In June of 2002, when I was 15 years old, I was kidnapped from my friend’s front yard in broad daylight by a stranger. That man held me captive for 18 hours during which I was sexually assaulted multiple times. When I was able to escape my captor and report my crime to law enforcement, I initially felt like I wasn’t believed.
While I later found out that was not the case, those moments of disbelief felt like a punch to the stomach. What should have been a moment of relief and reunification with my family was instead marred by a sense of being stuck in the trauma. I felt like I had to prove that I was who I said I was and that I actually was kidnapped by a stranger instead of feeling safe.
Following the identification and death of my captor, I was able to form relationships with people who not only believed what I said but believed in my ability to be a survivor. The actions of key people in my recovery resulted in me finding my inner strength and knowing that I was so much more than this thing that happened to me. Belief was the first step towards healing, and later, empowerment. Belief helps me remember every day that I am not defined by what happened to me, and that I now get to choose who I become in spite of what happened to me.