I've considered sharing my story, but many times fear has held me back. How exactly do you find the words to share something so vulnerable that has impacted your life in such an intense way? That, and knowing that there is no one story the same, and that there is no one path to being healed. How can my story, so unique, and my path of healing, so different, help another? Yet as I've been reading these truths and stories I can see how both those abused and those reading their stories are filled with hope. 

So, with that realization—this is my story.

When I was a senior in high school I was raped in the back of my own car. For a while, to be honest, I didn't even realize that is what happened. It wasn't like the experiences you hear or see in the media or movies. It wasn't some stranger, I wasn't kidnapped or threatened with a gun. Instead, it was a friend in whom I had trusted and confided in. A friend that I had known for years and that I couldn't comprehend would hurt me in such a way. But he did, my friend hurt me and it changed my life. Luckily, though this experience was traumatizing, I was able to suppress the feelings with the knowledge that I would be in college soon—thousands of miles away. I put this experience deep down and never spoke of it to anyone. 

Time passed and when I was 21 years old I thought I had found the man of my dreams. In my eyes he seemed perfect, with the exception of one thing—his struggle with pornography. I was able to look past this struggle because in our religion and culture, where we believe in being chaste and being abstinent before marriage, it is something that is very apparent. Now, I'm not saying that this is the case for everyone, nor am I justifying this struggle. What I am saying is that I recognize for many this struggle and addiction is a very real part of their lives, and in this situation, I had hope in this person's recovery. 

At the time I suppose there were some things I didn't understand about sexual addictions and addictions in general. The thing is that a characteristic of someone who is truly addicted to anything is that it's no longer about them making these choices, it gets to the point where it's almost no longer their agency involved at all. Instead they have to partake of their own personal kryptonite in order for them to feel something, or to be able to feel like they can make it through the day. It's as if it’s not even the same person, instead it's some creation of this monster we title addiction. It's not about the the people they hurt or the choices they make, because at that time usually their decisions are usually made selfishly. Unfortunately because of that other people get hurt in the process and can be seriously affected. 

My dream guy and I had made the decision early on in our relationship that we were going to avoid any tempting situations. I felt comfort in setting boundaries, and in the fact that I felt like he was taking his recovery seriously. 

It wasn't long though before I realized that his addiction went much deeper than just pornography, that it had developed into a serious sexual addiction as well. I remember finding naughty pictures everywhere, of not only him but other women. I remember looking through the history on his computer and finding all this pornography, and I remember hearing from women that he cheated on me with pleading with me to save myself from that relationship. 

I kept hope in his recovery though because, c’mon, he was my dream guy. Unfortunately it wasn't long before he started to manipulate and abuse me sexually. At first I pleaded and begged him to stop and reminded him of the boundaries we had set, but eventually I found myself allowing him to do whatever he wanted to me in hopes that maybe he wouldn't pursue pornography, other women, or something worse. Plus it wasn't like my pleads had made a difference in the past. He had lost his agency through his addiction, and now I was losing mine as well. It was sick,and I loathed myself because of it, but what else was I supposed to do? I was stuck and alone. I had given up everything to be with this person—my friends, family, education, everything. 

I remember one day after having had a surgery that morning, having my fiancé crawl in my bed just to do whatever he needed to get off, and then just leaving me alone. I remember thinking-How did it get to this point, and what did I do to deserve this? It had been almost a year of this abuse at this point, and to be honest I had lost hope. I had lost hope, my dignity, my family and friends, and my own sense of self. My dream guy had become my worst nightmare, a nightmare I lived every day and couldn't run away from. 

Eventually he ended things and left me alone with the consequences of his abuse. Even though I should have felt relieved and grateful at the time, it almost felt worse to be alone having to live with the abuse than to live with the abuser. 

After that I kept finding these people who assaulted and hurt me in the same way. Despite knowing of what had happened to me in the past, and my constant pleads to stop. Eventually, I found myself in a place where I just assumed this is what I deserved. A place where I assumed the worst in all people, and I became very bitter.

What has helped me in my healing is sharing my story with other people. I've found that I am not alone in my struggle to overcome my experience. That it why I share my story with you today. I want you to know that if you have experienced rape or sexual abuse, you are not alone, and there is hope. You don't have to settle with this idea that this is just how life is always going to be. I am a living testament of that, and there are many others as well. I know that I am stronger than this difficult experience, and so are you.