I was 13 years old in the summer of 1999, and I had just finished my final day of high-school at a local high school in North Carolina when I received an anonymous text from a friend of mine.
It was a text that was so intimate and so specific, and so personal.
“I have been raped, and you need to come to my house tonight and I will give you a blow job,” the text read.
I felt that this was not something I should be sharing, and that it would be wrong for me to be sharing it.
I was too young, too vulnerable and too unsure about the details.
The rape that had taken place two years earlier, on a date that I will never forget, had already affected my self-worth.
My body had changed in ways that I would not have known how to handle.
The experience left me traumatised, emotionally drained, and scared.
But I also felt that if I told my mother, she would probably be upset about the situation, and maybe even angry, because she was already a mother herself.
The sexual assault at the hands of a stranger was one of the worst things that had happened to me in my life.
I had gone from an extroverted, outgoing and intelligent girl into someone who was scared, scared to death.
“He could be as much of a threat as anyone else I know,” my friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
“Even though he is not physically there, he has the power and the ability to hurt you emotionally and physically.
He can cause you emotional harm with a word.
He will hurt you physically.
And he can make you think about suicide.”
I had never been in an intimate relationship before, and had never had an experience of being sexually assaulted before.
I didn’t know what to do, and the next thing I knew, I was being raped by an acquaintance who would soon be sentenced to prison.
“My heart sank and I felt like I had to hide,” my new friend said.
I would cry for days afterwards, but the trauma and the fear were too much for me not to tell my parents.
I never told them about the incident, or about my previous experiences of sexual assault.
I thought it would just scare them away.
But that fear was unfounded.
“They knew it was me, so they were kind of like, ‘Well, it’s just your story’,” my friend said, recalling the response that she received.
“Like, ‘It’s not your fault, you know?’
‘It was your fault!’
It was very upsetting to hear that.
And then, they were like, I want you to be OK.
I want to talk to you, and tell you what happened and be with you and not with anybody else.
And I think it was the worst thing that ever happened to you.”
When the text came in, I immediately suspected it was my friend.
The person who had raped me was a stranger, and he was an acquaintance of mine who I had known since middle school.
He had been my best friend at the time of the incident.
“The first thing I thought of when I got the text was, ‘Oh, I’m going to tell the police,'” my friend recalled.
But it wasn’t until she got to the police station that she realised that this wasn’t something she could do.
“It was so traumatic for me,” my other friend said about what happened to her.
“Because my life was completely changed, my relationships with my family were completely different, and everything was so different.
I couldn’t go back and have my life normal again.
I could barely walk down the street.”
The police did find me, and my friend was charged with a rape, aggravated sexual assault and other charges.
After two years of court proceedings, I got a conviction and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
At the time, I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do with myself after that experience.
“But at the end of the day, it made me realize that my life is so precious that I can’t let it go,” my former friend said of her decision to go public.
“And that was really, really important to me, because it made it clear to me that I had nothing to be ashamed of, because I was a victim, I had a rapist, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
But I had lost the ability for fear and denial to act as a defense mechanism in the face of sexual violence.
I found myself in a position where I could no longer hold back my tears and my feelings of anger.
I lost the self-confidence that I once had, the selfless kindness and the strength of character that I used to have, the desire to fight against the world that had brought me to this point, and also the confidence that I could make myself heard.
The year that I was released from prison was also the