I first “met” Aubrey at an SLC event, Fight Like Girls, a few months ago. (It is a female empowerment organization….I mean, how could we not be future friends??? Anyway, that is beside the point.) A week later, I ran into her on Sunday at our Church building. I asked her if she was at that event because I had recognized her. She was. We talked briefly. After starting this project, however, Aubrey continually popped into my mind every day for weeks. I didn’t know why, but I knew she was genuine and real by my brief interactions with her…I took a leap of faith and reached out to her…WOW. My world is better because I know Aubrey. She is brave, vibrant, loving, and intelligent. Not to mention, spending time with her family (take a peak below) was… stunningly perfect. What a dream team. Here is her story…
*PREFACE-important so read it! ;)*
All growing up I was a typical little girl. I was shy (until you knew me) then I was so happy and full of life. I wanted to be Celine Dion or Sarah Evans when I grew up, and you could often times find me in my own self made music video. *no cameras necessary ;)* I was very thoughtful and observant but SO naive. One of my most defining characteristics was my compassion. I felt empathy for others so much that *get this* I remember crying when I saw obese people because I imagined how much their feet must hurt carrying all that weight! (Yeah, I know…dramatic) but that was who I was. A people pleaser, who loved everyone that was nice, and was too afraid of the mean kids to even get close to them!
Growing up in the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) religion, those who desire to do so are given the opportunity to receive blessings from Heavenly Father through what they believe to be one of his conduits. In my case it was someone we call the “Patriarch”. This blessing is where I’ll begin my story.
Patriarch: “You will be tried in the edge of the furnace of affliction…”
I “will” be?
As in… In the future?
If the patriarch and God knew what I was going through, surely they wouldn’t have given such a short and depressing blessing for me. In fact, most of my friends that had gotten their blessings shared parts that sounded so eloquent, poetic and beautiful. I was 15 and had high expectations that, in my mind…were definitely NOT met.
*ahh, the reasoning of a 15 year old me*
My journey out of darkness and into the light began truly at a time to remember. It was the night before my first day of high school. As usual I wore my dads XL t-shirt to bed, my bedroom door wide open as I fell asleep on my stomach. I thought of many scenarios for what the morning would bring, but I had no scenario in mind for what would become the hardest night of my life.
I remember waking up slowly…and then all at once. Someone had snuck into my room and was gently and carefully getting on top of me. I was faced down, too afraid to open my eyes or move. The strongest, thickest (literal and metaphorical) darkness I had ever felt in my life was now surrounding me. A million thoughts collided in my mind, and I froze. I’ve learned since that this phenomenon of girls freezing is not one I alone shared. He wasn’t being mean or rough, which was very confusing to me at the time, but he was doing something wrong. I had seen this person before so I was stunned that he was here and doing this. Another factor in my immobility was that I simply was too terrified because if he was capable of doing this, would he go crazy and do worse? I knew my siblings were all still asleep upstairs. I have 4 sisters and I wanted to protect them. So I made an almost purely reflexive choice to not struggle or even move because maybe he just wanted to finish the job and leave. The current fear was so paralyzing and the imagined outcome if I “did” struggle had too many horrible possible consequences. I couldn’t summon up the courage right away.
The following minutes felt like hours. While I was being assaulted, the shock, confusion, hurt and fear began to transform into feelings of: survival, bravery and honestly…anger. “What is he doing to me?” Became “please stop, please don’t” to “why is he doing this?” Which turned to “He shouldn’t do this! This is wrong!” And finally “I have got to get out of here!” My mind had caught up enough and I was finally ready to make a move.
*side note: I have since learned and want to advocate this: It is in NO way a girls FAULT if they respond the way I did while being attacked. Many people have various degrees of responses to trauma. I am not alone in mine, and if you can relate, then you are not alone either.*
I knew he thought I was still sleeping. Even in the intensity that were those horrible minutes I had the thought: “How on earth does he think I’m still sleeping through all of this?!” (It is amazing what things come in our mind, even in the most extreme moments.) I had just enough gumption to shift my weight a little, as if I were waking up slowly from a dream. To my surprise this startled him! So much so that he quickly got off of me and ran out of the room.
“It worked!” My eyes now wide open, adrenaline coursing through every part of me. Seconds later, as I was trying to figure out what to do next… I saw his silhouette come through the doorway. “I had a bad dream” He lied. “Can I sleep on the floor next to you?” Wide eyed and terrified I didn’t say a word. Why would I let him sleep in my room? He had never slept in my room on the floor before? Still…frozen with fear I said nothing. And although I did not give permission, he took my silence as affirmation and laid down. I knew he wasn’t sleeping…he was watching me to make sure I didn’t leave. Maybe he was going to try and “finish the job” once he thought I fell back asleep? The thought made me feel sick, and then again…angry.
It was at that moment I felt a STRONG voice in my mind say: “Get out NOW Aubrey!” Something in me knew to follow that voice. It wasn’t my own thought because my thoughts were working at an extremely ineffective rate. I summoned all the courage I had again, peeked out of the corner of my eye to see where my attacker was located on the ground, counted to 3 and then LEAPED out of bed! I purposefully landed right on his stomach (hoping it would incapacitate him enough to where I would have a head start) It worked! I heard the breath get knocked out of him and I knew the only direction I could go was forward as fast as I possibly could. I FLEW down the stairs, not thinking and not looking back.
By the time I reached my parents room every pent up and frozen emotion thawed instantly. This part of the story is more fuzzy than the rest because I was honestly a basket case. I can’t remember all the details of each minute like the minutes before hand… But the things I do remember I’ll never forget. I remember the look on my parents face as I blurted out the details of my attacker and what he had done to me. I remember how my dad only needed to hear it one time before he ran out of the room hellbent on hunting my attacker down. I remember my mother in shock at what I had said, gently taking me into her bathroom (not knowing what to say to me) but instinctually nurturing me the best she knew how by helping me wash off and then hold me as I cried.
Walking the halls on my first day of high school was not what I had been giddy and nervous for just 12 hours prior. I felt a literal darkness surrounding me. I didn’t want anyone to notice me, look at me, talk to me…
The next 6 months were rough. My parents were so overwhelmed (I’m the oldest girl of 7 kids) When the opportunity came for me to live with a church leader who wanted to help out my parents… they took the help quickly. Only a handful of people in the church knew. I hated that anyone had to know. I think many people felt inadequate in how they should handle the situation. But at the time, it felt like they didn’t know how to handle “me”. My parents didn’t talk to me really. I think they didn’t know what to say. I certainly did not. I may have only been .25 miles away from them, but my family felt thousands of miles away.
Emotionally to survive, I put on a mask of resiliency and recovery, when in reality I was hurting, lonely and very closed off to everyone. My “mask it” method did not protect me like I thought it would though. More darkness came, and again, in the most unexpected way.
Less than a year after my first attack, I got a call from my new best friend. She was sobbing. “What’s wrong?” I asked, feeling panic. “It’s my dad Aubrey…” While she explained her purpose for calling my heart sank into my stomach. “Are you sure?” I asked feeling completely blindsided. She sobbed again: “yes, and you were not the only one he confessed to. He has run away, and we think he has fled to Cuba.”
In just a simple phone call I found out that just months after my first attack I had been date raped at my best friend house. How could this be? (I do remember feeling so tired after dinner and going to sleep early) This stuff doesn’t really happen? Again…nothing made sense. Honestly it really didn’t for a long time.
For time sakes I’ll just say for years I was lost. My “open door” naiveté became a “double bolted” closed door type of reality. Things that were never supposed to happen did. For example: I came to find out in the first attackers confession that he had sexually assaulted me in different ways many times, and I had just not woken up until the final attack.
I believe that was a miracle. I want it to be very clear that I believe in miracles.
In conclusion, I want to focus on one more line from my blessing which I received just months after that terrible phone call.
“At times things will look dark, but as you strive, you will look back at those times of darkness as actual blessings…”
Let me focus in on that word “strive”. The thesaurus says, to strive is also to: “take on, tackle, work, struggle, endeavor, do ones utmost…fight.”
Even at my weakest, my spirit “did” fight…and still does. My past has affected my marriage in ways neither I, or my angel of a husband expected. I still have triggers. I’ve learned so much about them and have gained so much more compassion for a wide variety of triggers other face as well. Brandon and I have truly fought this darkness that tries to enslave separately and TOGETHER. When we choose open mindedness and compassion, we always come out on top. Usually, even closer than before. It sufficeth me to say: I like him a whole, whole, WHOLE lot. 😉
So get help.
Nothing helped me more than the atonement of Jesus Christ did. That sounds vague and hard to interpret for those who don’t know much about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. I believe he took upon himself the sins and pains of all mankind; living, dead or not yet born. He did this so he could truly comfort and understand us. I felt like when no one else did understand, He did. Other more practical methods helped tremendously as well. I got counseling. (I hated it at first to be honest… I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t know this person) but overtime it started to change me. I still go to counseling. It is a way I can learn more about my inner processes; the beliefs I’m holding on to, whether they benefit my life or not, etc. Besides those two things I would encourage anyone struggling in darkness to also do these things:
1) Make truly good friends. 2) Be in good places. 3) Let others love you.
Through the atonement, time and healing, I came to a place where I was able to confront my first attacker and let him know that I truly had forgiven him. People doubt the authenticity of this portion of my story. I want it to be very clear that “I” forgave him because I didn’t do it alone. I was lifted up by the power of a loving Savior who enabled me to move forward in my journey of healing. That key experience did not take the darkness away completely, but it did free me from the emotional chains my attacker still had on me.
Darkness is something I think we all struggle with in some way to some degree. Whether it is our “fault” or not. At that time in my life, it was every bit my own doing that invited it in.
Here is the GREAT contrast though! I have truly also been in the LIGHT! I have learned there is NOTHING greater we could fight for than these two things:
1. Light 2. Love
Perfect love casteth out all fear just as a bright light casteth out darkness.
In some way or another everyday is a fight.
But I am here to tell you that I promise it is WORTH IT!
FIGHT for your happiness,
FIGHT for your life,
FIGHT for light and FIGHT for love.
I’m in it with you! Consistently striving for those things has brought me to a place where I can feel true joy and use my story to help others in their fight (whatever it may be)…
You’re not alone. Because of your Heavenly Father and savior Jesus Christ you NEVER will be.
Love love and more love,
P.s. Did I score in the husband and kids department or what! *but that is for another long entry for another day* 😉