Amanda

Amanda Shouse.jpg

Amanda

“Anyone can give up; It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, that’s true strength.” – Chris Bradford

There are two significant life-altering events that have happened in my twenty-five years of living that I credit for making me who I am. It is because of those situations that I have been able to learn how to become a warrior, to stand up for what I believe in, and to be proud of my past.

I am a sexual assault survivor.

Let me tell you, victim shaming is real. My story was printed in the papers. I stayed off social media because of all the insults. I changed my phone number numerous times to distance myself from the hatred. “You were asking for it,” “you liked it,” “you are a liar,” and “how could you do this to him?” were all common phrases in hurtful messages I received.  No one ever asked about how I was.

A year of proceedings happened before my attacker walked free. I felt abandoned, betrayed, terrified, and worthless. My self-esteem was destroyed. I lost my confidence along with any friends I had at the time. It has taken me seven years since then to finally get to a point of forgiving not only myself but him as well. The emotional and mental scars this event left will never fully disappear but day by day, they become less visible.

I hope this helps other survivors speak about their assault and to know that they are not alone. There is no shame in what you have been through. You are not a victim. You are a survivor. You are here to shed light on a topic that is only now becoming an acceptable topic of discussion. Now is the time to help others understand that this is not an uncommon experience in our society. You are brave and you persevere with every passing day.

I am also a survivor of an abusive relationship.

We met my junior year of high school and fell in love. Three months later, his family up and moved. Four and a half years later, so did I. It physically, mentally, and emotionally wore me down. I was choked, held up against walls and doors, told not to leave, and battered around whenever he was out late drinking. He would tell me that he was all I needed. I had left all my friends and family back at home so he knew that he was the only one I would trust.

I surrendered some of my morals and beliefs because I thought that would mean he would love me more. It was a stupid idea because all that meant was that I would believe anything he said so I would win his approval and his affection. There would be several times that we would be out and about and many girls would talk to him. He would never introduce me and he would always want to get together with them, even though I was standing right there.

We started fighting a lot and most ended in either one of us storming out. He kept wanting us to go to the courthouse to get married but I kept putting it off. Something always felt wrong.

I finally found a way out of the relationship when I heard from my former university about an honors program. He absolutely hated the idea of me leaving to pursue something for myself. But that’s what I wanted and eventually, I called my parents and asked to come home. It broke my heart to lose my first so-called love but I had to accept that he never loved me to begin with.

Listen, relationships are tough. There is no manual to follow. You are on your own to decide what is right and what is wrong. You must make mistakes to move forward and find the right person and place for you. No one has the right to dictate where you go, what you do, where you work, or where you live. Remember, you can choose what and who makes you happy. Never settle for someone who doesn’t appreciate you. You deserve someone who will love you unconditionally and they are out there – just hold on.

Being a survivor is a cornerstone of who I am as a young woman and I hope that’s what it is for you. It doesn’t mean that we are weak because we went through our experiences. We are here to be a light to others, to show that there is strength beyond pain. You can overcome anything that happens to you if you make the decision to fight.

Be strong. Be proud. Believe in yourself.

You are a warrior.