My journey hasn't been an easy one. I was born into a great family, albeit a little closed-minded about certain topics due to religious beliefs. But I've always been loved.

When I was three, my parents and a friend went out for the night. The 17 year old son of the friend babysat my 10 year old brother and I. I actually remember that night very vividly. The 17 year old was trying to act very intimidating. Threatening to punch me if I tried to eat his snacks. He took me into our backyard and performed oral sex on me. I remember sucking my thumb, which I never did. He told me not to tell anyone. I announced it very loudly the moment the three adults walked through the door (as well as a three year old can express what happened) I remember them freezing in their tracks and looking horrified. They put me into therapy and pressed charges against the boy. Apparently he too had been a victim of molestation. 

I suppressed the memory for many years but it resurfaced in my early adolescence and I reentered therapy to cope. It was likely triggered by an incident in my 6th grade year. I had been heavily bullied for my small size and lack of pubescent development. One of my classmates groped my chest. My mother was heavily involved in meetings with my school, but our principal was retiring that year and tried to sweep everything under the rug. I was home-schooled for junior high to escape my bullies.

I reentered public high school and it was culture shock from my sheltered religious upbringing.

I became emotionally unstable, sexually active much too young and started self harming to cope. 

At 19, I invited a friend over to hang out. I was lonely. He was my best friend at the time. He showed up to my [parent's] house drunk. It was late at night and everyone was asleep. He ended up pinning me down to the bed by my throat and raping me. I chose not to attempt to scream and focus solely on breathing. The next day, he claimed not to remember anything. I was so traumatized I shut down. I refused to tell anyone what happened and received a lot of negativity from my friends and family for suddenly cutting my best friend out of my life "for no reason." It took many years of therapy, including forms of hypnosis to stop my panic attacks when anyone came near my throat. It made working in my career field of the spa industry difficult if I was the body used to train others on. And to this day I still tense up and pull away. 

That was likely the stepping stone that led to my next relationship. Two years of dating and two years of marriage. He was deeply emotionally and verbally abusive to me. He would build me up and break me down on a daily basis. I was obsessed with gaining his approval. After we married, the physical abuse started. His justification was he never hit me on my face. But my body was always covered in bruises. If people asked I usually said I was klutzy, had low iron or my husband and I enjoyed rough sex (even though we went several months spans with no sex on multiple occasions). All the warning signs had been there. Including the fact that he was the survivor of childhood abuse. But I was broken and so desperate to be loved I turned a blind eye. 

I had become so subservient to my husband that I started being walked all over at my job. This actually deeply upset my husband (I think in his mind only he was allowed to treat me that way). He actually forced me to start standing up for myself, lest our home life get worse. So I did. But it backfired because I started standing up to him as well. Our relationship honestly became deadly. I knew someone was going to end up severely injured, or worse. It was a constant beratement of death and suicide threats. I finally walked away. Initially my husband refused to sign the paperwork, until he was forced to come clean that he'd had a mistress and had gotten her pregnant. I spent the next three years in weekly therapy and dove deeper into my career field as a distraction. 

After my divorce, I dealt with the death of my brother and stumbled through several failed relationships. I finally wrote a mini book about myself describing exactly who I am, what I want and need, and what I can offer a partner. I finally figured out how to navigate the dating waters. Relationships continued to be short lived but I was much more confident and stable because I wasn't going to settle ever again. 

Then my college sweetheart re-entered my life. He too was a divorcee from an abusive spouse. He had a two year old son whom his ex-wife had abandoned. Initially there was no intention of love. Only friendship. We were even the ones who listened to each other's dating horror stories. I can't tell you how it happened but eventually it dawned on us that our perfect partner was right in front of us. We've been married almost a year. I relocated for his job and decided to raise his son full time. Blending broken families isn't easy but we've already started teaching our son concepts like "You never touch anyone without their permission" and that you open doors for others and talk with respect. Physical punishment like spanking is our absolute last resort. We use words first. We still attend therapy when needed. 

I still have my dark days but ultimately I made the decision to not let my past dictate my future. I chose to love myself. I chose to forgive myself for letting those situations happen to me. I even chose to forgive my abusers because each of them was broken in their own way. I wish I had a magic formula to give to others who have been abused, but there's not. Time. Hope. Love. Freedom of choice. Strength. I think those are the only true healers. I used to be the damsel in distress who needed saving. But once I took control and saved myself, my life was as close to perfect (even during the storms) that it could be.