I’m a Survivor, Let My Voice Be Heard

By VD

It was a sunny day and I was walking home from where the school bus dropped me off. I had taken a different bus, only because I wanted to stop at the park to enjoy the weather and ease my mind. I continued walking with my eyes staring at the ground and my earphones blasting.

But what seemed like such an ordinary day soon turned into a nightmare. A guy stood in front of me, his arms outstretched as he whistled in my direction. I only giggled. See, I knew this man, he was a friend and I thought he was joking around as usual. I hugged him and when I did, he seemed to survey the streets for any wandering souls. We were alone. At that moment, every nerve in my body was screaming run, but as I tried to push away he only pulled me in closer.

Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated
Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated

He covered my mouth and pushed me into his truck. Someone else drove it into a garage and in a matter of seconds he took my dignity even as I fought for it. Maybe I was hallucinating or maybe he did, in fact, say sorry twice. At that moment, I gathered every ounce of strength I had left in me and I ran to the door leading to the house. I ran and he didn’t chase after me. He didn’t say anything, and he never tried to contact me again. I never saw him again.

To this day, I still feel shivers run down my spine every time I pass by the road where it happened.

I never spoke about what happened to me with anyone. I suffered in silence because I felt that nobody would believe this man, someone everyone liked, could do such a thing to an “ugly” 14-year-old girl. Maybe they would say something like, “She was probably asking for it,” and that was the very thing I feared. I was ashamed and embarrassed, and couldn’t confide in my parents, my friends, or the authorities.

After the incident, I became overly aware of my body and I began to hate it.  I would purge every time I ate. I would physically harm myself to replace the emotional pain with physical pain. Drug consumption became my only escape. I lost myself in depression and anxiety.

Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated
Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated

Eventually I decided to turn my life around. I focused on school and pushed myself to strive for success. I met amazing people who became my best friends and who helped me to laugh and feel joy again. I joined the Public Service Academy at my school and met the most amazing teachers who helped me find my true passion. I got involved in my community through clubs and organizations that raise awareness about political and social issues. I ended up discovering that I want to help people that have been through similar experiences as me, which is why I am majoring in psychology. For me, giving up is not an option.

I am all too familiar with the desperate solitude that depression leaves. I have felt the anxiety attacks that occur at the most unexpected moments.  I was lucky to have found support in teachers and friends. But, looking back, I wish there would have been more access to professional help, a place I could have gone to talk and be honest about the cause of my insecurities and depression.

Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated
Illustration by Coachella Unincorporated

Every day is a battle to push these incidents to the back of my mind. I won’t let this define me or my future. I am a survivor and every person who experiences sexual assault should be empowered to let their voices be heard.

I want to help the eastern Coachella Valley. We shouldn’t be afraid to walk down the streets of our neighborhoods. We shouldn’t be afraid to hug a friend. I know for certain I am not the only one here living with these issues in silence. It is time for that to change.

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