The first time someone raped me, I was fourteen. Summer before high school. I didn’t know what rape was. I didn’t have a word for what happened. I didn’t know it was wrong, even though it felt terrifying and ugly and dirty. I figured it was just me. Turns out when things like this go unaddressed, we’re at higher risks of repeating the trauma. That’s what ended up happening to me in different ways. I hated myself. I struggled with eating disorders. I felt inherently poison. I don’t remember a lot because the majority of my thoughts were consumed by pain, and wondering if anyone cared. It didn’t feel like anyone did; in fact, all my trauma responses (before I knew them as such) were blamed on me being difficult. Ten years later, I realized and disclosed the impact rape had on my entire understanding of myself and the difficult roads I had traveled. And so I began a long healing journey. A few years after that, it happened again. Turns out old trauma responses die hard. The difference was that this time, I knew what happened. I had words for it. It was brutal, but I fought for myself and became the advocate I needed as a kid. I didn’t abandon her, the terrified girl battered in a dark room. I stayed. I was exhausted, I grieved, I did it all. But I stayed. Three years have passed. While the DA couldn’t prosecute, I found a lawyer willing to take my case as a civil case on contingency. I can’t say that was easy, or that any part of the process felt fair. But again—I stayed. What I think most about in my healing is that living freely is a luxury even though it shouldn’t be. I think about the chains that tie us up over time, the intersections of violence and our identities, of feeling in my body or out of it, what feels safe for my presence, how I can grow into that so I can enjoy pieces of life I’ve cut off out of fear for their being an opening for more harm. I’m still healing. Aren’t we all? And what I’ve decided is that healing lives not only in what you reclaim but how you reclaim it. Wholeness is what we deserve. Every one of us. Including me. Including you.