I met Michelle 2 years ago and she felt comfortable with me to share her story during a boudoir session. I remembered that story and I approached her this year with my "tell Your Story" project and she said, "Of course!"

Please take a moment to read her story.

With pain comes strength! This is my story.

March 2006 it was just a regular day. Or so I thought. Never thought it would change who I was forever.

That night came to a end like any other. My friend was at my house and then 2 other guys came over that we knew. Knew, or so I thought. Trusted so I thought. 2 or so in the morning came and so did that life altering moment. I didn’t realize my friend had left. She didn’t even say goodbye. But I think he knew some how that we were alone and that he could make his move. He raped me. I begged and pleaded for him to stop. I cried and screamed. He held his hand over my mouth and around my throat. Choking me. Biting me. Hurting me. He held me down and changed my life. When it was done I just cried. He left. I could barely move. Once I was able to gather myself what was left of me. I called the police and made a report. They came and took me to the hospital. Where they did a rape test on me. The nurse is called a sane nurse. Sexual assault nurse examine. To make it all worse I worked in that same hospital as a EMT. I was scared, embarrassed, hurt. I felt so alone yet cared for at the same time. They gave me different medications to help with possible std’s and pregnancy. HIV testing for a year they said. They took photos and my clothes for evidence. But little did I know this was just the beginning of my hell.

Fast forward I was going through a nasty divorce at the same time. I rushed in and out of one bad relationship at a time. I wasn’t the mother I should be. And to top it off I became a person I didn’t recognize. A cutter, a abuser, not just of myself and my loved ones but of medication. I got hooked on xanax and klonipin. The pills made me feel human again. At least while I had that “high”. I felt like I could make it. So many times when I would cut I would watch myself bleed. The cutting made the pain “tolerable”. I didn’t feel physical pain. It was like a high. A high that every time I cut I could get back at my rapist. I could destroy him with each cut like he destroyed me. I hoped so many times that maybe this time was it that I would cut deep enough to end it all.

I was so lost. It took me years to find myself again. I would make up stories about how the cuts got there. I would wear long sleeves to hide it. I would hide the pain in loveless relationships. It took 4 years for me to finally see there was a light at the end of all of this. That this wasn’t the new normal. That my kids needed me. They needed me to be who I was before my rapist, the pills and my own self harm took me away from them. I got counseling that I so desperately needed. I got off the pills, quit the cutting, found a new hope for myself.

I still hide the scars. I know they tell my story. Mine and so many others. But it doesn’t make me any less of a person. It made me who I am today and for that I am proud.

And for anyone reading this. Know you are not alone! Your story isn’t over and neither is mine.

If you or anyone has gone through a situation please do not hesitate in reaching out to me. I have also provided a few local and national resources.

· Love is Respect. www.loveisrespect.org , 1-866-331-8453 or text: loveis to 1-866-331-9474. They also provide

online chat.

· National Domestic Violence Hotline. www.thehotline.org, 1-800-799-7233, and online chat.

· National Sexual Abuse Telephone Hotline. www.rainn.org, 1-800-656-4673.