Everyone touched by Pandora’s Project has a story to tell. Our stories aren’t always pretty and they don’t always end well. They hurt to tell and they hurt to hear.
Yet we still tell them because we can see that beauty exists in both darkness and light.
We tell them because hearing them helps others, but mainly because telling them liberates ourselves. In silence, we forget the sound of our own voices. We lose sight of the future because we lost sight of the past. We don’t always remember that when we’re consumed by darkness, we only need to gaze upward to see the stars.
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.
We will no longer be silent.
My story begins from when I was a little girl. An innocent child at the hands of a cruel grandfather. About twice a year my family would fly out to where my grandparents lived. Thats how my young life started, being violently raped and abused over and over again. And thats how the sexual abuse continued throughout my entire childhood.
When I reached 9th grade, I was sent away to an all girls boarding school. I had been in and out of schools every year of high school and when I was in 11th grade (in yet again, a new school ) thats where I met perp #2. She was my teacher, and I confided in her, the secret that I had been holding in all those years. She responded with kindness and compassion. But soon after, she went on to take advantage of my vulnerability, and continued the horrid pattern that my life had claimed. She would crawl into my bed at night and exploit and shatter whatever human part of me my grandfather had left behind. She stole any innocence that had been forgotten, she tore me apart once again- leaving me more broken than I had ever been.
The next two years went by, filled with numbness and unbearable pain. Filled with emotions I had never known existed. Filled with an emptiness that was so hollow , I was a walking dead person. The endless amount of sleepless nights became a ritual in my twisted schedule. The daily confusion and absolute loss that consumed me is indescribable. This torturous hell was my life as I had come to know it.
“Pandora’s has opened my mind and touched my soul.”
Then I found Pandy’s. I found a place that not only accepted me for who I was, but supported me for what I went through. A place where not only was I understood, but I in turn learned to understand more and more about the devastating effects of sexual abuse. I learned that it was normal to have flashbacks, to have body memories- I learned a whole new language and turned to this new world where things finally made sense. I spent countless hours glued to my computer screen filled with excitement and relief. The amount of strength and courage shown by each and every member of this wonderful community, has taught me life lessons that I will take with me wherever I go. Pandora’s has opened my mind and touched my soul. It has given me the ability to reach out to others in my situation and the strength that I need to go on every day. It has given me a sense of stability that I don’t think I would have been able to find anywhere else. A place to go wherever and whenever I need. Pandora’s has been a huge tool that I’ve used to move forward with. It continues to give me hope – a new sense of hope each and every day.
I am still continuing on in my healing journey, with the help of my amazing therapist and of course with the help and support of my irreplaceable ‘online family’ Pandys. There arent enough words to express my gratitude and appreciation to the mods and administrators who obviously put forth an awe inspiring amount into this community, and to the survivors for their courage and bravery to survive this horror, and for being here and making pandy’s what it is. Thank you pandys for bringing me to the next level on my healing journey. Kacy
Who am I?
That was a question I asked myself repetitively at seventeen, clicking website after website in a haze. I felt something… nothing seemed ok or right; there were no words so I was just searching. On-line, the search I was doing was for songs. Songs that matched my feelings inside, things I didn’t yet have the words to explain or describe. I would listen to songs that matched my loneliness, desperation, anger, and lack of hope trying to understand myself through my own tears.
I wanted to become free… I wanted to become safe.
I came across Pandora’s Aquarium. At first, I don’t even know if anything really made sense in my brain, link after link, songs and people’s stories. The chat room, people’s experiences… I was so numb, scared, and felt really alone. I chose the name naritai – which literally means, “want to become” in Japanese. I wanted to become free, I wanted to become clean, I wanted to become safe, I wanted to become lovable.
The seventeen years I had had on this earth were violent and full of pain. I was raped at four years old, before I could even write my own name, by some adolescent teenage boy that was a babysitter. I told no one for fear of him coming back. Then less than two years later, my father began sexually abusing me. He stopped when I hit puberty, but the pain lasted much much longer. My house was an ongoing domestic violence situation, and fear gripped my life. Pandy’s was the first place I shared any of that.
Pandy’s helped me change the pain to a vibrant love of life. The people on the site literally helped me break my silence, held my hands, offered me spaces in their homes and hearts. I remember taking posts into therapy, shaking and reading what I had posted, slowly sharing a little bit.
Every time I posted, I expected rejection. Every time I posted I expected to be told how dirty I was. Every time I posted I felt unworthy, disgusting and alone. Every time I posted I expected to be told I was a liar.
And every single time, I was believed. I was told I was loved. I was told it was not my fault, that the blame laid elsewhere. I was told how strong I was, how funny I was, how courageous I was. I was told I was intelligent. I was told I had support. And most importantly, I found friends who understood me.
I started to grow and change. Birthdays passed, and I still remained a part of the site. My mood changed, I felt safer, stronger. I went to college, where I had trouble in my healing, but with support of the people at Pandy’s I made it through each and every day. Amazingly, over time I started to believe what people were saying. It slowly clicked that I never deserved the abuse I had received in my childhood. It slowly clicked that people loved me, because I was an ok person to be around. I wasn’t astonished when people remembered my name.
Pandy’s gave me so much. A dear member let me into her home and life, and there are a few others who I have met in person. Each and every one has been special, unique, sweet and lovable. I have talked to many on the phone, or through an instant messaging service, from life things to serious topics. I found shoulders to cry on, and people to celebrate with.
Pandy’s gave me the opportunity to share my secrets so I could unbury myself from my perpetrators lies, and discover the quick-witted, sunshine-beach loving adult that I am today. I discovered that I didn’t have to become anything at all – that underneath my pain I was already beautiful. Crystal / Moonstar / Naritai
When I was a young child I was sexually abused. I dealt with it by never telling anyone, and eventually forgetting it myself. After high school I was date raped, and again I dealt by keeping it a secret. Throughout high school and college, I strived to make sure people only saw perfection in me-I was an Honor student, sports captain, hung out with the “good” crowd. But hidden away where no one else could see, there was shame, fear, and guilt. I coped with these feelings by running away from home, abusing drugs and alcohol, sleeping too much or not at all, and engaging in self-injury.
I went through severe depression. I first began thinking about suicide as a young child, and later on I acted on these urges. Beginning in college, I was hospitalized several times. After the first hospitalization, I began receiving therapy. We worked on all of the negative coping mechanisms I used, but I was never able to open up about my past. When asked in therapy, I would outright lie and say I had never been abused. I just wasn’t able to face that part of me.
I graduated college and obtained my national certification for my profession. But my depression only continued deeper. I continued to be hospitalized and eventually was unable to work. After my last hospitalization, I started with a new therapist. While it was quite evident that I struggled with PTSD, I was still never able to open up about what happened to me. After a couple years, my therapist suggested that it might be helpful for me to look for online support.
I began to use my voice here and break my silence.
Out of frustration I did a search, and Pandora’s Aquarium came up. I gathered up the courage and checked out the site a few times, but it was very difficult for me to register. My shame and guilt were so strong, and I didn’t feel like I could ever be considered a “survivor”. It was terrifying to think about registering at a place that would identify me as one. Eventually I gathered up the courage to register. I remember shaking so much. It was the first step I took towards healing. While scary and overwhelming at first, it eventually became such a relief to be able to read other members’ posts and realize that I wasn’t alone. No matter what had happened to me, what struggles I had, or what feelings I experienced, there were people here who understood. Reading their posts and seeing their courage gave me the courage to begin posting myself. I received support and understanding, and was slowly able to realize that I didn’t deserve to carry the shame any longer. I began to use my voice here and break my silence after so many years.
All the support and understanding I received at Pandy’s continued to give me courage, and finally, after working with my therapist for years, I was able to tell her what happened to me and begin to work through my past.
I joined Pandy’s two years ago, and it continues to play an instrumental role in my healing journey. With the help of this site, along with my therapist, I have been able to work through much of the shame and fear and guilt. I’ve replaced negative coping mechanisms with healthy ones. I’ve returned to working full-time in a profession I love. I still have my struggles and continue to work on healing, but I’m not alone with them anymore. Pandy’s has given me a place where I can go and let my guard down. I can admit that I’m not ok. I can talk about my struggles, as well as share my victories.
Volunteering as part of the chat mod team has only added to my healing, allowing me to continue to use my voice to help others and give back to a community that has given me so much. I continue to work towards healing, but because of all the support I’ve received, I’ve learned that I’m more than just the pain and shame I held inside for so long. I’ve become a wife, mother, professional, friend, and finally, a survivor.
In a recommendation a teacher once wrote for me, she said “Elizabeth is unfailingly quick to laugh, and nothing keeps her down for long.” I liked that about myself. I tried to find the good in every person I met and every situation I encountered. About a year after that letter was written, I was raped and my world seemed to splinter. It was the first time in my life that I encountered something I couldn’t pull myself out of. I felt broken and alone, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to be that happy person again. That’s when I found Pandy’s.
I was raped by an acquaintance during the last week of my freshmen year. He was smart, funny, and well-liked by the rest of the campus, and I was so excited when he kissed me at a party. Though I agreed to go back to his room, I unambiguously told him that I didn’t want to have sex with him. I liked him, but I barely knew him and I wasn’t okay with one-night-stands. I told him that. Once we were in his room things were moving too fast for me and I felt like I was losing control of the situation. He asked if he should get a condom, and when I told him not to he didn’t bother to stop. Before I knew it he was inside of me. I lost my virginity that night.
I didn’t think I’d ever be able to be that happy person again. That’s when I found Pandy’s.
When I realized what was happening I felt more confused than anything else. I desperately wanted my “first time” to be a loving and positive experience, so I tried to tell myself that it had been what I wanted. I spent the night in his bed and tried to be happy about what had just happened, and a few days later I went home for the summer. I told my friends what a wonderful night it had been and I made myself believe it too.
It wasn’t until I got back to college three months later that I realized how much I was lying to myself. Soon I felt like I was rapidly losing control of my entire life. My grades started slipping, I cried all the time, and I didn’t even really know who I was anymore. I felt like I was barely hanging on; like I was surviving my life instead of living it. When I felt like I couldn’t keep myself together for much longer, I happened to find Pandora’s Aquarium. Even though I had never joined anything like an online community, I figured I had nothing to lose and sent in a registration email. I don’t think I can express how glad I am that I sent it. At Pandy’s I was instantly surrounded by a group of people who understood what I was going through and were always willing to take the time to talk to me. On the day I joined, ten people responded to the post I made to just introduce myself. In the forums I no longer felt like I had to maintain the cheerful face I showed the rest of the world; they didn’t get sick of me if I was struggling or sad. They have been there when I needed a hand to hold after a bad day and when I needed a friend to celebrate with after a positive step forward. No matter what I needed, they supported me through all the ups and downs of putting myself back together.
I have learned a lot from Pandy’s. The people here helped me understand that what happened to me was rape even though I was never abducted or beaten, and that it’s okay to hurt and feel lost. Reading advice and stories from other people also gave me the courage to see a therapist- something I had never done before. They also helped me start to do healthy things for my body, like getting tested for STDs. Even now, when I feel more confident and am no longer falling apart, I still come to Pandy’s for encouragement and support. Every day the people here inspire me with their strength, courage, and heart. The fact that I am also able to support others as they heal means a lot to me. I feel like something good has come out of what happened to me that night, because I am now able to use it to help others.
It’s been almost a year since I was raped, and I no longer feel like I’m barely hanging on. My grades are excellent and I’m planning on keeping them that way. I have friends and a family that love me. I’m also in the middle of a new relationship, and though it’s been challenging and I’m still working through some issues, I know he’s a wonderful person and he treats me the way I deserve to be treated. I think the biggest difference is that I no longer use that night as a frame of reference for my life. When I have bad days, some of them might be related to the rape, but I know now that not all of them are. When I have good days, they are not good “in spite of” what he did; they are good because I have a good life. My life is bigger than what happened to me that night. I finally feel like myself again. I laugh a lot and take risks and I’m not afraid anymore. I know now that I’m a survivor and I can handle whatever fate throws at me. I’ve still got a lot of healing to do, but I’ve also got a wonderful life in front of me. The people at Pandy’s helped me see that when I didn’t believe it was possible, and I don’t think I can thank them enough for that.
Watch this space to meet more courageous survivors!
If YOU would like to share your story of survival after rape or sexual abuse, join the Pandora’s Aquarium online support community today.
In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.Albert Camus