I have been through an experience that I cannot erase from my memory. It was not a good or happy one. It was the most horrifying experience of my life and I have to live with the burden of it everyday. When I was 13 years old, a 38 year old man from Pennsylvania stalked me online and came to Connecticut on three occasions. Not to say hello, or to see how I was doing, but with the intent of raping me. There was nothing I could do at the time because I was confused. I didn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing to me. I was scared and lost with no one to turn to for help or reassurance. He hurt me pretty badly and ruined my relationships with everyone around me. He filled me up to the brim with fear and basically, I fell apart. I didn’t know how to get this evil predator with such horrible intentions, who stole my innocence, away from me and out of my life. Finally, after a few years of the stalking that brought ongoing misery to my life, and after all the nights I laid awake crying, I knew what I had to do. I had to be strong. I had to stand up for myself and become an individual who knew how to choose right from wrong. With that decision made, I met prosecutors, police detectives from three different towns, FBI investigators, many crisis support groups, two federal judges, and one state judge. I’ve had to go through counseling in order to pick myself back up and become the person that I am today.
I believe that people must stay true to themselves and be strong and willing to put themselves out there, in an uncomfortable position, in order to gain back their self-respect by making the choice between what is right and what is wrong. After a year of investigations and all of my freedoms taken away one at a time, I learned that it is possible to become that strong individual that some people never fully become. Now, I understand the world we live in. It is not always a good and happy place, and there are too many victims that have been in the same shoes that I have walked in. Sadly though, not all of us get the chance to live our lives after our incident has occurred. This is either because we cannot stop ourselves from breaking down and taking our last breath, which I have come so close to doing many times during the aftermath. Or it’s because the empathetic-less person of indecency that used and abused us, did not allow us to keep on living. That was almost my fate and the end of the road. In my case, he hurt me physically and I was dealt more than I could handle. Unfortunately, what I would decide to let him do to me would be the choice that could end my life.
I was a victim that stood in federal court, in front of a judge, my family, reporters, and the man who raped me. I did this not to prove to anyone else but to myself that I was strong. To prove that even though I’ve been to Hell and back, I could turn my life around. I could stay true to myself and become a greater person after all. This is my experience that has shaped who I am today.
By far, I am not perfect. I still make my share of mistakes, but I know that I don’t fit the stereotype that some adults have of teenagers. I do not think that I am “invincible”, because I have gotten pushed around and hurt. I know that it is possible to face death at such a young age. I still struggle inside and sometimes have difficulties being young and living with “no fear”, as the stereotype suggests. Even though I was faced with a hard challenge, I can say now that I have overcome the pain. I am proud to be me because who I am today is not who I used to be only a few years ago. I am a beautiful, talented, hardworking, determined, strong, empathetic, and understanding person, who believes that if you have the power in your soul to stand up for yourself and be strong throughout the hardest times, that you can and will achieve anything you put your mind and heart to. This is what I believe.
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