During Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in partnership with the 1 in 3 Foundation, The Tyler Loop presents Margaret’s story as part of the Share Your Story program. The Share Your Story series seeks to help end the stigma around sexual assault and to give voice to survivors’ experiences.
“Many survivors suffer in silence for years,” Maya Golden Bethany, the 1 in 3 Foundation founder said. “Survivors have often experienced blame, judgment or disbelief during the times when they do open up. This program provides participants an opportunity to reclaim their voice and raise awareness. It is not just their experience but a call to action.”
The 1 in 3 Foundation exists to remove the barriers to healing from trauma in Smith County for women recovering from sexual abuse and assault. “We believe that the 1 in 3 women who will experience sexual abuse or assault during their lifetimes deserve meaningful understanding and crucial access to support,” Bethany said.
Margaret — an alias — submitted her story to the Share your Story program, read by actor Erin Irvin. Margaret recounts being molested as a child and raped as a teen. The memories of these events came back after the death of her child.
“Fourth grade. I eagerly wanted connection, desperately needing to fit in. I felt as though I would never fit in. I had no self esteem, no pride in myself. I felt stupid, unlikeable, unlovable that year.
My best friend’s stepfather molested me and his stepdaughter. I was too young to grasp what was happening.
I walked into yet another school in such despair, willing to do anything to find my place.
By tenth grade, I was starting the year at my fifteenth school.
I was finally starting to have new friends. I convinced my mom to let me go out until nine o’clock. My friends convinced me it was okay to leave the mall with them; then hurry back before my mom came to pick me up.
One night, I called my mother and convinced her to let me go to the movies afterwards. “Please, please.”
For the first time, I got to stay out late until midnight. What my mom didn’t know is I was going with this guy, a guy I met at the mall. I barely knew him, and he was several years older.
He showed interest in me and I jumped on the attention. I was so consumed in the moment that I didn’t listen to my instincts. I thought we were just going to hang out.
But instead, he took me out to the lake. I kept telling him, “I don’t want to have sex. I don’t believe in having sex before you are married.”
“We are not having sex, we are making love.” This is what he said as he held me down in the front seat of his car. After that, he drove me home and told me he could not wait to see me again.
All I could do was sit in the bathroom and cry. I never felt I had a right to tell anyone about my experiences. I blamed myself. I thought it was all my fault, because I had lied about it to my mom.
Shortly after this, I began drinking then experimenting with drugs – anything to numb the pain.
Fast forward several years. I struggled with drugs and drinking on and off.
I married at 20 and had a child. That child saved my life. I stopped all the partying.
Less than a year later, I was getting divorced. I ignored all the red flags that this man was abusive. Of course, I didn’t know the meaning of red flags back then. I went through more marriages and divorces.
Throughout all these years, I felt I wasn’t good enough to be loved and cared about just for being me. I had not yet learned how to love myself.
At the age of 37 and in a new marriage, I experienced the most traumatic event for any parent: the death of my youngest child.
My world began spiraling. About a year after my loss, I started having flashbacks of the rape, of being molested and other things I would later understand were traumas.
I had the blessing of connecting with 1 in 3. I started to understand what was happening, why the flashbacks were happening, even though I thought I was over so much. I started to learn about grieving and that it was okay to feel how I did. I’m now healing the past and the present. I started learning how shame was consuming my life and preventing me from expressing joy.
I finally know what it feels like to have others see me, accept me, support me, hold space for me – but most of all, genuinely love me.
Healing is possible. There are people who care. No one is ever alone walking through life.
No matter what the struggle is, I hope that sharing this will help others understand that I was once a very young girl who didn’t feel I deserved to be on this earth and that my presence was a burden to everyone.
But after all these years, I finally realized that isn’t the truth, and I’m grateful to still be here.”
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