Click For Hope

Searching for myself

Clickforhope, Divorce, Single Parents, Single MomJasmine LopezComment
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Please share your story:

I’m an author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. But I couldn’t say that so concisely eleven years ago…I only found and redefined myself in 2014. Before that, I was Octavia, the cellist, the French major, the world-traveler, Miss Michigan.
After college, I competed for Miss America and when I came home without the crown, I married my love and we moved to Chicago to begin our life together. We were surprised to become parents within our first year of marriage and panicked, suddenly desperate to do everything “right.” The shoulds we were both raised with were that good wholesome Christian families were homeowners in the suburbs with a dog and van. Check, check, check and check.
As we began to complete our American Dream checklist, I realized the more we checked-off, the bigger the void in my heart grew. My husband felt a strong calling to become a pastor of a small urban ministry center and I supported it wholeheartedly. I felt a strong calling too – whether corporate or academic, I felt I had so much more to give than birthing children, although that had become my life.
I went to graduate school. I dropped out of graduate school. I started a full-time job. We had another child. I quit the full-time job to be a full-time mom. But something was wrong. I wasn’t like those moms that are fulfilled being moms. They were so happy with their children, nestling securely in their roles as homemakers. Content. Placid. They LOVED being moms. I loved being a mom, too, but that wasn’t all. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I was far from content. I was lonely and isolated. So I made up some friends; I started writing books.
While writing was my creative outlet, my scientific side was also understimulated and I wanted to have a career that provided more paycheck than risk. I felt called to healthcare and began my post-bac pre-med coursework. I was desperately searching for myself. I was depressed. I was hopeless. I was bored and unsatisfied. I wanted more than my suburban prison with really cute cell mates. I wanted friends. I needed a bigger purpose. I needed to contribute to the world outside of my home. I had drive. I had zeal. I had a full tank of gas but no GPS.
I was pregnant again. I started designing nonprofit youth programs and writing grants to fund them. I lost my third child. I was still taking my classes, teaching private cello lessons, working part-time coordinating a STEM grant at a community college, working part-time at the ministry center, running the grant programs I designed and wrote to fund, and then, yes: enter child number four.
We had our fourth child.

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I finally got into the medical program for which I had been applying for years. And my husband and I came to a crossroads. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t fulfilled making our home my career. We went to counseling. We tried going on dates. We tried getting to know each other again. And we realized the very hard and sad truth: I would never be the wife he wanted. He would never be the husband I wanted. He would never be satisfied with me being myself. I would never be satisfied with him being himself. So, now what do we do?
We got a divorce. I wonder if divorce is harder when neither one of you is the Bad Guy. I dropped out of school and feverishly took to finding my footing in a way that I could live in the city, near friends, and finally realize my larger-than-life dreams of serving others, writing books that are more paycheck than risk, and still being a creative and nerdy mom.
As my circle began to learn about my divorce I realized I was part of a secret sisterhood of silently suffering beauties – wives, unfulfilled by their relationships, and suffocated by the shoulds of motherhood. I began blogging to help myself and others navigate the treacherous and uncharted trails of unexpected emotional trauma. I called the blog Road to Relovery (roadtorelovery.com) and continue to write from my experience of being a single mom of three, trying to honor God and myself and my children with every decision I make.
Finally, here I am, three and a half years post-divorce, successfully co-parenting with my once-husband, successfully working in a career that is more paycheck than risk and uses both my writing skills and healthcare passions to serve one of the country’s leading children’s hospitals; and I’m about to release the first episode in my sci-fi fantasy series, The Hibouleans, with nine more episodes already written – and I’m working on my next biblical fiction novel, Hem. I’m proud of my journey, not only because I am being more true to myself, which helps me be a better mother to my boys, but also because I didn’t have to choose between God’s calling for me and the weight of the shoulds.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I am a better me -- author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. My dreams are coming to life. I am flourishing. My children are thriving. And I feel like I've only taken the first step.
www.octaviareese.com

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I have had a colorful reset to the adulthood chapters of my life and I know there are other mom's out there that can benefit from knowing they are not alone.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Marriage: it is scary; it is NOT what anyone says. It takes work, no matter what. Your relationship does not define you; you define it and your partnership should serve BOTH of you, not one more than the other. Neither of you should need either other; rather you should want to be with each other and make the decision daily to honor each other and make your relationship work. And finally, whatever blessings and scars you each bring to your partnership from your childhoods, remember that you define your own culture for your family. You determine your traditions, your norms, and your boundaries.

Parenting: there is no manual to parenting, but you can't parent well when you aren't well yourself. If your goals, career, or relationship is detracting from your ability to be your best parent to your children, then that factor needs a reset and an adjustment. You can only be your best parent to your children when you are your best self. Take care of your kids by serving yourself, setting boundaries for yourself and your children, and by carving time for your own spiritual-mental-emotional health BEFORE you burn out! Be gentle with yourself and your children. Always lead with love and be the parent you wish you had when you were a child.

Dreams: a dream deferred isn't a dream denied (Langston Hughes), but don't martyr yourself in the name of fulfilling everyone elses expectations of you. It's OK if you're that mom or dad that isn't fulfilled by being a parent. I wasn’t. And it’s OK. When a tree grows a new branch, it doesn't cut the others off. Parenting is just one branch of the tree that is you, and all branches need nourishment and sunlight in order to bear beautiful fruit. You are a better parent when you are your best self and if your best self finds fulfillment outside the home, don't deprive yourself of that light -- and don't let anyone else tell you you're wrong.

I will be the father of your children

Clickforhope, Single Parents, Single MomJasmine LopezComment
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Please share your story:

As a single parent it has definitely been a rough patch, from waking up super early, to being the last one to go to sleep. Mommy duties never end. When I became a single mother, I was so afraid. All I could think about was how would I survive with my 2 daughters. I was an emotional wreck as I was a victim of verbal abuse. I felt as if I was never going to get out of that relationship. I stayed with him because I was afraid of being a single parent. I could only imagine the challenges that were going to come my way the moment I would decide to let go. When I finally decided to let go, I faced lots of struggle. I now knew that all the responsibility was going to be on my shoulders. I now had to be a single parent to 2 daughters. I have to teach them good and bad. I fell into an anxious season. I felt as if I was losing my breath, as if I couldn't handle the weight of being a single mom. The Lord rescued me one night, comforted me, and said "I will be the father of your children." I felt a peace and even though sometimes the struggles are there, the Lord always reminds me of how blessed I am to see my children grow. To see them wake up next to me, to see the smile on their faces when I'm down, brings me so much joy. There are days where I would cry at night because of the pressure of having to raise 2 daughters. Not having that support of a father for my daughters would break me. My day consists of a chaotic morning waking them up, to dropping them off, to picking them up from after school and daycare. There are days where I have late dinners, at around 9:00 pm, because my children come before me. You learn to manage your time and day efficiently. And on my days off, they are my world, I spend lots of quality time with them. I pray every night over them, so that the Lord can guide me to be a parent who raises them well.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It has definitely made me stronger as a person. I am more independent and it has allowed me to see things differently. I am stronger in my faith because of this circumstance. I feel like I can conquer anything. There is no holding me back from growing as a person and growing spiritually. When I learned to let the burden out and allow the Lord to build me as a new creation I was able to be free. I can now say I'm blessed to be a single mom.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?: I want to let other single parents out there to know that they're not alone. I want others to be encouraged through my story and push forward,  bring hope and not be afraid, don't overthink the process.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: I would tell them to never feel alone, to always lean on God's word to pull you through. To always smile through the trouble and to see your children as blessings.

I had decided, maybe that was not for me.

Jasmine Lopez1 Comment
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The majority of people seem to believe that pregnancy is a state of bliss where you're on cloud 9. Most people feel pregnant women are simply patiently awaiting their little bundle of joy... this is especially true if you "planned" the pregnancy or have talked about wanting babies to anyone before. In an ideal world, that would be the case... but for some of us... well, it doesn't pan out quite as dreamy...

For as long as I can remember I have wanted kids-at least one. After an infertility diagnosis, 2 rounds of IVF, 2 miscarriages and a failed marriage, I had decided, maybe that was not for me. Instead I focused my energy in working with or volunteering abroad with high-risk children. 

However, one seemingly normal day I met a guy that made me feel I could aspire to a family life. After almost 11 years without a real relationship, I decided to try it out. Still, knowing my reproductive history, I explained to him that I couldn't have children. He didn't mind, so knowing my past, I forewent all forms of birth control.

A year into the relationship, I became pregnant. Imagine my excitement!!! But life is full of twists and turns, like 50 cents says...At around 21 weeks into my pregnancy, I learned that my cervix was opening... and exactly 2 weeks after that I gave birth to a baby whom I wasn't able to bring home with me... her name was Alahna Maia King. The gut wrenching pain of carrying and giving birth to a child you will not bring home is subject to another writing

... for now it should suffice to say that holding the lifeless body of your newborn child is a pain I wish no one had to experience. 

Yet, wanting to feel normal, and not like a complete wreck of a woman I decided to enjoy my relationship. And guess what? I became pregnant once again. The initial excitement was met by fear and doubt. I didn't want to allow myself to feel joy, or attachment; after all, I was well over the 12 weeks mark when I lost my Alahna. 

Still I went to the doctor and the pregnancy plan was filled with weekly appointments, pills, weekly shots, a surgery, strict bed rest, pelvic rest, no work and pretty much nothing but laying around. After going through such traumatic events (at least they are for me) I would feel is expected to have others understand that every ache and every sensation is going to trigger a whole set of "abnormal" responses from the expectant mother.... but no...this is not the case... somehow, because I know my history and I still wanted to have a child, I lost every right to my emotions... 

During this pregnancy I have heard some pretty hurtful things from many- doctors, friends,  and yes, even the baby's father... " pregnant women feel sick... it's part of the package"

"You knew this could happen..."

"You're gonna feel all sorts of things. It's part of being pregnant...you have a high risk pregnancy, so it will be normal for you to feel things that you didn't want" And my very favorite, "this is what you wanted.... isn't it?"

Well no... actually, HELL NO! 

What I wanted was to have a pregnancy that I could enjoy. I wanted to go to work wearing cute maternity outfits and still give 110% at my job. I wanted to be able to let my closest friends feel the baby kicks and laugh as I peed in my pants. Yes, I expected the pains and aches, the swelling and the ranging emotions, the sleepiness and the restless nights. I expected the backaches, the no-shoe finding days, the throwing up and the growing pains as your organs shift place... 

What I didn't expect was to have to stop working, stop having sex for the entirety of my pregnancy, having to go to surgery, get a pay cut, or living in constant fear. I didn't expect to have to be inside my house all the time and basically live my pregnancy alone. I didn't expect, after doing everything I could possibly do, to still have my body work against me. I didn't expect praying for one more week every single day... so here I lay, at 26 weeks pregnant feeling and seeing things indicative of all efforts failing... and you ask me if that's what I wanted...no, that is not what I wanted...not at all... so my heart aches as I don't know what to do, when to call the doctor and who to talk to about my pains and fears... if you were in my place, would that have been what you wanted....?

I then heard the sound of firecrackers

Orphan, Clickforhope, Depression, Suicide, LossJasmine Lopez8 Comments
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Sensitive Content. Please be advised.

Please share your story.: I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. The third child of five siblings. My mother and father always helped others even though money was always a major issue due to both of them being addicted to crack cocaine.
I was 11 years old, asleep in my bed. One Monday morning, there was a knock on the door which woke me up at around 5:30am. I remember my father waking up to answer the door, it was someone he knew, which was a "buddy" who came over extremely early to get some money from the friend my parents allowed to live with us until he got on his feet. My dad let him in, the "buddy" went to the room where the friend was staying and demanded his money. The friend told the "buddy" he didn't have the money, but would get it to him as soon as he got it. Well of course the "buddy" wasn't happy and as I lay in bed I heard him say to my dad, "Let me take your television until he comes up with my money." My dad told him, "No, you can't take my TV, I don't have anything to do with this and it's time for you to leave, because my kids have to get up for school in a few minutes." I heard foot steps toward the door past my bedroom and I heard my father say to the "buddy" it was time to go. The door opens and I then heard the sound of firecrackers ( as a child this was the only logical explanation). I then heard my dad run close to my bedroom door and I heard even more firecrackers. I heard my mom calling my dad's name and she ran in my bedroom which was right next to where my dad was.  She came into my bedroom where she put her back against the door and pressed the heel of her foot against my bedroom door and told me not to get up from the bed. The "buddy" was shooting at her through the door. Then he quickly ran from the house, and heard loud screeching tires. Mom and I got up and went to the kitchen where my dad was laying on the floor in a pool of blood, he had been shot 9 times. We had to step over his body in order to get out of the house and ran to a neighbor's house to call 911 because we didn't have a home phone. Shortly after the call the coroners showed up and pronounced dad dead.

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My mother took this very hard and started drinking just about everyday. She'd cry in the kitchen almost everyday finding a spot of dad's blood that was missed during the clean up process. I always tried to comfort her. About one year later, my mom came home from being in the streets and asked me to bring her a glass of water so that she could take her medicine. I was sitting in the living room at about 9pm struggling with my homework from school and looked at her and said "Ma, I'm trying to do my homework I don't understand it". She told me no not bring the water that she'd get it herself and she did. I sat and watched her take her medicine. The next morning my sister and I were getting ready for school and on our way out the door to walk to school, I turned to my sister and told her that I needed to ask mom for some money. Deep down I knew she didn't have any, but there was an urge just to go ask anyway. I did, and I patted my mom to wake up because she was still asleep. I then shook her, no response. I shook her even harder, no response. I then took my mom's right arm and placed it under her back and raised her in a sitting position. I immediately moved it, to realize my mom was dead. She had taken her medication the night before and died. She had taken her life. I backed up in the room and hit the wall behind me, and stared at her for a few minutes. I ran to tell my sister, who was still waiting outside for me, so we could walk to school. Again the coroner came to our house for a second time, and this time it was for my mom.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?: My story has given me the strength to live life with purpose and courage. It has taught me that no matter what you have to walk through in life, you can make it. If I can make it anyone can! My motivations for graduating high school and college were growing up with little to nothing, this made me want "more" out of life. I currently work with Psychiatrists, helping children who are in the system with foster parents and are experiencing similar situations like I did as a child. Now life is tremendously better, I'm happy with a loving spouse and three wonderful boys of my own. My family and encouraging others are my ultimate motivations.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: I was compelled to share my story, because I realize that there may be other children who may be currently experiencing something similar, and I want them to know they are not alone.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Don't give up on life because those who were suppose to nurture and protect you were taken away so soon. Your life is a gift and you can make it through this, I know it hurts, and I know you're angry but it will get better. Just take one day at a time. God is there and he'll never, ever leave or forsake you, I'm living proof.

Fatherhood is helping to guide a child through life

Jasmine LopezComment

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood is helping to guide a child through life, into their spirituality and ultimately into the world as a happy, healthy and constructive member of the world. It's more important to me than anything in the world. My daughter's mom and I aren't together and she doesn't have the same faith that I have, so Hannah's spiritual development falls squarely on me.

Who or what inspired you to be the dad you are today?

I had a couple good examples... but my father was an overshadowingly BAD example. A lot of my motivation actually came from doing my best to be the opposite of him. Kind of sad, I guess, but I learned what NOT to do and how NOT to be a good father. Oh. And he was a preacher. Lol. So... somehow I developed a deeper relationship with God and became the dad that I am by basically doing the opposite of everything my dad did.

Spreading God's Love To My Kids

Good Good Fathers, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment
 photo provided by dad

photo provided by dad

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Well, not to make it sound too cliche but there is the part of me that connects with God and recognizes that as a man, it's an honor, privilege, and obedience to what God expects from us. To be able to honor His glory for generations to come, in making sure that I do my best in spreading God's love to my kids so that they can continue doing the same. So I just appreciate that God has allowed and entrusted me to have such a thing to steward. And then there is the other part of me that appreciates the journey of life I have been through, from the start to present. I've begun putting it all into perspective. I recently found out that my dad was fatherless his whole life and am now understanding and making sense of the upbringing I had. I went from telling myself what I would do differently to basically now becoming as supportive as I can of my own father, and ensuring that even though he never had a father, he has done his best, and as a byproduct, I will continue to at least be the best son he can ask for. But through that journey, God has allowed me to see a perspective of fatherless children growing up into broken homes to also being in conflicts of war. While I served my tour in Iraq, I never expected to see the sadness war brings because I was trained and ready to see only the very bad of war, but it allowed me to put more value into the life God has given me daily. While out there, I always viewed fatherhood as the ultimate blessing that I never knew if one day I would get to be, but always wished desired and prayed I one day would, not knowing if my life would end the next day.

Who or what inspired you to be the dad you are today?

With my dad being fatherless all his life and learning that later in life, it just sparked something in me to ensure that if God ever allowed me the blessing of being a dad one day, I will always make the best of it, so that my children would not be affected by it. I firmly believe that if God allows me to have something, I will honor it the best I can by being the best steward over it. But there is one person who actually has really been a great inspiration for me from afar. When I was in high school I had a close older friend that I would often hang out with that wasn't always the greatest influence but I enjoyed being around him. Our friendship eventually grew apart as I left for the Marines, and he then soon became a father himself. I watched from afar his relationship with his daughter and never would I have thought that he would be probably one of the greatest dads I have ever known to his daughter. He has always gone above and beyond for his daughter, constantly takes her on vacations and constantly showers her with love in many ways. He always seems to put her first in everything he does and if he doesn't he always seems to make time for her and makes sure she knows she is his priority. He is showing her what it is to be loved the right way as he slowly grooms her to one day be on her own. I still admire the way he is with her till this day and by far I have always told myself that I could only hope that I can be as great of a father as he is.

Fatherhood, embodies love and responsibility

Good Good Fathers, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

What does fatherhood mean to you?

I approach fatherhood as one of the most important things that I'll ever do in life. Fatherhood, embodies love and responsibility, teaching and care. I love my son more than anything, next to my wife. I have a responsibility to provide for him and protect him. While he's growing from a baby to a man, I have to act as his sword and shield. But being a provider doesn't lessen my responsibility to be a loving dad. I want to teach him what I've learned and the mistakes that I've made, while never passing up on an opportunity to show him how much I care. I don't want to just be someone he runs to for answers, I want to be someone he leans on for strength.

What/Who inspired you to be the dad you are today?

Life is what inspired me. Life is difficult enough in the best situations; it can be even more challenging if the people you count on the most are the very same people who let you down. The father I am today is fueled by my desire to make sure that the values, wisdom, and love that his mom wanted to teach him is passed on. I want him to know that he is raised by two parents, always. I want him to know that I'm doing my best, and through any difficult situation or circumstance, I will never let him down.

DEAR BOY WHO TOUCHED ME INAPPROPIATELY

Breaking the Silence, Sexual AbuseJasmine LopezComment
 Photo by: DeAnda Photography

Photo by: DeAnda Photography

Dear boy who touched me inappropriately,

I was a freshman in high school when I learned about incest and bestiality. I’ll never forget the disgust and embarrassment my classmates had. That’s when I realized that what you did, what I experienced, wasn’t normal.  I mean you weren’t that much older than me, and I wanted nothing but your love and approval. I remember going home that afternoon, lying in my bed in the fetal position asking God, who I wasn’t sure I believed in, to take all my memories away….and you know what, He did.

A few years later I met Jesus, and I started walking through a healing journey, and He was slowly beginning to walk me through my dark past, but I didn’t remember, until one day, I had a trigger, and bits and pieces began to come back. I cried, I couldn’t believe it. In fact, a small voice was telling me that I was making it up, that it didn’t really happen. I shared it with one person, and that voice was even stronger…. telling me I was lying. So I pushed it back, and continued to live my life.

In my early 20’s, my mom noticed I was acting weird. For some reason she asked me, “Did he do something to you?!?" And I told her yes….yes you did, as I began to cry. She cried and I cried more. She also said something that made me realize that this was generational curse. I was too afraid to dig deeper and ask more questions, but it gave me so much more understanding.

And then I got married. We were so fearful of how our marriage would be affected by the things you did to me. And I’m not going to lie, it did. After one year of marriage, we got pregnant, and I pleaded with God to give me a girl as a symbol, a covenant, that this curse was broken over my bloodline, and He did! Through His faithfulness He gave us a daughter. And I truly believe that this curse is broken. When I was at home with her, I struggled to connect with her, I had that same small voice telling me that I would end up hurting her, the way you hurt me. I said no that’s not true, that I will not allow that to happen, and it didn’t!!!

It was in my 4th year of marriage when things got even harder. My intimacy with my husband got so distant. I didn’t know how to enjoy what God created to be beautiful, because of how distorted it was to me. I remember driving to you. Confronting you. Telling you that I remembered everything, and we cried. You said you were sorry. I saw you covered in such shame, and helplessness. And on that day I forgave you!

It’s now been many years later, and I’m still not made whole. I thought that forgiving you would make me whole, but I was wrong. I’m starting to see that, I’m still broken because while I forgave you, I haven’t forgiven myself. I mean how did I not know that this was wrong? How did I think this was okay? And so here I am broken, ready to face the rest of my past. I want the courage to face those broken, lost pieces so far back in my brain. I want nothing more than to put the puzzle pieces back together, and understand the full story. I want Immanuel to walk with me, holding my hand as ABBA, telling me He is with me. I want to be made whole. I want nothing more than to walk in the fullness of who God created me to be.

And you know what?!? I want that for you too!!! I want to see you forgive yourself. Yes it was wrong, we were also kids. I want to see you living life to the fullest, believing that you are forgiven, loved and worthy of love. Don’t isolate yourself, don’t stay in your dark dungeon anymore. Please get the help you need!!! Begin to walk in truth, and begin to walk in your own healing journey, as I will be embarking in. I’m going to see a therapist who’s going to help me process, and in the processing, I may hate you again. I’m okay with that, because it’s the process I need to go through in order to heal, and once I can heal, I can then truly forgive you, and walk in freedom.

And to you who was inappropriately touched,

I am sooooo sorry!

For what you went through. For experiencing a distortion of what intimacy should be. I believe you. I stand with you, and believe that we can find our healing. Our voices matter. Our stories matter. We need to break the silence. We need to tell our stories. We need the "1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys" to know they aren't alone. We need to find our freedom, but we can't until we shed light on those dark things. It's when we do, where we find freedom. I'm praying for you, as I'm praying for me. Let's pray for each other as we walk through this.

HE RAPED ME THAT NIGHT

Breaking the SilenceJasmine LopezComment
 Stock photo by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Stock photo by: Jazi Photo Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Please share your story.:

It was March of 2015 and I was 25 years old. I was working in the suburbs of Chicago and a male coworker offered me a ride home in his Jeep. I had only had what felt like safe interactions with him at work up until this night. When we got to my apartment, I asked if he'd like to come up because I thought it was the polite thing to do. He raped me that night in my apartment. I froze and couldn't fight back and would later learn that is a normal response to a traumatic event like this. I eventually got away to my bathroom and when I came back into the main area of my apartment he put me in a restraint holding my arms behind my back. I was able to fight back and get out of his grip. He left around 2 am. I saw him later at work the next day and he pretended as if nothing had happened. The moment I left work that night, I had a panic attack and I knew I needed to tell someone what had happened. I reached out to a friend. I reach out to my therapist. I called 911 and went to the hospital to be evaluated the next day. I was re-traumatized by police officers, a detective, a sergeant, doctors and nurses. When I was struggling to get words out to tell the ER nurse what had happened she said, "I don't understand why you can't just tell me??" One of the responding officers told me, "I don't see how there was a crime here." A detective told me, "If he wanted to rape you, he would have .... it doesn't matter what those advocates and your therapists are saying, he didn't do anything ... you were blocking the edge of the bed, he couldn't even get up if he wanted to ... you can't hide behind your dissociation." I found an attorney. I found a safe place to stay with a couple from my church for a few nights. I found an amazing organization downtown called Rape Victim Advocates. I found help and support, and I found people who believed my story and took me seriously. I did not get justice in the court rooms I would attend or from the detective I would meet with. I'm still coming to accept that as what is final for my case. A Chicago Police Officer said my case was labeled "non-criminal" because "I didn't fight back or say no." My case will go no further and I'm still trying to make peace with that. I will continue living. I will continue fighting. I will continue healing every day from that night.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It took awhile before I could see anything good coming from what happened. I can now see that I am more resilient. I am stronger as a human. I am more compassionate and understanding when I hear others stories. What happened that night has inspired me to one day work with other survivors of sexual assault. I participated in a research study that UIC did about how the Chicago police react to sexual assault cases, to in the end, provide better training for the CPD. I am a resilient person and I believe that is the main truth I will take from this experience.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I wanted to share my story simply in hopes that my story would resonate with someone else and it would help them or at the least, make them feel less alone.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

You did nothing wrong. None of what happened to you was your fault. You did not deserve any of it. There are people who will believe you, me being one of them.