Eight years ago on January 12, I gave my first statement. I was in class. We were doing roll-call and the police walked through the door. Everyone went silent and watched. They walked to the back of the room and arrested the coward that had raped me, abused me, threatened me, and changed my entire life for the last eight months. I remember standing there as tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt frozen.
For months, I was a different person. I began doing badly in school, I wanted to stay home as much as I could, and I began to hate things I once loved. I ran away from home the weekend before this all happened. I was over it all. No one knew the pain I was going through and how bad I wanted out. It seemed like the best option.
The police were involved, and after a couple days, I came back home. I got in trouble as I figured I would. I got my phone taken away, which I was thankful for. It was finally going to be my way out without disobeying my rapist. He reminded me daily of what he would do to me if I ever told anyone what he was doing. That Sunday night, January 11, my abuser was blowing my phone up. My mom saw some of the things he said and did. She went to the police and the school, which then led to his arrest.
A couple of hours after his arrest, the principal pulled me from class. I remember her walking in, calling my name, and the whole class going “ooooh.”
I had no idea what I was about to go through. Silly me thought that it would just end and everything would go back to normal.
We walked into a conference room with a big square table. My parents, police, school board members, and the school counselor filled the seats. I sat there in silence with tears in my eyes for a while at the head of the table with all eyes on me.
They began asking so many questions. I gave the vague version of what had been happening for the last eight months. I was still so scared of what was going to happen to me because he was caught. Little did I know this was the first of many statements I was going to give and that I’d have to fight for myself more than ever before.
The next day, I remember I was standing in the kitchen making a grilled cheese when my mom walked in from the garage and told me when my dad got home we were going to go to the police station. She said when we go, I can tell them everything and to be honest. I remember looking at her as my eyes filled with tears and I said he took my virginity.
When we got to the police station, the cop took me into a small room alone. I walked in and there were cameras and a machine that was going to record my statement and answers to all the questions. After that was over, the cop walked out, then returned with a paper and told me to now write everything I just said. After what felt like a lifetime sitting in that small room, I was able to go back home.
I barely slept that night. All I could think was how mad he must be at me and what he was going to do if he saw me. I started having nightmares then.
I woke up, went to school, and did the same thing. I tried to go on about my day as normally as possible. About halfway through the school day, the press released newspaper articles, it was all over social media, and then even made it on the news. “Fire Science Teacher Teaches Underage Student More than How to Grab The Hose,” “Fire Science Teacher Charged With Sexually Assaulting Underage Student,” “Fire Science Instructor Arrested For Sexual Assault of Female Student.”
My name was never posted, as I was a minor. But as soon as they put a female and what school, it didn’t take much for the whole school to figure out it was me. I was the only female in my school’s program at the time. As I walked the halls, everyone stopped and stared, made jokes, and I quickly began regretting everything. I then understood why people stay silent. I ran to the counselor’s office as fast as I could. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I did that day.
For months I continued to give statements, continued to be bullied, constantly questioned and doubted, pulled out of classes, and told I was a threat. Then court began, which brought a whole new pain.
I was constantly reliving and sharing the worst days of my life.
Court hearings went on for quite some time, but he eventually pleaded guilty and served time for what he did. I remember feeling so much relief as I heard the word “guilty.” I relied on that jail so much. He couldn’t hurt me anymore and I could finally begin to heal.
Eight years ago, if you asked me where I’d be in eight years, I couldn’t tell you anything. But here I am alive, healthy, loved, safe, and happy. Eight years ago, I pictured a much different life.
I will never have answers of why I went through what I did. But today, I have my voice back and my life back. I’ve fought so hard to be where I am and I’m glad I didn’t give up on myself.
I will never ever forgive him nor forget what he did to me. But instead, I will remember and recover. I will never be silenced again. I will stand tall even if my voice shakes and make sure every survivor is heard and protected. I will never stop fighting. He didn’t ruin my life and I never ruined his; he did that on his own.
A lot has happened in the eight years since I came forward and everything changed. I’m living proof that you can survive. Keep fighting even if you’re exhausted. As a survivor, you live with the pain forever, but it does get better and you can heal and have a beautiful life. I’m living proof.