I'll never forget that sunny morning a few days after my Birthday in 2002. It was 2 days after my 18th Birthday, and I was living in Sugarhouse (a suburb of Salt Lake City). I woke up that day and decided to go run around the lake at Sugarhouse park. I wasn't scared, or apprehensive in the least. It's an extremely safe park, the sun was coming up at 5:30am because it was summer, and I was all ready to listen to my new playlist I made specifically for working out.
As I made my way around the lake, I was completely unaware of my surroundings. I was rocking out to Britney Spears, and I was focused on my run. I didn't notice as this car had slowly inched up next to me. When it got super close to me, I'll never forget the feeling I had. All of my senses started firing, and I started to panic. I went to run as fast as I could, but it was too late. He had grabbed me and forced me into his car. I knew this was a horrible start to what would come to be one of the worst days of my life.
He was an African American man, at least 6'9", over 300 lbs of pure muscle. He was terrifying. When he grabbed me, he picked me up like I was a rag doll. I knew I had to fight because if I got in that car, I knew what would happen. It was no use though. He had me, and I there was no chance for me to escape.
When I'm scared, my body freezes up. I can't move, I can't scream, I can't function. I start to shake uncontrollably, and I'm not even able to cry. If you've ever been this terrified, you know it's one of the worst feelings in the world. You're unable to defend yourself, let alone think to do anything that will help your situation.
He drove on the still empty streets of the park and found a secluded area. He then proceeded to rape me. I kicked, I clawed, I tried to bite, I did anything my brain could think of, yet nothing helped. He was too big, too strong, and too overpowering, for me to be able to defend myself whatsoever. It was one of the scariest and worst feelings of my life. The only thing I could think is, "Jill you have to survive. You MUST survive."
You have to realize that when something like this happening to you, you're terrified of what comes next. Basic human nature is to survive, and now knowing that I was defenseless against him; all I could focus on was letting him do whatever he was going to do to me, but I just make it out alive. It worked.
As he finished with me, he threw me out of his car with the pile of my ripped clothes. I was now standing in the park, half naked, terrified, and alone. I didn't have my cellphone, so all I could do was run back to my house. All I could focus on was the dirty, and disgusting feeling that surrounded me. I somehow thought this was my fault. I didn't want anyone to know about it.
I got home, threw all my clothes in the garbage, went inside, and called my therapist. She called me back instantly and had me come in. I knew that I wasn't supposed to shower after an attack, so I didn't. I went and spoke with my therapist and she recommended going to talk to the police. That's exactly what I did.
When I was sitting with an officer, I explained what happened. He had me do a rape kit, and then proceeded to tell me, that rape cases don't ever get solved. It's his word against mine. Especially since I didn't know who it was, it would be in my best interest to just let it go. That's exactly what I did.
I can't describe how hard the next few years were after that. I felt dirty, as though no one would ever want me. I felt used, and disgusting; like garbage. I felt like I was nothing. I didn't matter, my life wasn't important, and mostly, God didn't love me. He allowed me to get raped because he thinks I'm a bad person. I took all the blame from that day onto me.
After years of therapy, I'm finally able to speak about my rape with no bad feelings. I can tell other women about it, and let them know that they too can heal. Your life is yours, and no one can make you dirty and disgusting. A special gift was taken from you, but it doesn't need to define you. You're not bad, or evil, or unloved, because of a situation that was out of your control. Something bad simply happened to you, but you can heal, and let love in again.
About 9 years after my rape, I finally got justice. Over 47 women had now come forward against the same man that raped me. They too had been violated. They were much stronger than I was. I'm so thankful for their strength. They are the women that put this animal behind bars for life. Thank you for your courage, and resilience. These women allowed me to feel safe again.
It's amazing what we can go through as human beings. It's amazing how something can damage us for life, or how we can use what happened to us, to help others. I had to figure out a way to recover from that horrible day, and then use that recovery to help other women going through the same thing. It's been an empowering tool for me to use to help other women not feel so alone.
There's a quote that I saw this morning that stuck out to me. It's by Brigitte Nicole.
"One of the most courageous decisions you'll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul."
You can recover. You can move on. You're not worthless, or unworthy of love. You had something bad happen to you, but you are not bad. You are more important that you realize, and more powerful than you think. Be brave. Be strong. Be courageous. Be You. Most importantly though, know that you're never alone. Reach out. Someone will be there to catch you when you fall. You can do this. I know you can because I'm living proof.