"As I was sitting in my freshman English class, I began having flashbacks. These flashes of memories scared me so much that I ran out of the classroom. How could I have memories of someone posing me in sexual positions? How could I remember someone assaulting me? I know that person—why is he hurting me? Many memories came back to me that made me realize that I felt so unclean. How could I let him do these things to me? I began struggling to process through what was done to me. Why would he hurt me like that? I struggled in silence while more memories continued to flood my brain. I was horrified.
I just could not take the pain any longer. I did not know what else to do, and I made the decision that I could not continue to live with the pain I was having. There was nothing for me. I was no good for anyone.
I just could not clear my brain to think of anything except the sexual assaults that I had endured. How is a fifteen-year-old supposed to process such information? I was thrown into a major depression and could not see a light to guide myself out.
One night, I was home alone and decided I could no longer take this—the memories and struggles I was dealing with had become too great for me to bear. I collected what pills I could find in my home and took them. I was not yet getting tired, so I did not think the pills I ingested were enough to do the job. I then took a knife out and was contemplating cutting myself as I rubbed the knife along my left wrist. All of the sudden, the phone rang. On the other end of the phone was my new lifeline, my friend Kristi. I could not hold back any longer. I told her everything: the abuse, the suicidal thoughts, and my actions that night. Kristi listened to every word and reassured me that there was purpose for me and that she loved me. I promised Kristi that I would not hurt myself that night and that I would see her at school the next day.
The next day after school, I found myself in Kristi’s English classroom with Kristi and her teacher, Mrs. Schroeder, who was also an angel to me. Mrs. Schroeder was soft-spoken, wanted to hear what I had to say, and was so understanding. She cried with me as I told her the memories that I had and how they were affecting me. She made plans for Kristi and me to come to her house for dinner. While there, I met her step-daughter, Carrie. What a blessing that evening was! Carrie was not only her step-daughter but was a rape survivor and wanted to sit and talk with me. She listened and held me as I cried—a total stranger who wanted to help a fifteen-year-old with the hardest experience of her life so far. Kristi was right by my side every step of the way. I thank God regularly that she not only called me right at the right moment, but stayed with me and cared about me so much that she reached out for help when I could not.
Mrs. Schroeder also gave so much to me. She gave me acceptance and did not place any shame on me; she helped me realize I was a victim and that I did not ask for the sexual abuse. Mrs. Schroeder set up an appointment and drove me to United Way after school for multiple therapy sessions. I began to struggle more after my first visit to United Way. I was given multiple pieces of literature regarding being a survivor of sexual abuse and at first, I had a negative response to the information. I began to contemplate suicide again. I did not see ever getting past my intense hatred for myself.
One memory that I had was asking my abuser if we were going to get married, since only married people do what we did. It did not matter at this moment to me that I was only in second and third grade when the abuse occurred. I was so disgusted by my words. How could I ever think like that? I had to be sick in the mind to ever have thought to ask that question. I struggled for so long and wanted only to be pain-free again. Why these memories had to come back to me was a major question for me. I asked Mrs. Schroeder and my therapist and neither one could answer me.
But as I became stronger, I knew that I was going to use my experience to help others. I have talked about my suicide attempt and the sexual assault to many people on more of a one-on-one basis. This is my first time talking about this on such a huge level. I am thankful for the platform that Stanley Sessions have given to survivors to talk openly about their experiences. I want people to understand that there is no one period of time or one mistake that defines your life. Bad things happen, and we make bad choices, but the best part is that we learn from them and become stronger.
If you are struggling with a situation in your life, I plead for you to ask for help. I didn’t do that, and I almost lost my life. I thank God for my dear friend who could ask for me. It’s not too late…make a phone call and reach out!
Thirty years later, I am a wife of almost 25 years; a mother to a son who is 23 and quickly becoming the man I always dreamed he would be; and I am employed with NAMI of Montgomery County, Ohio, where every day, I am able to provide some help to people living with mental illness. I am blessed and I am so thankful that I have not missed the last thirty years.
Thank you, Kristi Moredock Maxwell and Cindy (Schroeder) Cooke, for saving my life."