Friday, July 30, 2010

Pay it Forward

By Michelle Simonsen

It was a sub-zero night in January, 1992.  I was 18 and ready to have some beers with my friends on a Saturday night before school resumed for the second semester.  I remember feeling safe and happy with my friends before we wandered through the frozen tundra looking for the next party.

In a few hours I would be raped.  By one of my “friends”.

After the party, we came back together and hung out in a friend’s dorm room.  I had way too many beers and was feeling really groggy and sleepy.  I crashed on the bottom bunk of my friend’s bed.  I wasn’t worried.  Every single person in that room was my friend and I trusted them.  Later I heard someone say, “Will someone take her down to her room?”  “Jim” responded that he would and then carried me over his shoulder down a flight of stairs to my room. 

That was the last thing I remember.

I was dreaming about my boyfriend who was 2,000 miles away in Marine boot camp.  When I opened my eyes and the hazy fog cleared, I realized my boyfriend was not in my bed.  It was my “friend” Jim.  I didn’t have to ask any questions.  I knew what he had done to me.  I started crying hysterically.  Jim said nothing to me.  He just walked out and I never spoke to him again.  I also never confided to any of my friends or tried to call the police.  I knew what happened to the girls who tried to press rape charges on campus.  They never won, because the system forced them to walk away.  They were shamed.  They didn’t know how to reach out to others just as I didn’t.

I spent the rest of my college years spiteful, defensive and angry. I used to think that moment was the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  Somehow I took a negative and turned it into a positive.  I hope to continue paying it forward in my quest for helping others who have been victimized. 

If you too are a victim, consider taking that negative you are holding in your heart and reach out to others.  You’ll never know how good it feels when you say, “I know exactly how you feel.”

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