Yesterday I attended a conference for prosecutors, and shared my case (along with my team who worked the case), as a case study. I am more and more in awe of what an impact my story can have. Living through it each day, I've become...immune? I guess, to the affect it can have or the fact that it is not the "norm". Anyway, this conference was a special one for me, mainly because of the people that were there with me and the affect that I know first hand the prosecutors who heard my story can make on another victim's life. The healing did not come with the conviction. Am I glad that he's in jail and unable to hurt another child? Sure. Do I feel safer with him being locked away currently? Yes. However, that is not what has helped me transform into a survivor and advocate. The truth is the three woman that sat next to me in court (or fought for my case in front of the judge) made the difference. Not because they are super heroes, but because they allowed me to see them as human, and they treated me like a human. I know that sounds funny, but you'd be amazed how many people see you as a "broken" or "damaged" person, but to them I was not this. To them I was "Libby"...did I have problems of which they were aware of? Of course I did, as I too am human, but they accepted me, supported me, encouraged me, and showed me I was WORTH something. That's where the true difference came in.
It is extraordinary to look at the person I was 6 years ago when the case was first came to light, two years ago when it was reopened, and now, just one year after the case has ended. I am not the same person. I recently saw a therapist, yes I avoided them for some time as well, but I promise you, if you find the RIGHT one for you (there can be good therapists, but the right therapist is hard to find, but worth the process!). Well, I spoke with a therapist recently and we spoke of how I will never be the child I was born into the world as, the child that existed before the abuse happened, that child is gone, that person is gone. It reminds me of the quote that has sat with me, originally from Oprah but sent to me by the detective that worked me case..."he killed the person you could have been"...and how true that is! I am a different person, but I can have the life I want to live none the less. I have CHOSEN to be an advocate, and boy has that opened a new world to me. Now that the conference has ended, I'm scheduled to speak someone at the school about how their department can participate in advocating and awareness, and then next week I am suppose to speak to a class on campus. I have had so many people tell me how brave and courageous I am for speaking out and how so many don't think that they could do it. The truth is, it's not bravery or courage. I at one point did pass out when public speaking (seriously, I had a high school teacher that was afraid to call on me in class because of the shade of pale I'd turn, haha!)....speaking out for me is not about courage but determination, and a touch of resentment even. My question is Why shouldn't I speak out? Cancer survivors, Car accident survivors-especially those affected by drunk driving, natural disaster survivors all speak out....so why shouldn't sexual assault/abuse survivors speak out?
Project Unbreakable, where survivors write down quotes of which their abusers said to them and take pictures with them, is yet another example of the large community of survivors that, if given the chance, do want to have an outlet to advocate, to gain support, to gain closure...this subject needs to be talked about more in order to end that stigma associated with sexual violence, to end the silence victims are suppressed by, and to let people know they are NOT alone. Speaking out how shown me what a beautiful and supportive community we can have, and I would argue that victims deserve to have that support in their community. Before this turns into a novel, I want to thank you all for reading this because you are part of that amazing community that I've seen glances of, and I encourage you each to continue that role of advocating.