Guiliana Cozzo

I turned my fear into fortitude and my cautiousness into capability. 

Maya Angelou once said, “Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.” 

When I was a young girl thinking of going to college, I thought I was going to be making new friends, creating fun memories, and making those the best years of my life. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it turned out. As a junior in college, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to go on my first date, which was a decision that flipped my world upside down. That “date” was nothing I expected, it was the day my innocence was taken from me, and I fell victim to a predator. 

After months and months, all the emotions, the trials and tribulations, and all else (physically and mentally) involved, I decided to look at everything from a different point of view. I did not want to suffer any longer. Something clicked; my attacker messed with the wrong woman. I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor of sexual assault. I turned my fear into fortitude and my cautiousness into capability. I decided to use my voice and be stronger than my fears.

The reason I was able to acquire this attitude and make it this far in my healing journey is because I was believed. While it is known that the healing process is very up and down, I am able to recognize that, and I’m willing to put up the fight for as long as I need to in order to ensure peace and happiness within myself. 

I can’t express how empowering it is having so many loved ones by your side. From college professors to close friends, family, and even the New York State Campus Police (Officer Matthew Stegner, specifically), each and every person listened and cared for me while simultaneously making it known that they are on my side fighting for me. The support has continuously given me the strength and confidence to achieve so many things, such as this, working with EVAWI. I am now a few years older, attending graduate school in hopes to continue advocacy and working with survivors of sexual assault. I would not have made it this far without being believed and the unconditional support I received. I am excited to see what the future holds. Now it’s my turn to let survivors know that they are seen, heard, and I believe you.

You are strong, you are capable, and you are believed.