You always hear, “it will get better”, no matter what your struggle is, but you never believe it until you wake up one day, and everything is okay. The weight is off your shoulders, the world is brighter, you smile more. You scratched and clawed your way here, and you finally made it. You think about how long it took you to get here. 7 years and 3 months to finally float to the surface of the ocean you didn’t know you were drowning in. You repeat your story so much to those who deserve to know, including yourself, so much that it resembles the beginning of an AA meeting. This is my recovery story. This is my meeting where I finally decide to share.

Hi. My name is Dallas. I have been sexually assaulted by 3 separate men in 3 different stages of my life. It’s a common thing. It is called re-victimization, and abusers can see the vulnerability from a mile away. I will spare the details but here are the main points. The first time, I was 14, and it was a good friend. I said no, but he was strong. I never said anything. At 16, it was another good friend. He told me because he helped me, I had to repay him. Still, I never said anything. At 17, it was my mothers husband. My mom was at work and he had stayed home that day. This time, I said something. This time, I called my mom, crying, telling her every horrible detail, and she brushed it off as if I was making it up. Only a year later, did she believe me, when she found a camera he had put in my bathroom, and years of recordings, dating back to when I was 14. This time, I pressed charges, I had a detective. I had a lawyer. I testified in a trial. I found out my uncle had been molested as a child, and he was silently going through a trial of his own at the same time. I stayed with him. We encouraged each other. We both won. My fight was over.

But I didn’t realize the hardest fight was about to begin. At 18 years old, I was broken beyond what I thought could be fixed. I felt alone. I was terrified to be in public. I couldn’t be alone, but I couldn’t be around people, either. The only man that could be within arms distance without sending me into a panic attack, was my father. The man who was my backbone and never faltered in front of me when I had finally told him everything. I gave up everything to stay with him, so I could heal. I went through a depression. Well, many depressions. Many nights where I would sit in the bathroom and cry so violently, I would throw up, because I had scrubbed my body so hard, where any man had ever put his hands on me and still didn’t feel clean. Many more nights where I had planned out my death. Days spent finding a way to explain to my dad in the letter I would leave, why I had to die, so he would understand and be okay with it. I had everything finally put away, planned out, and the day I was going to leave this earth, he called, to tell me how proud of me he was, for fighting and standing up for myself and that everything would be okay. Of course, I cried, but something clicked, and i realized fighting for my life, meant fighting myself too. So i threw away every note, every plan, everything toxic. I joined the gym, to make myself stronger, because I was not going to be weak anymore. If I was going to be victimized again, I would be strong enough to push them away this time. The gym became my home, my therapist, my friend. There, I met a trainer, who I became close with, and this girl opened up the secret I had been trying to hide since I was a child, before anything had ever happened to me. She made it impossible to keep this secret. I would boil over with excitement any time I thought about her. I couldn’t keep it quiet anymore. I was a Southern Baptist Christian, born into a Conservative Republican family, and I was gay. I was in love with this girl. I only revealed this secret, in front of my entire family, and I started bawling when Trump was elected president, and they couldn’t understand why. From then on out, i’ve had to fight to be able to love whoever I love, openly and happily. To continue, even if I don’t have the support of a traditional family or church, like I did. To understand how these people could just turn their backs on me, when all I was doing was allowing myself to be happy.
7 years, 3 months, and 16 days.

March 5, 2018. Today. I woke up, got ready to have coffee with my best friend, and as I walked out the door, I was hit with a sudden realization, that I hadn’t cried in a month. That I had passed groups of men on the street or at a bar, and didn’t immediately cross to the opposite side of the space. That I had laughed more in the last two weeks than I had in a few years. That I was well on my way to my dream career as a Police Officer. That I was struggling, but I was okay and I could get through anything, and I had found my people. Most importantly, it DID get better.

Everything will change, but please, continue to fight for yourself, for whatever sparks your soul, for anything that makes you feel something. It will be worth it.