This post is detailed and may be too descriptive for some. My hope is not to offend, but to share my previous challenges…a glimpse inside my head…maybe it sounds familiar.

The funniest thing about obstacles and challenges is that they seem to always be delivered without an introduction or a warning. In 2009, I got an unthinkable Facebook friend request from the man that stole my virginity and date raped me in college.

Date Rape

Naively, I was the typical freshman, and never knew danger could come and find me in the form of a new boyfriend. For hours, I looked at the request and decided to forgive him, but the idea of befriending him was just way too much.

Unfortunately, the challenging life course was just getting started for me. A few years ago, I remember arriving to a work training only to be greeted by the man who date raped me in college.

The timing could not have come at a worse juncture. I was emotionally spent.  I was fragile and tired. My sister had just got married, my pastor had just passed away, and my closest cousin, who is like a sister, husband, suddenly died.

My heart started beating fast and I hurriedly started talking to myself. Put yourself in auto-pilot mode and just get through the day! God must really like challenges. My mind was racing. What should I do?! I had no desire to disclose this information to my boss. And so, I decided to just maintain and hold it together; because it was my responsibility to listen and bring back the information for my team. Prayerfully, I managed to survive the entire event without flinching, leaving or escaping.rapeEmotional Wounds

My twenty plus year old past, that haunted me for years was now staring me in the face. Thankfully, I’m a testament that God’s grace is always on time, and I was able to weather that storm. The trainer’s voice faded quickly, and all I could think about was keeping my cool and getting back to my office. As the trainers prepared for lunch, guess who offered me their card and decided to sit next to me? Yes, it’s true…the man who date raped me and caused me to lose trust in most men.

Shockingly, he had become a state licensed social worker and had his own youth mentoring business. He apologized and told me he was a changed man and determined to give back and make a difference.

Predators are Often People You Know and Trust

In college, I was a very naïve girl from Chicago.  I was shy with big hopes and dreams. I never had a clue that you might need to protect yourself from people you know; as well as strangers. Predators lurk in all sorts of places, and the wise can only be proactive and share their wisdom to prevent others from becoming new victims.

I love to share my challenges in an effort to let people know it is ok to be human, a survivor and seek help when you need it. I wish I knew to date in groups; until you really know the person you are dating. Time is a true measurement test for integrity, character, respect, love and support.

Remember, challenges and obstacles knock on every person’s door. Stay prayerful and know God is always there with us; through every trial and tribulation. Believe, trust, and let go, no matter how scary the situation is. God’s grace is always enough and timely!

Moving Forward

Thanks so much to everyone that replied to my post. I truly appreciate each and every comment. The older I become, the more I feel compelled to be transparent, and share my journey through life. As a result, I firmly believe that sharing my challenges and pain will free others, and maybe even encourage forgiveness; so they can move forward with their lives. From my own experiences, again, I have learned our pain sometimes can become our own prison.

Therefore, forgiveness is a defense and offers all an opportunity to heal and move forward with their lives. It has nothing to do with the perpetrator/s.  It has everything to do with the healing of our mind, body and spirit. Sharing my personal story of rape and survival is just my way to encourage others. If I overcame it, so can you. It is truly my hope to let my fellow survivors know they are not alone, to offer an opportunity to educate and inform others of the potential dangers and to give another face/ profile of a predator.

stop rapeAs a mother of a daughter, I hope my story encourages mothers to have a conversation with their daughters, and let them know of the potential dangers when dating. Explain the rules, and why it is so important to date in groups and spend the necessary extra time to get to know someone before welcoming them into their personal space.

Mothers remind your daughters they are special, and educate them about dating.  It should be someone that respects them, and understands fully that “No actually means No” and will accept it without question. My experience taught me that I was picked intentionally.  He was extra careful…selective even…I was the perfect candidate.  Twenty- six years ago, I was extremely shy, and so ashamed that I allowed this rape to happen to me.

My Rapist

In my mind, my rapist was never what I pictured a rapist to be. My rapist was extremely popular on the basketball team, homecoming king, well-educated and had many admirers to say the least. Personally, I thought a rapist would be a stranger and someone that would pop up in a dark alley or something like that.

Never in a million years did I even entertain the thought that my new boyfriend could be a rapist and be so well-liked. My flawed act was simply agreeing to go watch a movie in his room with four other friends. When the movie ended, the four people left the room and I prepared to get my coat and leave, the rest…history. I remember him blocking the door way and telling me, ‘Sharon you can make this easy or hard, but today you will leave a woman’.

During that time in my life, I was extremely shy and timid, 18 years old and afraid. My rapist was 6 feet and at least 200 pounds and I was just 5’7 and maybe 120 pounds. Initially, I tried to fight and stop him, but he was convinced that this was what I needed to take us to the next level. The feelings of being helpless and powerless over my situation consumed me and changed me forever. The story of how I lost my virginity was traumatic and permanently sketched in my brain. I carried that pain for years and never reported the incident due to my own embarrassment at that time.

Emotional Baggage

As I stated before, I used to be painfully shy, and thought if I told people, some how I would end up being the blame me for going, and watching the movie and being so naïve. Plus, he was so well liked and get this…I did not want to consider HIM going to jail, losing his scholarship and dealing with the reality of everyone knowing in great details what actually occurred to me. As a result, I did what many women do, I buried the pain and carried the baggage of my rape into every relationship I had including my marriage. Thankfully, the encounter early this year gave me the needed closure and the opportunity to get the answers of why. Plus, he apologized, and allowed me to forgive and put that luggage down.

Growth and Empowerment

In my opinion, rape is a very emotional and altering act. However, a survivor selects to deal with the pain of rape, is their personal choice. For me, I decided to become a blogger, a sexual assault advocate, and a social worker. By simply sharing my story and ways to prevent date rape, I hope to empower others to be survivors and advocates against date rape and sexual assault. If anyone you know is a victim, encourage and let them know, “NO means NO” and it is never their fault or too late to seek support or get help!

My wish is to let all survivors know:

1. They are not alone and it is never their fault.

2. To offer an opportunity to educate and inform others of the potential dangers.

3. Give another face and profile of a predator for they are often never a stranger.

4. Encourage people to listen and be alert.

5. Help end sexual assault and Date Rape.

6. Help eliminate the shame, guilt and secrecy of abuse.

7. To volunteer and support organizations that advocates to end sexual abuse.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is:

(800) 656-4673. The hotline is free, private, and available 24 hours a day.