Rebuilding your life after a sexual assault. This is what happens when a girl refuses to give up.
“Well, I guess I’ll just come out with all of it” Ali said.
I’d just asked Ali why the birthday present she’d received from her dad had caused her to burst into tears (happy tears she assured me). And what that very simple gift had meant to her.
“I got diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety when I was a junior in high school. I went through school with constant panic attacks - I didn’t know how to cope with it so I started doing the cutting thing and all of that.
I started on medication in my junior year to manage my depression. And I was on it all through high school. Then something happened in my senior year that almost ruined me.”
Ali pauses, as if considering how much of the story she should tell. She slowly continues.
“I was at a party, and hanging out with my friends who were drinking a lot - and that night I ended up drinking a lot too.”
Actually, I drank way too much and while I was barely conscious, there was a boy in my grade who sexually violated me.”
Her voice changes, and she starts to speak a little softer.
“I told my friends what had happened. Me and the boy were part of the same group, so people took sides, most of them didn’t believe me. I went from having a large group of friends to losing almost everyone. It crushed me to see so many of my friends choose a guy over me. I started getting called degrading names in the hallway. I had nightmares every night and those still continue to this day. I didn’t want to tell my parents what had happened because I was so ashamed.
To say I hated my senior year would be an understatement. It was absolutely awful.”
I started thinking back to my high school years - how difficult it would have been to be attacked for something that was out of your control. For something that had happened TO you. How do you get over something like that. What stopped Ali from just dropping out of school?
Ali said there were times that she wasn’t sure she was going to make it through. But then she did something that took SO much courage - and it gave her a glimpse into another world where something else was possible.
“A few months after it happened, I finally told my parents and after that I decided to share about what happened to me at church. I was so nervous. It was in front of 100+ people. I shared about what I’d been through, not expecting it to do much, mainly thinking it would help me get over it.
After I finished speaking, I had different girls from the church come up to me telling me things that they had been assaulted too. They said they’d never told anyone either because they were afraid. I gave them my number and told them to text me and call me if they needed to talk. And that’s why I finally want to share my story now.”
It’s been three years since Ali left high school. I asked her what her life looks like now.
“After everything that happened, it really made me rethink my life and who I wanted to be. I haven’t cut myself for almost 2 and a half years. I went to a university and started to study journalism, but after realising it wasn’t for me I switched into nursing. I loved nursing but I wanted to do more - so I’ve just been accepted into pre-med at the University of Minnesota. All I really want to do is help people.”
So how does this play back into a little gift that was given to Ali by her dad?
“I cried because it reminded me of how I got through those last few months of high school. How I left and created a new name for myself. I didn’t let what happened to me cast a shadow over me forever, that whole believing in yourself thing really works. Since I’ve put it on, I haven’t taken it off. Because that’s who I am now.”
I hope Ali’s story has inspired you as much as it inspired me - I was a little nervous about asking Ali if she’d be willing to let me share it online - and once again, she blew me away.
“Yes! Yes I want to share it! Honestly, it’s been a goal of mine for a while now. I’m starting at my new college soon, and I want to get involved with a sexual assault awareness group called the Sexual Assault Task Force. They have these huge rallies where thousands of people go, and I want to get my story out there now. I am past high school. I’m out of the bubble. And I can use what happened to me to help other people.
I want other girls to know that alcohol shouldn’t be an excuse for rape – it doesn’t make his actions okay. You are worth more than staying silent and telling no one about the pain you feel. Yes, you are hurting and no you shouldn’t feel ashamed because you are worth more than that.
If I can help even one other girl, then that’s enough for me.”