The day I escaped my abusive ex-husband I looked at my mom and said “I’ve lived in silence for too long. If I survive this divorce I’m not going to be silenced anymore…”Since that day I’ve shared my story with anyone that will listen in hopes that my story will enable in others the strength to leave unhealthy and toxic relationships. If I made it out alive, there’s hope for other women living in the same darkness I was. This is my story of trauma, pain, heartbreak and ultimately redemption.~Hannah Hendricks
I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am enough.
The man who raped me at 18 doesn’t define me.
The man who abused me for 4 years doesn’t define me.
I am defined by who Christ has called me to be.
I was 18, at a frat party, and somehow in the midst of the crowds of people I had lost the group of friends I had gone with. I thought I’d be able to track them down. What I didn’t know was that I was getting ready to walk straight into my own terrible nightmare, one that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
I wandered through crowds in the various rooms looking for my friends, and at every door I didn’t find any familiar faces. Aimlessly I walked, trying to sort through my muddy thoughts and blurred memories. That’s when he walked up to me. He seemed so innocent, and so attractive. My naive mind was butter in his hands. He asked if I was alright, so I explained my situation… He said we could walk back towards his room and he’d help me find my friends.
Likely story, but at the time, I figured he would take care of me. We got to his room and ironically I finally saw familiar faces, instantly filling me with a sense of relief. But all of that relief quickly disappeared when I realized, in my confused state, that he didn’t care about my friends. In some strange way he nearly viewed them as a temporary inconvenience. While I was trying to talk to my friends, I heard him whisper, “You’re beautiful”, so delicately in my ear. Those two words reduced me to butter in his manipulative hands. The few, remaining, logical, clear thoughts ran straight out of my head and into thin air.
“Want one more drink?”
“Yes” I said, and looking back… that’s when it all changed. I sipped my last drink, looked up, and realized that all of my friends had disappeared. The door was locked, and suddenly I was forced to face the moment.
I felt my body hit the bed, and the room began to spin. The pressure of his body against mine, holding me down suffocated me. My clothing was ripped off before I had a chance to protest. In an instant my chest was slammed onto the bed frame, instantly sending sobering pain throughout my entire body. In that moment I knew I couldn’t run. I knew there was nothing I could do. I lay there, limply, my mind losing any control over my body. I would try to push him off, but my arms wouldn’t move. I would try to kick my legs free, but they were motionless. I felt his presence get even closer right before he would force me, face down onto the bed. My nose ring would get caught in the sheets, and proceed to be ripped out in the aggression of the moment. I tried moving to find it, but my body wouldn’t respond to my brain and his grasp only tightened on me more and more. The last thing I remember before the darkness flowed over me was his hand hitting me multiple times. Then it all went black. I remember feeling the sun seep through the window, with barely any recollection of where I was. I was alone on the floor: naked, bruised, confused, and shivering. My eyes searched for him, and settled when they saw him, comfortably wrapped in a blanket, quietly resting in his bed. In that moment, I felt all sense of self worth evaporate.
I wasn’t worth a bed.
I wasn’t worth respect.
All I would ever be to a man was a lifeless, usable body, that would be disposed of on the floor when they were done with me.
I was empty.
I instantly fumbled for my clothes, trying to be as discreet as possible so I wouldn’t wake him. I remember quietly getting dressed and waiting until I realized no one was in the hallway. I took a deep breath and left. I snuck down the stairs and out the back door.
I ran back to my room, and that’s when it hit me… I had lost my virginity to my rapist at the age of 18. I stood naked, staring at myself in the mirror. I had bruises covering my chest area, and more bruises in the shape of hand prints covered my thighs. I mustered everything in me to get myself in the shower, where I sat and scrubbed myself over and over again. Tears streaming down my face, I wanted to wash away that night. I wanted that night to flow down the drain. I wanted that night to disappear.
The reality, though, is that it didn’t. Rape doesn’t disappear. Sexual assault doesn’t just go away. I tried to cope with it in my own way for the rest of that year at school. My own way was to sleep around and to embody the identity I had been given. I was good for one thing — sex. I believed that lie and allowed myself to give it away freely in hopes that it would make the pain of that one night go away forever.
At the end of the year, I made the decision to take time off from school. So desperately I wanted to find peace again, and find my identity again. But life would be put into perspective, very quickly for me, and I would be forced to face trauma of unimaginable levels in the coming years…
The second installment will be posted Wednesday 10/5, and the third in this series will be posted Friday 10/7. Stay tuned.