We invite you to read a few of these stories of survival. These rape and sexual abuse survivors have been hurt but most importantly, they have risen above the pain to reclaim their lives by making the first move of sharing their stories.
Meet Beth from Los Angeles, US
"When I broke up with my ex this summer, it wasn't because I didn't love him, it was because of what he'd done to me. And I absolutely relapsed and contacted him with things I shouldn’t have, but there are no “best practices” with this. When friends or comics ask why we broke up it's not easy or comfortable to reply; it doesn't seem like the appropriate thing to say at a stand-up show, a party or a wedding. It's embarrassing. I feel stupid. After being verbally, physically abused and raped, I dated him for two more months. It's not simple.
After I broke up with him he said, "You're very open and honest in your stand-up, and I just ask that you consider me when you talk about your ex because everyone knows who you're talking about." And I abided. I wrote vague jokes because we both live in L.A. and I didn't want to hurt him, start a war, press charges, be interrogated or harassed by him or his friends and family. I wanted to move on and forget because I didn’t understand. I don't want revenge or to hurt him now, but it's unhealthy to keep this inside because my stand-up is pulled directly from my life. It's how I make my living. My personal is my professional. That is how I've always been; I make dark, funny.
So now I'm allowing this to be part of my story. It's not my only story, so please don't let it be. If you live in L.A., you've already started to hear my jokes about this and I ask you to have the courage to listen and accept it because I’m trying. Already since talking about this onstage, many women have come to me after shows asking me to keep doing it. Men have shown their solidarity.
An ex-girlfriend of this ex-boyfriend came to me and shared that she experienced the same fate. Then there was another and another (men and women) who shared other injustices at his hand that shattered my belief that I was an exception. I am not alone; unfortunately I'm in a line of smart, funny women who experienced this from the same man in our L.A. comedy community. I couldn't stay in our relationship waiting for it to happen again and I won't keep it a secret any longer so that a future woman has a fair chance of avoiding it. I don't have all the answers. I'm doing my best to work through this. There are more stories out there from men and women and they don't all involve getting raped by a stranger in an alley. Many are crapes (the coziest kind) in the comfort of your own bed."
Meet Kristina from London, UK
"So it started with my older brother. He lived abroad and when he came over to the UK, he would touch me during the night- he was orally intimate on me. I was about 8/9 if that and I didn't really understand what was going on. I just knew that during the night, these things would happen.
Then from the age 11-15 my uncle would touch me. He always came to my house bearing gifts, money, chocolate, all that good stuff when we were younger. Everytime he would come to my house I would hide in my room and pretend to sleep, I knew it was him because he had this distinctive knock when he knocked on the door.
At 16 it started with my cousin and by the time I was 17 I was an expert in hiding pain. I was completely MESSED UP!!! I didn't even realise what it had done to me. Some years later, I found that it effected my relationships. I was extremely sexually active, it was a very bizzare desire that I had no control over. I branded myself a 'sex addict' and even had issues with committing to one partner.
I carried these secrets with me for years, and even today my family do not know. I've only managed to open up to my current partner and selective friends I call family so that I can help them understand me better.
I carried this alone for such a long time. I hated myself and I didn't want to believe that all these things actually happened to me. I lost God, I lost faith, I didn't even have a structure to life. BUT a good thing has come from this, it has made me STRONG! I've used it as a lifeguard for the younger girls that were around me that i've always tried to advise as I realised that so many of us 'victims' are silently living in hell.
This episode began 14 years ago and right now I am stronger. Sometimes I have days when I fall off or when I'm emotionally unstable but I am strong enough to know that Gods plan for me is better. I decided not to be a statistic and by sharing my story I wanted to show that 'YES it happened to me BUT I am better', I have not let it take over my life. I have used poetry to draft my pain into description which has helped over the years. So ladies, no matter what you have been through, USE YOUR PAIN, DO NOT LET IT USE YOU!!!"
Meet Louisa from Florence, Italy
"I think it had begun when I was 4. I was so young, I wouldn't have remembered if it was any earlier. He continued until he got a stroke when I was 11. It was also around the time when I moved away and never had to see him again. I thought that I was completely done with him, and that I'd never have to revisit that part of my life again, until I found out I was pregnant (I developed very early). I lost the baby, but I still wish none of it had to even happen."
Meet Grace from London, UK
"I just read stories from other ladies and I could totally relate. I was about 6 years old when it started. I am the last child of 6 and I grew up with so many male family friends and uncles and so on.
My uncle would come to visit the family and he would take me to the guest room toilet and molest me. I'd cry all the time telling him how painful it was but he'd tell me "Don't worry, it won't hurt after some time". He would come to the house and if I was in the bathroom, he'd open the door, come inside and start to caress and tongue my ear while he defiled me.
The maid may have noticed but for some reason, she got fired before she could say anything. Why did I not tell anyone you may ask? Well, he said it was right but I should keep it a secret. I'd name him Pascal.
Another time, I was at church with my dad when this guy said he had something he wanted me to give my mum. I was barely 7 and I was naive and clueless so I walked nearly a mile with him. He took me to his house and told me to sit on the bed while he got the "thing" for my mum. He then came to the bed laid me down on my belly and raped me anally. I cried and told him to stop that it was hurting but it seemed like I was speaking to myself. I got tired of crying and I just laid there until he finished and he told me to trace my steps back to church as he didn't want people to see me with him and that there was nothing for my mum. There was so many massive rocks at the area where he lived so I tripped on one and bruised my legs and I cried and cried till I eventually got to church. When my parents asked where I was, I told them I was playing outside and I had bruised my leg hence my tears. At least this one was one off.
Then my parents got a driver and every time he took me to school, he'd park on the road and rape me then take me to school. He then graduated to doing it in the room provided for him to stay during the week. He'd take me there and do it in every hole on my body and then tell me to get him some food afterwards. He still came to our house until I left my parents house to university. I don't know about now. He then got this lady that he was going to marry so he told me he has to stop. Apparently, he wasn't ready to because there was a time when I went out with my dad and he (the driver) drove. My dad had to attend to something so he asked me to wait in the car. As we parked up and waited for him, the driver began to sexually molest me and kept doing so until tears started to drop from my eyes. I reminded him of what he said about getting married but that did not stop him.
Then there was a church member who had now become family. He was an electrician and wherever there was a lighting problem at church or at home, he'd ask me if I wanted to see something interesting and he'd have sex with me. He did it for a while until he got married and I never saw him again.
There was even this little boy. When I was 7, he must have been about 11. He and his family attended our church so whenever he saw me, he'd tell me "let's go and do it". He'd take me to the females toilet then do to me as he pleased. When he was done, he'd tell me "see you next time after church". His dad was a painter and once he was painting at our house so I tried to tell him what had happened but for some reason, I couldn't. Thinking about it, I can't remember why.
Pascal was frequent at my house so he did it continuously until I started seeing my period. It's funny though how I was visiting my family at Christmas in 2013 when he visited. I was in the kitchen cooking for my niece (whom I fear for now) and he touched my breast. I asked him if he hadn't had enough from the past and he said "one more time please" so I told him to get off me if not I'd scream. He said "theres no one at home just two of us" so I told him there's neighbours and I'd scream very loud. Thankfully, my grandmother called for me so he said he'd wait for me. I attended to her and I went back to the house. I told him his car was on so as he stepped out to check it, I locked all the doors with him outside. He came and knocked and knocked and when he saw that I wasn't opening, he left and that was the last for me.
He's got a daughter now and he sees my niece all the time. I'm scared for them but I can't do anything because I'd have to tell everyone how much pain I had to endure as a child. I literally had no childhood.
I lost most of my friends as a child because a rumor started going round that I had sex with my uncles for money. I don't know who started that nasty rumor but it completely broke me.
There are so many stories to tell but not much time. I never really had a stable relationship and the man that I eventually grew to trust enough to tell my story asked me if I 'enjoyed and missed it'. It really hurt me, I did nothing but cry at the time.
He asked me why I didn't tell anyone what had happened throughout the years. 'Maybe I just got so used to it... - A question I will always ask myself.
I've recently become very sexually active which is difficult because I thought I'd save myself until marriage but I find myself getting constantly distracted. I always feel the need for other guys and I feel like a whore. I'm just glad I'm starting to feel it now so I can put it under control.
I just turned 19 in October and the first seven years of my life were not the best. I forgot to mention the first incident that happened to me. I was only 4. Thinking back, I should have said something about it then. If I'd spoken up as a child, it wouldn't have gotten this far.
In my early years, my mum asked me if anyone was touching me and I said no. This was when I was 9. I thought it was too late but it's better late than never. I wish I told someone. I just hope that these things don't define my future like that movie "The Addict". I don't think there has been anymore accuracy for my situation than that movie.
I have forgiven these people but I can't forget. I still wish they died instead but I've forgiven them... or haven't I? It's a bit hard but healing is a process isn't it...?
Well, that's my story in a nutshell."
Meet Rachael Lasamba from London, UK
"I was 17. I was at a club with my friends and felt hungry so decided I wanted food. Highly intoxicated, I stumbled outside looking for the jerk chicken food stall, which was normally outside of the club...
Up until this day I still do not remember how I ended up in some mans car near the club, but I did. I was out of it but something came over me. For some reason I regained consciousness and realised there was a big black man lying on top of me- doing stuff. First I thought I was dreaming but unfortunately I wasn't. At first, a sense of shock came over me and I froze whilst this man groped and rubbed his sweaty hands in different places all over my body. I laid there still for about 20-30 seconds (if I can remember) before I felt a force and heard my conscious tell me to move. I started to scream and he tried to cover my mouth whilst beginning to abuse me. I bit his thumb so hard I could have sworn I almost bit it his hand off. As he was holding onto it in agony, I somehow managed to push him off me and run out of the car.
I ran back to the club, into the toilet and just sat there for a while in a cubicle wondering if all this had just happened. The woman who worked in the toilet knocked on the door and I opened it. She stood there and asked me if I was okay. I didn't realise I was shaking until she told me. I began to have a panic attack in the cubical whilst trying to explain what had happened. She calmed me down and then held me as if I was her baby daughter. She asked me if she could call the police and I remember the panic attack getting worse - she understood that this meant ‘no’. So she freshened me up and I told her I was going home but I absolutely couldn't leave that club alone again. I also couldn't tell anyone what had just happened so I acted as if I was walking out but I just went back into the dance, acted as though nothing was wrong and I just sat there - so still, on a sofa waiting for the night to end.
I thought about telling my sister and friends that night but everyone was so intoxicated so I left it and have never shared this story up until now.
I suffered with anxiety and paranoia for years. Fear literally followed me everywhere I went. Nobody in my house understood why I would always lock the front door if I was home alone or if I was out late on my way home I would wipe off all my make up before I would get off the bus or tube so that I couldn't attract any attention. I would put all my valuables in my bra, put 999 on speed dial and carry my keys in my hand as a weapon as I almost waited to get attacked and raped each time I stepped out into the open. I lost all my confidence and I became such an angry person, and at some point I even felt disgusted and blamed myself for what happened. As the first few months passed, I would ask myself ‘even if I went to the police, who would have believed me?’ I was 17 years old- not even the legal age to be in a club. I was practically wearing a top as a dress and was so highly intoxicated to the point where I didn't know how I ended up in that car, so there was another thought I had - ‘even if this man forced me into his car, he could have easily said that I consented’. I lost all hope and just stayed quiet all these years.
Nevertheless, my heart empathised with all other victims so much to the point where I came up with this idea to share stories to raise awareness and spread hope. Through this initiative and NGO, I’ve connected with so many women, some who have even been through a very similar situation to mine. That gave me so much courage.
It took some time but I came to the realisation that no matter how a woman is dressed, what colour she is, how she looks, how old she is, or even how she speaks- it does not justify sexual abuse or any kind of abuse! It is wrong point blank and I soon managed to understand this and eventually stopped blaming myself.
Now I'm in the process of gaining my voice and confidence back through this movement and of course through the comfort of my faith and belief - God. If you also have been abused, I encourage you today to share your story. Do not underestimate the power of Story-telling. It brings more healing than you may think and has most certainly changed my life.”
Meet Yemi from Ireland
"My cousin began to rape me from when I was four years old. He is ten years older than me. He told me it was my fault, my idea. He destroyed my childhood and stole my innocence. Each day is a battle to get through. I'm slowly, but surely picking up the pieces.
The day I can tell my story without crying, I know I'm close to being healed. My dream is that one day, when I'm fully healed, I can openly share my story. I want to help other victims on their journey of healing and forgiveness."
Meet Urvasi from India
"I had gone to bed to sleep and my husband was already in bed, asleep, or so thought. As soon as I got into bed it was clear he was no longer interested in sleep. I decided to go along with it for a bit to keep the peace. (He has in the past guilted me into sex by saing I obviously don't love him etc or ignored my polite attempts at saying no and removing his hands). I was hoping a quick kiss and a cuddle would satisfy him that I still loved him and found him attractive then I would be able to go to sleep. He suddenly started to climb on top of me and I began to panic as I am terrified of getting pregnant again as it is potentially dangerous for me as I was very unwell during my last pregnancy. I immediately said "no" but he didn't respond so I asked him to get a condom. He still didn't react so I started to say "no, please, no..." By now he was on top of me and as I was still saying this he pushed my legs apart and started to have sex with me. I immediately fell silent as I was in complete shock. I never imagined he would ever carry on if I had said 'no'. But because I thought he would stop I didn't try to push him off me, i thought 'no' was enough.
That incident was four years ago and the first of many. The last time he did this was eleven days ago.
I moved back to India almost six years ago to start a new life with my husband. Many people here would not see this as rape, so for years I have not known how to feel about it.
I haven't left him yet so I must admit, I was afraid to share this but I hope I can help other married women in the same situation as me.
Let it be clear that once you've said no, if you have not consented- it is rape."
Meet Sherry from Michigan, US
"In my early years, I was raped at the age of eight by the bishop of the church, then by my mothers husband, then by the deacon of the church who got me pregnant at the age of nine. At just ten years old I had my baby and on my eleventh birthday, my mother married me off to him- the deacon.
With this, I was like a broken arrow shaking in the wind. As time went on I could still feel the sting of bitterness as it constantly haunted me with resentment, unstable relationships, and a mentality of not being good enough for anyone- so I eventually just isolated and seperated from the world. I felt like dust.
Not able to understand the inconceivable pain that was not seen, only hid the hurt deeper into my heart, soul, and spirit. Many may not have anyone to talk to, listen to for understanding and be able to bring closure to the hurt they have endured, but I once read in the Bible: "Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning". Today I am better."
Meet Elizabeth from London, UK
"I have never spoken about this openly and my hands are literally shaking, my heart is about to explode. I'm about to share something which may result in people who know me to look at me differently.
There are different types of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual,financial,mental, neglect and so worth. I have been through all the above mentioned. The one that has affected me my whole life and I'm still recovering from is sexual abuse...
I was only five years old when my stepdad started the abuse and he continued to do so for the next five years. At that time I was unaware of what he was doing to me until I was taught about sex education in school. When I finally realised and understood what he was doing to me it was too late to tell anyone about it. Why? Because there was no one around plus he used to threaten to hurt me even more or worst, kill me...
I had no one to defend me or run too. I couldn't tell my step mum about it as she despised me and was physically abusing me herself.
In my mind all I used to say is "One day I will grow up and make you all pay for what you're doing to me". However now as a christian, the bible has taught me to forgive them and instead of Vengeance I pray for their salvation. I will be honest I wrestled with God, I was so mad, confused, hurt and an emotional wreck. I considered myself to be "damaged goods". I struggled with my self esteem, I never felt good enough or pretty enough.
My ex was the first person I opened up to about this because I was in a relationship with him and it got to a point where we wanted to take our relationship to another level and become sexually active. We were in love I kept telling myself but I was so scared and panicked in the beginning. How can you tell someone that you have never been in a relationship before but yet you're not a Virgin anymore. The discussion of sex used to scare the hell out of me. Due to the shame I lied to him that he wasn't my first boyfriend and that I wasn't a virgin. He was relieved by the fact that I wasn't but started pressuring me to sleep with him if I truly loved him. There was a day where he tried to touch me and I just broke down in tears and he got scared. To cut the story short, eventually I opened up to him and told him about my abuse. He became very supportive and over the years he kindly helped me to overcame the fear of sex and taught me to love my body as well as enjoy sex. He empowered me to become a very sexual being and taught me a lot of things about life in general and how to be with a man. He moulded and shaped me into the young women that he wanted me to be. The only problem with that was that he used to feed my mind with ideas that no other man but him would love me and want to be with me. That was one of the main reasons why I struggled to come out of that relationship. I allowed him to take advantage of me.
I eventually had the strength to leave but I was worried that no other men would want me or even marry me. As a result, I was led to believe that I am not worthy.
I'm at the point of my life whereby I have made peace with my past. I have decided to share this hurtful experience with the world because I know there are others out there who are either going through it or have gone through it. Do not loose hope, do not give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel"
Meet J.Blake from Newcastle, UK
"My uncles stepson attempted to rape me whilst I was sleeping. Luckily I woke up in time to stop it from happening. The frustrating thing is, is that he is younger than me. He acted like he didnt know what he was doing, I was so shocked and embarrassed that I didn't tell anyone. When I did tell my mum, it was hard and I felt ashamed even though I did nothing wrong. It ruined my relationship with my boyfriend at the time and I completely closed off to him- eventually ending that relationship.
I then began to see another guy a few years later and one day woke up to him having sex with me. I couldn't say it was rape, I even tried to erase the memory. Only now I'm beginning to see that it was rape and it was wrong.
The healing begins when you face what has happened. It is painful and it hurts but it is possible to heal completely."
Meet Mary from Indiana, U.S
"To truly understand the beauty of where I am today you must understand the destruction and torture that has been the past 5 years of my life.
I met him in July. He sat across from me at a bench on the outside patio at work. I felt an instant jolt. I felt in that moment that my soul met the person that I had been waiting for since the day my life began. We exchanged a few words. He mentioned that he liked my hair and I took a drink of his coffee. It only took a few days for me to fall completely in love with him. I know that sounds crazy but I couldn’t help it. He was kind, funny, generous and easy-going. Those first few weeks were a blur of nothing but happiness and good times. I remember so clearly the first time he flipped the switch on me. We were in the car and I made a comment about something he had said and I’m sure I said it with a tint of sarcasm. He jerked the car off the road and slammed the brakes. He started screaming at me and flung his door open and got out. I just sat there. I was frozen. I was stunned. I didn’t grow up in an abusive home. The most abusive my childhood home ever got was the one time that I made my brother listen to Hanson on repeat for a whole day. So I didn’t know what to do when this man that had always seemed so gentle became a raging tornado in front of me. I could barely breathe. He got back into the car and everything seemed fine and back to normal. So I let it pass and decided it was an isolated incident. We all get angry right? We all say hurtful things we regret right?
On May 3rd 2012 we welcomed our beautiful baby girl. She was all my hopes and dreams wrapped up into a 4lb 7oz body. I was enamored with her. Suddenly I felt like my whole life was complete. I was oblivious to the madness that was brewing. He became incredibly jealous of the love I had for my daughter. He didn’t like that suddenly I was at someone else’s beckon call. I became a mother first and foremost, and it was driving him insane.
Things started to get physical around this time. There were lots of times I was shoved and slapped. I was consistently told that I was worthless and that I would have nothing when he kicked me out of HIS home and took our daughter from me. It was that same timeframe that I stopped living. I merely existed. I think for me the worst of it was when he decided he had waited long enough to have sex after our daughter was born. I had an emergency c-section that had to be reopened about 10 days after the procedure and had to be packed daily. So he was asking to have sex with me as I still had a large wound. I’m sure no one has ever felt as unsexy as I did during that time and in conjunction with feeling like this person didn’t care about me at all didn’t make for me being In The Mood. He started off asking nicely. He made a few jokes about how long he had waited and how patient he had been. I passively said no and tried to chuckle as though I found his disgusting jokes humorous. We went to bed shortly after that and I remember thinking that I didn’t even want to be in bed with him. He tried to cuddle with me and I of course let him. I always let him. Because NOT letting him was not a choice. He started to touch me more aggressively. I said no, I said please don’t, I told him I wasn’t in the mood, that tonight wasn’t the right time, that I just didn’t want to. He didn’t care. You can’t rape your partner right? WRONG. I won’t open this memory up anymore other than to say that I have never felt less like a human being than in that moment. I was alone. I was lost. I was an island. That man used to love me. Those hands used to hold me carefully. That heart used to melt for me. Now I had a monster in my bed. This would not be the last time my then fiancée, now husband raped me. That sentence is so hard to type. I struggle with it even now. Because I CHOSE to be there with him. I didn’t leave for fear of losing my daughter. I didn’t know where I would go or who I could turn to. Who would believe that this man that seemed so charming and together on the outside was raping, hitting and emotionally murdering his wife at home? I had convinced myself that no one would.
I often tell people that my daughter has saved my life. But no one really knows how deep that goes. Without my precious Nugget my life would have gone one of two ways: I would have stayed with her father and he would have eventually killed me, OR I would have just killed myself. My depression during that time was fierce. It clung to me like a static-filled shirt and it wouldn’t let go. It was there. Always. I was nothing on the outside. And I was slowly preparing myself for death on the inside. But one day, in October of 2015, I looked at this little person, this beautiful soul that I was SURE I had known for much longer than she had been alive, and I thought No. She deserves more. She needs to know this isn’t love. This isn’t how men treat women. I want her to know that I stared death in the face and although it was an incredibly tempting offer I CHOSE her. I wanted HER. I wanted US to not just survive, but to thrive. In order to do that we had to leave. So one night while my husband was at work, after 3 days of hiding out in my daughter’s room hoping he would just leave us alone, I packed two suitcases and I called a cab. I had nothing and yet I had everything. That was the night I started to breathe again.
We were welcomed at a Domestic Violence Shelter in a town about 45 miles away from where my husband lives. I felt safe there with the staff, the other women and the reinforced doors even with all the threatening texts and the never ending phone calls. His storm raged and I could feel it through the line. He went through the cycle of abuse more than once during our month there. He would be nice. He would ask for forgiveness. He wouldn’t get it. Then he would get angry. He would threaten to call my parents. He would threaten to call the police. He would threaten to come take my daughter. He had a trace put on my phone. Thanks national Phone Company for that WONDERFUL feature! I was terrified. But I was safe and every night I got into bed with the only person in my life that I actually loved. My wonderful, annoying, beautiful and smart three year old.
After a month at the shelter we were accepted into a local Transitional Housing program in this amazing little town that I’m still not sure how I found. I have a caseworker here that has been nothing short of an angel. She has blessed me in ways that I can’t even put into words. She has allowed herself to care about me and that means the world to me. I have also been linked with a program here that helps struggling families and my caseworker through this program means more to me than she’ll ever know. They have both laughed with me and let me cry. They have built me up and ALWAYS encouraged me. They have not only told me but they have SHOWN me that they believe in who I am and in the things that I want to accomplish. I have found connection with other women that are trying to improve their lives. I have found people that love my daughter and she is flourishing. I’M IN COLLEGE! I am currently studying to get my degree in Human Services. I dyed my hair a color he never liked. I let my daughter sleep with me every night and sometimes we have ice cream for dinner. And there is NO ONE to tell me that we can’t.
We are still recovering. Years of damage is hard to undo. I will start therapy soon and we both struggle with nightmares so sometimes we don’t sleep. I will be getting a divorce as soon as I can, something that still breaks my heart. There are times when I fall apart and cry until I can’t see, for what I’ve lost, for what we have been through and for what my daughter has had to be a part of. But we are ALIVE and more importantly we are LIVING. Leaving isn’t easy. Drawing that line in the sand is so hard. I couldn’t have done it for just me. But I found strength in my desire to create a better life for the life I had created.
“She lost him, but she found herself. And somehow that was Everything.” – Taylor Swift "