Survivor Story - Hannah's Story for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2020 begins with a Survivor Story. Hannah submitted her story to Domestic And Sexual Abuse Services and approved a reading of the story. Producer Dan Moyle reads the account. Interim Executive Director (who is also our Director of Advocacy Services) Deborah Hackworth and Sexual Assault Therapist Krista DeBoer discuss the story to help us find hope and insight.

Hannah's Story: Did he always intend to go that far? Why me? Was I an easy target? Is it my fault? These questions no longer haunt me, but they still exist.

I was a 13 year old girl in seventh grade just trying to survive mean girls, figuring out my body, and thinking about boys. The usual 13 year old girl stuff. I remember feeling innocent amongst my friends. They all had siblings a few years older so they were all well versed in things 13 year olds should not be talking about. But there I was an insider yet still somehow an outsider. Seventh grade was going as normal as seventh grade could go until my friends cousin started to take notice of me. I was 13 and he was 19. He was a senior in high school and talked to his cousin at least once a week at school. I was with her the last time they had spoken in the halls and from that point on he acknowledged me.

It started with a quick hello or a wink as I walked by. I was 13 and a boy was being kind to me, I was flattered. He started to come into my classroom as the teacher’s assistant. His behavior became more flirtatious, he started hugging me and touching my arm or back if we walked by one another. I thought nothing of it other then I cannot believe this cute older guy is being so sweet to me.

I remember sitting in class when one of the guys in the 8 th grade came in. He walked right up to me and said, “I was just with BLANK and he said if you were older he would totally F you.” I honestly did not know what to say at that point. I was no longer flattered but my best friend was standing right next to me and bumped my side and smiled at me like I should be excited. It made me feel uncomfortable but I didn’t feel like I could say anything. I did think it was weird that he would say that and at that point I had never had sex; I had never done anything. I just moved on from that particular statement and pretended it did not happen plus what was anyone going to do about him saying it?

Things continued on. He continued to come into our gym time after lunch, taking pictures with me, flirting in the halls and so on. The end of the school year was nearing and he was getting ready to graduate. It was my friends birthday and she was having a party at her house. I figured he would be there just because of the family relation and because I might go. I knew my mom would never let me go because this particular friend had zero supervision at her house but I had planned to sneak out. I was honestly sick about the thought of doing that. I was not thinking about the consequences and I truly did not want to but I thought I was missing out on something.

The night came to my friend’s birthday party and of course my mom said no. My friend and I communicated to when and how he could come pick me up for the party. I put my pink princess robe over my clothes and waited until my parents were asleep. I heard him honk as he went by and I knew it was time to sneak out. I got out of the house easily and quickly. Again, I was literally sick. I threw up 3 times that night just because I was so nervous. We got to the party successfully and all I could do was sit there and act as though I was enjoying myself. The party was a party. I found out after getting there not only was this my friend’s birthday but it was also HIS birthday. Why he would want to spend his birthday with a bunch of 13 yr olds is beyond me, well it was until later. Most of our friends left and it was just me, him, and his cousin (my friend). We ended up leaving to go to his friend’s house for a little then coming back. She fell asleep on the couch and I was watching t.v. on the other couch. I could not sleep. I just wanted to go home; I knew I screwed up coming to the party.

He came from the hallway and gestured me to follow him. I was scared and nervous but I got up and followed him into my friend’s bedroom. I honestly did not know what was going to happen. I was 13. Fight, flight, or freeze. I froze. I cried. I did not move. I stared at the ceiling, unable to react to anything. Half way through the rape, tears streaming down my face, he said, “Are you okay?” ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! I KNOW YOU CAN FEEL MY SHAKING BODY AND HEAR ME CRYING, YOU KNOW I AM NOT OKAY!!!! I don’t remember making it back to the couch but I did somehow. I fell asleep and woke up to my parents screaming at me because I had never come home and they figured out I had snuck out to my friend’s. I was grounded forever and they questioned him about why he would ever pick up a 13 yr old girl. They never called the police though. At the time I was glad but now I wish they would have.

After I returned to school everyone knew what happened and then I heard that he had told everyone we had sex. HE TOLD EVERYONE WE HAD SEX. CONSENSUAL SEX. It ruined my reputation. I was called every name in the book and everyone looked at me differently from that moment on.

For the next 7 years. Yes 7 years, I was suicidal, depressed, anxiety ridden, and I went from being a virgin to sleeping around. My ability to say no was taken away from me. I lost my voice. I started letting people walk all over me and using me. I was so angry and I could not express why. I became mean. I entered into a teen dating violence relationship that left me with a broken rib and heart thus creating in me more unhealthy habits. I had the most distorted view of what love was. I had no idea who I was and I didn’t know how to fix anything.

I did find healing, grace, forgiveness, and my voice. My healing started with forgiveness. I forgave him and all those that perpetuated his consensual sex story and I forgave myself. I know that my healing had to start with forgiveness. At some point I had to stop being what happened to me and blaming others for my choices. I had to let it all go so God could piece me back together and help me find my voice in a healthy way. I am still healing and I always will be but it is part of the process. What happened will never un-happen but it does not have to run my life.

I also forgave my parents. A part of me always blamed them because I thought they knew what happened but when I finally told my mom and dad at age 27 I realized through their brokenness that they truly had no idea. I had been holding resentment toward them for 14 years and I was freed from that 7 years after I started my healing process. As I stated before healing is a process.

Something I have to point out in all of this is the grooming. He groomed me from the moment he saw me to the night that it happened. He knew what he was doing and what the outcome would be for him. I used to blame myself for sneaking out that night and I questioned whether or not if he really knew what he had done. He did, he just did not care and it was not my fault. Also, I knew something was not right from the beginning but I ignored it. Even at 13 I knew it was wrong, trust that feeling when you get it. You are most likely right.

Again, please remember that healing is always possible, there is someone out there that cares deeply for you and your scars, and what happened to you is not your fault.

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The mission of Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services is to lead efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault in southwest Michigan. 

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