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How I Overcame Being Sexually Abused By Someone I Trusted

*PROMO IMAGE *Cristina Sevin attempts to wake up her 16-year-old daughter Lily. It usually takes three rounds of this before she is up and out of bed.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t a young age, I was sexually assaulted. I was continually abused until I reached 7th grade, where I began to show signs of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I became incredibly self-conscious, began to cut myself, and began to see the relationships I had with the people around me deteriorate.

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Alexa Liming of Wild Native Photography

I finally accepted the fact that I was molested at age 17. The person who fed me, took care of me, and sometimes even clothed me, was committing an act so disgusting that I wouldn’t process it until years later

As a senior in high school, I told my math teacher after school. The police came to my house, and I began to live through the trauma that I had managed to avoid for five years. This is where things began to get better, even if it didn’t seem like it.

For the next week, teachers whom I was close with would come to me and say “Why didn’t you tell me?”. My parents would cry, and I would too. This was only the beginning of the worst year of my life.

The year progressed, and I began to date my boyfriend whom I’ve been with for a year now. He helped me in so many ways and put up with me crying every single day. The days I didn’t get up, he was there for every single one. It was the hardest trial I have ever had to face thus far, and he took on every challenge I met with confidence and enthusiasm. He believed in me when I gave up on myself, and that was an essential part of my recovery.

I got better, slowly but surely. I was in therapy for a long time, and switched anti-depressants, which made a huge difference. By June 2016, I was fully functioning and ready to take on the world again. I finally saw the light I thought had burned out permanently; this is the fire that motivates me to share my story.

I want you to know, as you’re reading this, you are better than you were before you began reading this sentence.

Whether you realize it or not, you become better each second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year you are still here. You are not the person who hurt you. You are the person who enables change, perseverance and the will to live.

I know you do not want to be here; I know the night terrors hurt you physically, and I know that waking up every day is painful. Every action, whether it is going to school or even eating, feels like you are swimming in quicksand; I want you to know that the quicksand goes away, and your body is eventually alleviated from the anchor that pulls you down farther than you want to go. I want you to know that all of this, as terrible and awful as it is, makes you better. You are not who you are because of what happened to you, but you are what you are because of how you overcome it.

Looking in the mirror is hard, and you will look behind you constantly to see if the person who hurt you is following. You will see them in the faces of people on the street, and you will want to run away. I want you to know that by allowing them to overcome every part of your life, you let them win the battle. This is your war, because it is your life; you are more than the person who hurt you. This is not something you have to prove to them, but it is something you must prove to yourself.

You will, above all things, be okay. The world is crazy, dare I say really messed up at points, but no one has the ability to make your sunshine grow somber or your valor turn weak. You are so strong, and I am so proud of you for being here. You are more than anything anyone will ever do to you.

If you or a friend have been sexually assaulted, please visit https://www.rainn.org/get-help in order to get help. There are people here for you, even when the world feels exorbitantly small.

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Shan Cawley
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Shannon Cawley is an author and full-time student based in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her first chapbook, "depression is a thunderstorm and i am a scared dog" is set to be released by Maudlin House Press during the summer of 2017. In her free time, Shan works at her dorm's dining hall, involves herself in numerous extracurricular activities, and advocates for sexual assault victims as well as sufferers of mental illness.

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