Mandi Howell

I have always been a person that believes everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t understand why at the time. You might think that being a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence would change that, but it hasn’t. I had the strength to report and withstand a brutal trial. In the end, he was found guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of aggravated simple assault and spent 11 ½ years in prison. I have spent over five years now working in the field of intervention and prevention of dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Being a survivor is not always easy regardless of the amount of time that has passed, but I believe it happened to me because I was strong enough to go through with getting justice, and it ended up giving me my purpose in life and career path.

When I was giving my statement to the police, I was shaking and crying as I wrote everything down. The detective assigned to my case leaned over and asked me to stop for a minute. He gently put his hand on mine and said, “When I send your statement over to the courthouse, the first thing they are going to ask me is if I believe you, and I absolutely believe you.” That moment had such a positive impact on me, and I will never forget it. If it wasn’t for his kindness and telling me he believed me, I don’t know that I would have had the strength to move forward and withstand a trial. Through my years as a survivor, an advocate, a friend, and a prevention educator, I have learned the best response you can give to a survivor disclosing their story is, “I believe you, and I’m here to support you in whatever capacity you need.”

Every story is different. Every survivor is different. But every story and every survivor matters, and I believe you.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.

Carl Jung