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More than a statistic

When localizing national news stories, it is recommended that a reporter find an angle that makes it easy for an audience to relate to a story. This week I wrote about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In a perfect world, I would have sat down with somebody who has been a victim of sexual assault, and we would have gently discussed his or her story. I would have asked him or her what happened, and what advice he or she could give to other people who find themselves in similar situations. I would have given the awareness a “face” because it is easier to relate to people rather than statistics.

As mentioned in the article, the topic of sexual assault is considered taboo because of its intimate nature. It is difficult to find somebody willing to share such a personal story with thousands of people. I was unsuccessful in finding somebody willing to talk about it publicly.

My job as a YES! Weekly reporter is to inform, educate and provoke. My personal mission as a journalist is to help and inspire. Since I could not find a face for my article, I will be the face for my article. I will tell you that being a victim of sexual assault changes you. I won’t tell you my entire story, but I will tell you how my story ends.

It ends with me being a happy, healthy 25-year old woman who, ten years ago, decided that my happiness was my responsibility and no one had the right to take that away from me. When I sat in the chair at Forsyth County Family Services and listened to Kenyetta Richmond talk about sexual assault and rape, I felt her words.

When she said “it’s your story to tell,” I knew that this was my opportunity to open doors for people who may be too afraid to do it on their own.

As I type this, I have tears in my eyes. I have never discussed this topic with anyone aside from close friends and family. It is terrifying to talk about because being a victim of sexual assault leaves wounds that never fully heal. You never forget the date that it happened. You never forget the first shower you took afterwards because no matter how hard you scrubbed, you still felt dirty, and eventually you just gave up and sat down in the tub and sobbed.

I am here to tell you that it gets better. I promise you. I am not an expert, but my road to recovery started when I learned how to accept an apology that I never received. Regardless of what people say, remember that it was not your fault.

Understand that in cases like this, the legal system is designed to work against you. It has always been “innocent until proven guilty”, and cases like sexual assault and rape typically come down to your word against theirs. I lost the legal battle, and you probably will too. I am not discouraging your right to fight your assaulter in court, but I am warning you that it is an uphill battle.

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to stay focused on you. Don’t worry about the person who assaulted you. They are not worth one more second of your precious time. You are your first priority, and you have the power to turn this heartbreaking circumstance into something positive. Talk to somebody who can help you heal. Try to remember that there are good-hearted people out there, and everyone is not out to hurt you.

You are more than just a victim. You are more than a statistic. You are smart and beautiful, and people love you.

As I mentioned, it is my personal mission as a journalist to help and inspire. If this column inspires even one person to seek help, then my story has an even happier ending. !

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