It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since the attack. Many of my close friends who I spoke with in the early morning hours the night of the attack recalled with me recently, the feelings of terror, shock and relief that we all felt.
It would have been easy to cope with the attack by considering myself lucky and trying to put it behind me. However, two other women weren’t as lucky as I was, and were raped by my attacker when he grabbed them as they walked on the sidewalk in Johnson City, TN. I can’t shake the memory of the look on my dad’s face as we listened to the investigator explain how the violence and confidence that my attacker showed that night indicated that I narrowly escaped rape and murder. I watched my dad listen to what is every father’s worst fear for their daughter. I am completely aware of how fortunate I am and this awareness is what has led to Rising Strength.
At the time of my attack I was coaching an under 14 girls soccer team. After the attack I had a hard time being around the girls and not imagining them in my situation one day. Knowing that these ambitious young girls will, much like me, play soccer in college, pursue graduate degrees and live alone one day haunted me. The thought of any of my players enduring what I had been through and not being as lucky as I was to get away from my attacker, was crushing. This thought was driven home even more so when several months after the attack I was speaking to a class about my experience at East Tennessee State University. A nurse from the local hospital, who did the rape kits on the two women my attacker raped, explained to me and the girls in the classroom that my attacker was HIV positive. I sat at the panel stunned and tried my best to not break down in front of the young women I had just spoken to. Again, my young players came to mind and it was heartbreaking. I knew in that moment that Rising Strength had a greater purpose.
In the short nine months that Rising Strength has existed there has been self-defense classes started, talks with teams and classrooms, fundraising events and a Rising Strength team that took on the Blue Ridge Relay all for the purpose of keeping women safe and bringing awareness to the violence that occurs against women. Thank you to all of the people who have and continue to support the goals of Rising Strength. Words cannot express how grateful I am to so many individuals who have helped me throughout this year. So much more needs to be done on many levels to end gender violence. As Rising Strength continues to grow and add members to what has turned into an amazing team effort, I am excited to see what this next year brings. I never would have believed a year ago all the amazing things that would come from something so terrible. Thank you to everyone who has made it the most rewarding and remarkable year of my life.