The first time I was assaulted, I was just six or seven. I say six or seven for the simple reason that my patchy memory of the event does not permit a concrete answer. He was a family member; someone to be trusted, someone I loved. This event would shape my existence, the very core of who I was as I grew up, but I would have no recollection of the event until I was seventeen years old.
When the memories came back it was like a domino effect, the memory of a rape triggered an attitude of apathy which was the only way I knew how to cope with the self-disgust. Less than a year later, I discovered this side of myself; this self I could slip into that did not care that she had been robbed of her innocence because she really did not care about anything. She did not care when she lost her first kiss while being pressured into skinny-dipping the summer before senior year. She did not care when that boy at the party molested her when she was too intoxicated to string two words together—much less resist the hunger of a boy who had no idea the damage his wandering hands were causing that same summer. She did not care when she was raped again her freshman year of college in a frat house while being assured, "Oh, you know you want this," by one of her best friend's best friends.
This was my coping mechanism. I believed that if I could make myself believe that I did not care about what had happened to me—what was happening to me—then I was free from it. My apathy began to break me apart. I could not compartmentalize it into one area of my life. It began to define every part of who I was. I was losing everything, but it did not matter because I did not care.
On January 16, 2015, at 18 years old, I told my brother what had happened when I was a child. Years of pent-up emotion that I had not allowed myself to feel bubbled to the surface as my stone-hard brother wept and held me for what seemed like an eternity. He actually did care.
That day set off another domino affect in my life, one of a completely different nature. As I began to open myself up to people—at first just my family—something amazing happened; people cared. Slowly but surely their care and their love began to bring back life to dry bones. I started seeing a therapist, I started to care again. I found new life and a new purpose through my pain, but I would never have made it without the simple act of people letting me know that they cared.
Sometimes it seems so simple that it is easy to forget how important it is to let the people we love know that we care. Two words: "I care." It can make all the difference in the world to someone who has been made to believe that they are so damaged, their pain seems undeserving of acknowledgement. If you are reading this and you feel like no one cares about who you are, where you have come from, or what happened to you, trust me, someone does. You are deserving of being loved and cared for. You are not the one at fault, you are not damaged goods. What you are is beautiful, glorious, worthy of love, and deserving of happiness.