It was Christmas Eve, 2007, and I was on vacation at a resort in the Caribbean. The resort glowed with white lights and Christmas music played cheerfully in the background. No one could have predicted the horror that was to come.
My husband and I had gotten back from the Christmas party, and since he had a little too much to drink, he fell asleep early. I wanted to get something to eat and relax in the jacuzzi, so I slipped out quietly and began walking on the beach. A man who was working at the resort started to accompany me, and we exchanged small talk about being away from our children on Christmas Eve.
Out of no where, he pushed me down on a beach lounge and sexually assaulted me. The entire time this was happening, all I kept thinking is “Please God, don’t let this be the way I die”. But when the second, much larger man came out from behind the palm tree, I said goodbye to my family. And everything got so much worse.
When I came to, I found myself laying unclothed on the beach and could barely move. I ran as fast as I could back to my room and my husband contacted the police. It took three hours for a policeman to show up, and although he took down my story, he never even looked for the men. I was taken to the hospital and as soon as I was released, we flew home. But the person who left for that vacation never came home.
I went into a very deep and dark depression and refused to get out of my bed for months. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone, eat anything or practice any kind of self care. I didn’t want to live in a world where that type of evil existed. Thankfully, my husband sent me to one of the top Trauma Hospitals located in New Orleans and I slowly learned how to live again.
Sharing this story is excruciatingly painful, even today. But I want to share some of what I learned and maybe help someone who has or is feeling as I did.
It is Never Your Fault
This was a hard one for me to accept, but the most important one. Over and over in my head, I asked myself, “Why did you talk to that man, why did you leave the hotel room so late at ight, why were you wearing a bathing suit” and the biggest one was, “Why didn’t you fight harder”.
In writing and talking about the event, I was able to see that nothing I did made what happened my fault. I felt safe and secure at that resort and my actions were normal, but even if I did not make the best choices, no one is at fault when someone assaults you. Not under any circumstances!
My therapist was able to help me understand that me not fighting back was probably the thing that ended up saving my life. Those men were ten times stronger than me and I did what I needed to do in order to survive and be able to go home to my children.
Bad Things Happen to Good People
I wanted an explanation of why this happened to me. It made no sense that with all of the bad people on the planet, I was the one who had this happen to me. The truth is, the world just doesn’t work that way. God was not punishing me, and I needed to stop punishing myself.
I had to remember that bad things happen to good people and there is no explanation why. It was up to me to not let those bad things define me. To take back my power and continue living my life. And not just live it, but embrace all the good that I had and turn my hate into love for those things on this earth that were good.
I was determined to not let those men win. When I returned home, I loved and appreciated my family and friends more than ever. I threw myself back into my vibrant and beautiful life and gave myself permission to laugh again.
Healing is Hard Work
It is not easy to risk being vulnerable again after living through what happened to me. I went to therapy for years in order to hold myself accountable for being an active participant in my own life. I learned to practice mindfulness, so that I was able to stop looking back and instead focus on what was right in front of me.
To this day, I am still reading self help books about learning to forgive and most importantly to love myself. I work on lifting myself up instead of putting myself down. And I use my career as a therapist to help others find self love, which I have learned is the hardest of all.
And I believe that I am a role model to my children because they eventually got their “old Mommy” back again. I hope that they see me as strong and most importantly, as a survivor.