Excerpts from 12 sexual assault survivors' contributions to "Voices of Courage: Inspiration from Survivors of Sexual Assault" are printed here with permission of the editor, Michael Domitrz.
"There's going to be nothing left ... nothing left ... Oh, my God, there's going to be nothing left." I must have said that to myself a hundred times as he was raping me on the cement basement floor. "There's going to nothing left ... nothing left ... nothing left of me."
There was plenty left. Of course, you couldn't have convinced me of that at the time. I felt totally void, as cold as that cement floor. But I was not destroyed by this experience. Instead, I am stronger than I was before. After my rape, I played over and over again a favorite song that gave me strength. One line in the song resonated for me: "Spirit is something no one destroys." I fell back on those words all the time; still do. It is a belief that has held up through talking with other survivors of sexual assault for the past 18 years.
Often, I am asked how I can work as an advocate for women who have been sexually victimized: "Don't I find it depressing and sad?" I reply no. I am inspired by the resiliency of the human spirit.
I remember the actual rape as if I had been floating above my bed watching the scene from the ceiling. He kept jabbing at me with the knife, saying, "This is all your fault. You should have let me come home. What happens between a man and his wife is nobody's business." I thought, "If I move, the knife is going to slip and I will die."
The few months after the rape were the worst of my life. I thought they would never catch Ron and, even if they did, I believed he would never be convicted (he was). To this day, many people don't believe that a husband can be guilty of rape against his wife. ...
The rape and its aftermath gave me the will, strength and ability to become an advocate for other survivors. ... Tragedy can be turned into triumph. Survivors of sexual assault can and must be heard - through poetry, art, music or public speaking. We can each work toward prevention of sexual assault and we can provide support for victims in our own way - by volunteering in a shelter, on a hotline, or perhaps by pursuing a career in medicine, law, or social services. In a culture where rape depends on a conspiracy of silence, survivors who speak out heal more than themselves.