“Survivor Strong” in Boston

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Since the sexual assault, November has been a challenging month.  This year, I’ve been able to shift my focus from November being consumed by thoughts of the incident to focusing on everyday life.  I was extremely productive at work designing posters for a campaign, too focused on planning for my trip to Boston to see friends rather than focusing on the fact that I take this trip during the anniversary/mark of the incident.

I only Googled the man who chose to rape me for an afternoon rather than obsessing over trying to find information on him.  He’s moved from Virginia Beach to Jacksonville, Florida, where he’s started a workout clothing line with a partner saying they “are your typical guys trying to be better in this world, just like everybody else.“  I also found photos of him in white board shorts and greased up from the 2013 NPC Bodybuilding National Competition.  Good for him.

His name, that night, the next year and a half going through the military justice system, the remnants that still remain will never be forgotten.  I am thankful for being able to release the majority of negative and detrimental emotions attached to the incident.  My life is actually pretty calm, stable, and I like my work/life balance.

I chose Boston this time around because I wanted to visit a really positive friend.  While enjoying a Freedom Trail Tour, I realized how defiant and strong the individuals who made up Boston lived their lives.  They did not cower to their oppressors, they strategically stood up for their rights and fought with resiliency.   Walking the streets, standing on the USS Constitution looking back at Boston, hearing the stories of men and women who helped make America what it is was remarkable.

A few months after the incident, I wrote about how we all go through tragedies of different proportions and quoted Anne Frank.  The Boston bombing earlier this year is a horrific tragedy that impacted many.  A Boston Globe editorial stated what “’Boston Strong’ truly represents: the victims of the bombing, now rebuilding their lives; the law enforcement efforts during the manhunt; the decision, by athletes and organizers, to run the Marathon in 2014.”

Not until I had spent a couple of days in Boston did I think of how I am “Survivor Strong” as are others who have been sexually assaulted.  We have been victims, now rebuilding our lives; we thank the response teams, law enforcement, prosecutors, therapists, that respond and help us through our journey and all of the individuals who help prevent these atrocities from happening to others.

It’s crazy to think that the incident was 3 years ago this month.  2 years ago, I was flying back from Uganda to testifying against the man who chose to rape me only to have it delayed, living in a high state of anxiety and melancholy.  1 year ago, I was getting in the groove of working behind the scenes of sexual assault risk-reduction and response programs.  This last year has been exciting- I am thankful for opportunities such as coordinating awareness events, supporting fellow survivors, speaking to high level individuals about issues of sexual assault in the military.

November has become somewhat of a “New Year” where I take a good long look at where I’ve come since 2010 and where I want to be.  I’m excited.

We are “Survivor Strong” striving forward with our lives.

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