To sexual assault survivors, this is what I want you to know

To: Sexual assault survivors

From: Lauren Brill

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Originally posted in April 2017

Dear Sexual Violence Survivors:

After years of being too scared to write to all of you, now I am hoping the world will share this letter so it can actually find each and every one of you. The decision to reveal my truth this week on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s site for her new book, “Option B,”  was not an easy one.

I feared my career would be negatively impacted or that people would judge me unfairly. Even more distressing, I worried I’d torment my parents, as I would no longer be able to shield them from the horror I endured. However, the people I have interviewed throughout my career as a sports reporter gave–and continue to give–me courage, as they’ve made me understand the value of raw honesty.

Unfortunately, just like you, I’ve experienced sexual violence. However, today I am officially done being a victim and I am trying to be more than just a survivor. I want to be a fighter and share with you the wisdom I’ve gained and the support you’ve needed.

Lauren Brill in high school

At 16 years old, I couldn’t even process the reality that I was drugged and sexually abused by two boys I did not know. For nine years, I did not tell anyone. It was easier to blame myself for accepting one drink than it was to fault them for drugging and attacking me.

It wasn’t only the sexual component of the assault that was so traumatizing but also that for a moment in time my own body didn’t belong to me. I was strong and athletic, yet in the most desperate moment of my life, my muscles betrayed me.

I could barely move or speak, as I felt completely powerless. I tried my best to say the words, “No!” and, “Stop!,” but my voice was much louder inside my own head where I prayed and pleaded, “Please, God, don’t let this be how I lose my virginity.” Thankfully, I fell off the bed as one of my attackers attempted, but I believe failed, to advance from violating me with his hands and fingers to his genitals. When I hit the floor, both boys ran out of the room in a panic.

Lauren at 113 pounds, which is nearly 30 pounds below her normal/healthy weight.

Despite starting off at a healthy weight, I lost 30 pounds in one year, becoming too weak to play soccer, the sport I loved, at the collegiate level. Often I found myself on edge, always worrying about who lurked around the corner. At times, I felt alone in my own anxiety but I eventually realized I had plenty of company.

Sadly, sexual assault has become practically a dismal rite of passage for women in our society, but according to  Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) per the Department of Justice two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported.

I want you to know I am what another survivor looks like. I am what another survivor sounds like.

I want you to know I am what another survivor looks like. I am what another survivor sounds like.

I was an honor student and a star athlete with two highly involved parents and great friends. But when those boys violated me, my background and my resume were completely irrelevant. My attack was not my fault and you are not to blame for your assault either, as no one is immune to sexual violence or responsible for someone else’s predatory behavior.

Lauren shared a letter to sexual assault survivors, which partly inspired The Unsealed.

Today, more than a decade after that fateful night, there is little chance that I will ever find out who hurt me. That is a very tough reality for me to accept, but I’ve had to move on. I was lucky enough to discover my passion for storytelling, which subconsciously catalyzed my recovery. The stories I have told about others, coupled with writing about my own journey, have given me hope, happiness and healing.

Now, I feel confident and encouraged, which has bestowed upon me an unshakeable sense of responsibility to be a leader for those of you still trapped inside your own silence. I want you to know, you, too, can survive. You can be happy. You can realize all of your dreams. Find a passion that is so strong it forces you to overcome everything that you fear and any trauma symptoms that affect you. When you’re ready, express your truth through a means that suits you, whether it be writing, music, art, conventional therapy or any other method that makes sense to you.

I have told so many stories about athletes who have faced incredible challenges and have gone on to achieve unimaginable successes. Through them, I’ve learned that truth can have many different effects on both the people receiving it and those revealing it. Truth can be freedom. Truth can be change. Truth can be inspiration.

My wish is that sharing my past impacts you in a way that helps heal your spirit, brings some peace to your life and emboldens you to reveal your own experiences. If so, my honesty will serve a purpose that far outweighs my fears, as together our truths will become our power.

With love and hope,

Lauren Brill
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9 thoughts on “To sexual assault survivors, this is what I want you to know

  1. This is my second time reading this and it still kicks as hard as the first time. I want to apologize to you Lauren on behalf of my gender (male) as sadly too many of us were not taught how to respect women as equals but rather as objects to do with as we please. As a teen my father’s “wisdom” was that a woman was someone you “fxxked” when you wanted to.

    We were taught “You may be saying no but your body is saying yes” and other assorted lies. We would hold contests to see who could “score” the most or how many of us got to “round the bases”. We didn’t know that we were hurting others nor did many of us care.

    If we hung out like a pack, somehow it was alright to demean, put down or trash a woman just walking down the street. And sadly most of us didn’t learn how wrong our behavior was until it happened to the women in our lives or the children we had. And no “better late than never” an acceptable response.

    Lauren I know you never like to think of yourself as a hero for speaking up and out but you are. You are a hero, a teacher, an advisor, and a warrior for what you do here. Thank you

    1. This is such an amazing story. Your triumph to survive becoming a survivor. My heart goes out to you. I am an advocate for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. I worked for a center as a Direct of Residential Services providing shelter for woman and children. Your story will continue to spread awareness.

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