You may seem happy on the surface to those around you, and for short periods of time you may even believe the lie yourself, but it is not real. Your life has become a play to an audience who will never know you are acting. We walk among the normal people, pretending to conform, when inside we are all dying. Day by day the fear consumes us until we not only despise those who did this to us, but ourselves most of all for being disgusting enough to allow this to happen. There is no safe place now for you. Walking alone on the street you will wonder if the nice looking man in the business suit is going to push you to the alley on your left and violate you as you search for someone, anyone, to scream for help and hopefully they will help instead of join him, but eventually you give in to him because there never was any hope at all, and you watch the bug on the fence behind him as it does a silly little dance to get the dirt off of its back. And the man in the suit passes, no harm is done. From this moment on, anyone you tell will always make you feel worse, and so, like myself, you wait years before telling anyone at all. There are many reactions to your story, but the most common are disgust, and even if they say that they understand, you can see in their eyes that they think you should have kept it to yourself, and pity. Pity is worse than disgust. They look at you and you see that they suddenly see you as a lost little kitten trying to find her way back to her bowl of milk. They see you as a commercial for malnourished children, whom they give sympathy and then finish the day not giving you a second thought, although they've left you thinking about them all day. Every day will be a struggle, and every day you will want to give up. You cannot give up. Hate yourself though you may, you cannot give up. You will not be hurting the ones you hate, but instead will be killing the ones you love. Each day you have is a choice, and if you choose wrong, tomorrow is another choice. You can choose to land in prison, or on the streets, or in a parking lot. You can choose to make your life goal to be normal again. Never pretend that it hasn't happened, but instead learn from it and grow. You know things that other women and men take their whole lives to learn. You know that each moment is precious and can be darkened easily. You know what real hardship is so you will never complain about the petty annoyances of life. I challenge each and every one of you to learn from your past, to go forward, and to make a life that not only can you be proud of, but one that will make the person who instilled the fear in you seem like trash in comparison. You are a phoenix risen from the ashes. You are a tree grown from hard earth. You are a beautiful flower born of thorns.
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