Once a Victim; Now a Survivor
Elly has battled many demons in her life, including addiction, but none has affected her like the evening she became a victim of sexual violence. “I kept thinking ‘this is going to happen, do what he says’,” Elly recounts. “I wanted him to hurry up so it would end.”
In 2007, Elly was struggling to survive. She was deep in depression, having survived nine suicide attempts, and finding it hard not to go a day without a drink. “The night of my attack I was bar hopping; basically closing down every bar and drinking until I blacked out.”
At her last stop of the night, she met a man who she quickly befriended. He was selling his house and her son was in the market for a new property. He offered to show her his home and in her inebriated state, agreed. As they approached his home he grabbed her. She tried to get back into her car but he slammed the door. “This is not happening,” she screamed. But it was too late. Her attacker was too strong.
“I don’t remember his face, just his body,” remembers Elly. “He pulled my hair and forced himself on me. I was so drunk that I didn’t have any control over what was happening.”
After the attack, Elly returned home and wanted to end her life. “My first reaction was ‘I can’t live through something like this’”. She confided in her son who immediately called the police. Before Elly knew it, she was on her way to the hospital and found herself sitting in an examination room with a SANE nurse (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). “I was so scared and then all of sudden walks in an advocate from SERV who helped me through the whole sexual assault forensic evidence kit process.”
A sexual assault forensic evidence kit affords the opportunity to collect DNA that may have been left by the suspect. SERV advocates are first responders to sexual violence incidents and help victims understand what is happening to them and comforts them as they go through the examination.
“All the compassion the SERV advocate offered me helped me to start grieving”.
Within days of her attack SERV was on the phone with Elly, following up on her progress. “I met with Josephine from SERV and she helped me see my life in a completely different light.” Elly had been to numerous counselors and psychiatrist as a result of her depression but Josephine was the first to encourage her to get clean. “She (Josephine) was the one who got me sober. She told me ‘I can’t help you truly heal until you get clean’. So that’s what I did; now I am three years sober.”
After years of working on her sobriety, Elly is back at SERV dealing with the final emotional hurdles as she becomes a survivor. “I hid my feelings for years. They have finally reached the surface and I am ready to complete my journey.”
With the help of SERV counselors and ongoing support groups, Elly will work through her traumatic event and learn how to cope with the emotions that follow. SERV staff will be available 24/7 to help her reach her goal of becoming a survivor of sexual violence. “I feel the love when I am at SERV; I feel like I am home,” says Elly. “They don’t make me feel like a number or just another client. They treat me with respect like we’re long lost friend”.
“I want other victims to know it’s not your fault. You have to find it in yourself to forgive because the anger and resentment will eat you up. I keep telling myself ‘don’t let it define who you are’ because the past can’t be changed. Make the best of today”.