The Sun Is Shining The Sun Is Shining

I grew up the third of four daughters in a Christian family. When I was one week away from my 18th birthday, I was date-raped. This was my first sexual experience and I was devastated. I was overcome by guilt because I had gone out with this boy. I couldn't tell anyone what happened because he and I were both part of our active youth group at church.

I ran away to another state, met my husband and was married at 19. We divorced when I was 23. By now, I felt like I was no good, undesirable and unworthy of a good man's love.

I met and married my second husband at 24. He made me feel beautiful, competent, and desirable. He was also addicted to prescription medication and, eventually, to alcohol. The beatings started before I even had my first child with him, but I felt that if I just tried harder in every area that he would be happy and the beatings would stop. After each beating, my husband would apologize profusely and swear that it would never happen again. Of course, as is typical, it not only happened again, but on an escalated scale. He would involve ministers, women's counselors, child protective agencies. This man, who was an ex-policeman, took me out to the country, tied me up and shot at my legs. He would imprison me in my room for days, only coming in to badger me about some imagined slight. With a gun to my head, he sold me to a strange man so that he could watch us having sex.

I have been beaten, raped, sold, slapped, shot at and humiliated. When I escaped from the monster with my children, I went to a women's shelter. He proceeded to call Child Protection and tell them that I abused my kids and wanted to kill them. My divorce went through the same week I turned 30 years old. Although I had retained physical custody of my children, the State didn't return legal custody for two years.

I have not remarried. I know that I allowed some of this behavior because of the guilt over the date-rape. It took years to rebuild my self-confidence, but I don't think I will ever be able to trust a man completely enough to risk marriage again. I have survived, but not without damage.

In the 25 years since my divorce, I raised my children on my own (they are now 30 and 28) by working two jobs. When they left the "nest" I went back to school and obtained my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Theology. I am the very best Grandma ever to my 5 grandchildren. I love my job providing accommodations for disabled students at a local University. I have a few close friends, many acquaintances and no enemies that I know of.

I am continuing to grow and take care of myself. I recently bought a house. I am saving now for the furniture I want to fill it with! I am only 10-15 years away from retirement, and I'm looking forward to living my dream in a small beach cottage on the eastern shore of North Carolina. The sun is shining for me again.

Artist's Note: Low self-esteem is a common denominator for domestic violence survivors. Culture plays a big role along with parenting in how teenagers see themselves, especially when it comes to sexuality. In the case of this survivor, the guilt she carried victimized her repeatedly. Date rape could be looked at as a connection to domestic violence in that the person knows and trusts the person before the rape, just like one knows and trust his or her partner before the abuse. In the end it comes down to the same thing, violating one's human rights.