Katie, Wyatt James, godmother Christy, sisters Cassidy and Ellie, my best friends ; Robyn, Mercedes, Chloe, Jake, and lastly, the person who made me believe love still exists - Max. My old self died the day of my assault. The metaphorical lighthouse responsible for navigating through my life essentially disappeared. These wonderful people have impacted my life into shaping me into the person I am today, and are a part of my lighthouse’s power to return me home to shore. I am eternally grateful for the kindness and help all of you have displayed in my life. Because of all of you I am at peace .

With love forever and always,

Leah Rose

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