One year. My story, my assault, my life changed forever 365 days ago. A year of not being good, not even being okay most days, and a year of learning to find that good again. I was assaulted on a first date. I hardly knew him when he forced himself upon me and I hardly know him now as I struggle with the repercussions of his actions every single day of my life. When it first happened, I was so confused. I knew what I was feeling wasn't right but I didn't have the words, the resources, or the ability to be able to name the pain, confusion, and guilt that I was experiencing. It wasn't until two months later that I even told anyone what had happened to me. But by then, the trauma was deep within me, and it sure as hell isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I struggled to get away from him. Even though he continued to assault me throughout our relationship, I just couldn't walk away. For me, one of the hardest parts of my assault was losing safety and security in all that I had known. I remember on several occasions whispering to myself, "I want to go home," as I sat in my bed, or my desk chair, or my bathtub. But in those darkest moments when all I wanted was a home, I didn't have one. To be clear, I had a physical home. I am incredibly fortunate to have a warm and safe place to lay my head at night, but when I repeated over and over to myself, "I want to go home," I just didn't know where that was. I didn't feel safe anywhere. It was just another thing that he had taken from me. As survivors of assault, we hear it all the time: "That must have been the hardest thing you've ever gone through," followed by the sympathetic face I seem to know too well these days. And yes, those people are absolutely right. This is by far the worst thing I have ever experienced. I miss the days when it felt like my longterm high school boyfriend breaking up with me was the worst thing that could ever happen in this world. Or when all of my friends were going to a concert and my parents said it was too far away. Those times seem so insignificant now. And yet, even as I sit with the fact that this could very well be the worst thing that will EVER happen to me, I would not change it. After my assault, I hated my body. I hated the way that it looked in mirrors, in pictures, in my eyes as my gaze drifted down. I didn't want it to be mine, not now after he had taken so much from it and run his hands all over it like it was his. But because I have hated myself, I now love others better. And loving others better isn't always easy. Relationships are hard, with or without abuse. But nothing in this world could possibly exist without love: romantic, platonic, familial and self alike. And that possibility, that there is still so much love left to give and to receive, is what gives me hope. After my assault, I wanted to die. So many times I thought about driving my car off the bridge by my house or drifting off slowly and silently in my sleep. It seemed like such an easy escape, to end the pain once and for all. But because I have wanted to die, I now know what it means to live. I have learned to abound in the joy of the small things: when Chick-fil-A accidentally puts an extra ketchup in my bag, when a dog leans into me as I wrap my arms around it (as I have a habit of doing), or when the sun lights up the freckles on my face and makes my insides feel warm and toasty. And God, the kindness of people. Strangers, teachers, friends. Sometimes it doesn't feel like it but there is good in the world, and this gives me hope too. Every day is far from easy. And yet, these days are also far from the way that I used to feel. Of course there are setbacks, and upsets, and hurts that make me cry in the shower so my roommates don't hear me, but I can't help but feel like those bring hope too. These days, the hurt is further apart and the times that do hurt remind me that emotions aren't always a bad thing. Basically what I'm trying to say is, I'm okay. I'm not great but I'm not bad either. And for me, after all that I have been through, that is an incredible place to be.