Walking home from the stables after a riding lesson, I was attacked. My hometown was an affluent beach town, the kind of place where nothing “bad” ever happened. Million dollar homes lined the neighborhood. I was 12 and hadn’t even kissed a boy yet. I didn’t know what was happening, I only knew I was terrified. He pulled me into a secluded wooded area and proceeded to beat, rape, sodomize and stab me. He said, “I like watching you ride your horse.” He knew me, but I didn’t know him. When I cried he became angrier, so I tried to focus on the leaves on the ground and the dirt he pressed my face into. When he finished, he turned me over, took his knife and carved a line onto my chest—later I realized he had carved the letter “S”. It spread down my chest and over my abdomen. Then he hit the back of my head against a rock. I lost consciousness after this and have no recollection of how I got to the hospital. I was told that I somehow crawled and stumbled to a roadside where I was found.
Ultimately, I ended up with 35 stitches in my face, internal stitches, 18 staples down the back of my head, fractured bones, and multiple stitches down my chest. I also lost my sense of smell and all hearing in my right ear due to brain swelling and cranial nerve damage. Oddly though, none of this bothered me as much as venturing back out into the community after I was “healed” on the outside. It was a small town, people whispered when I walked by. I could hear them saying, “Oh, that’s the girl. You know, the one who was raped. Poor thing.” I hated their pity. I hated them for looking at me. I refused to look anyone in the eye. I refused to leave my house. Shame, embarrassment, and silence engulfed me. The rapist had taken away what remained of my childhood. And the “S” he carved on my chest became my scarlet letter of sorts—it branded me. I imagine that was the rapist’s intention. It was his attempt to claim my 13-year-o ld body as his possession. It has taken years to become mindful of the fact that I am myself, I am not a possession and I am certainly not his.
People tell me all the time that I should have the scars on my chest surgically removed. And to them I say, “Why would I do that? My scars serve not as a reminder of my rape, but rather they are evidence that I am stronger than the man who hurt me.” I am still alive. My scars demonstrate my strength and no one can take that away from me.
Now, I am 32. Eventually, I became an editor for a major national magazine. It was not until a few years ago that I decided to return to school and pursue a career in medicine. I want to help women and young girls find the strength that I wasn’t able to find until 20 years later. I am always searching for ways to speak out and speak up against sexual violence. I have found that I heal myself a little bit each time I am able to give a small amount of relief to another person in pain.
Thank you for making this film. When Linor spoke about crying louder if no one pays attention, I held my breath. I had never heard it said that way. She’s right, it’s okay, to not be okay all the time; it’s okay to let others know how hurt you are. It’s a release of pain. So to all those out there struggling with these emotions, I say cry until you can’t cry anymore. Cry until the crying turns to anger. Because once you are angry enough, you will fight back and reclaim your life.