Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. It is also the month that I was raped by a stranger nine years ago while walking home.

I’m 29 now, and I’m happy about where I am and where I’m going. I’m creating art that I care about, I love my job and I’m surrounded by friends and family who make me laugh every day. I even published a graphic novel, which was a dream I’ve had since high school.

But for a significant amount of time after the rape, flashbacks and panic attacks kept my heart pounding day and night. My brain spun in painful circles to imagine ways I could have prevented the attack. When I wasn’t shaking with adrenaline and shame, I was in zombie mode, drained of all desire to draw, go to class or even get out of bed. Every day was miserable. When therapists and loved ones said I would be happy again one day, I didn’t see how that could be true.

This April, I offer a letter to my 20-year-old self and anyone who is suffering after a rape or assault. No matter your gender, age or how your pain and healing are manifesting, I hope these words bring comfort. If you read this letter and know someone who might need it — today or in the future — please pass it along.

I used to hide my dad’s addiction. Now I can talk about it, but I’m still learning how to cope.

Recently, I realized I needed to let go of the weight of this secret

I used to think I wasn’t like other girls. Here’s why that was all wrong.

A lot of us are conditioned to be unhappy with the idea of being a woman