I was never good with numbers. Math was never a strong suit of mine and only brought me anxiety and stress. After the incident, I wanted to share my story, so I wrote a blog post about it. I treated it like an essay. They are simple as long as you don’t procrastinate. Which I do. Overall, an essay is straightforward if you know what you’re doing. Research isn’t difficult. With Google, you can find all the information. So before I typed out my story of July 9th, I went to my search bar. One of the first links that came up is for Rainn.org. In it I found numbers, numbers that I wished not to be a part of. Did you know that every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted? What about this one? “Females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.” I was never one for labels either. The only one I truly ever need is my name, Isabella “Bella” Peyton Belden. I’ve actually found a whole lot of love for my middle name recently. Maybe that’s because it’s marvellous, or because firstname.lastname@example.org was taken, or possibly because I want to drop the label I’ve gained. Survivor. It’s such a disgusting word to have stuck to you, like gum under your shoe, but only you can remove gum. For some reason, I can’t lose this label. Maybe it’s because I don’t see my incident as something I survived. More like an ugly moment I wish to deal with and shed as quickly as possible. I’m Isabella “Bella” Peyton Belden, and at the age of 16 I became a survivor of an attempted sexual assault, and I want to share what happens after. After you become the survivor and a number.
THE NEXT MORNING
The morning after was terrifying. I woke up feeling numb. Seeking sleep the night before was simple after my adrenaline crashed, but staying asleep was difficult. Then I woke up and the day before felt like a horrible dream. Regret set in, fear that I had lied, that my neighbour never came over and I made up this story to the police and what I saw and what he did, that it never happened. Like Monday never happened. But it was Tuesday, July 10th, the earth still moved and time didn’t reverse, nor was it just a nightmare.
The way I dealt with it was to reinforce the thought of it wasn’t my fault. Because in the end, the whole feeling like a dream, for me at least, was victim blaming. It was me telling myself that I had called the police for no reason. That it was my fault that the police are trying to track this man down. It took a good couple of months for the victim blaming to stop. It’s a process, a journey. But through it, I knew that it would end.
This is something I never got, and only a handful of victims will receive. I never saw the man arrested, he is still out there enjoying life. This can be difficult to think about. For me it difficult because we ran him out of the neighbourhood, but now he is somewhere else. Maybe living next door to a teen girl who stays home alone at times. And perhaps he will attempt to groom her as he did me. And she may be in a more vulnerable state than I was or doesn’t have two dogs who will help force him from her house as mine did. Maybe he will go farther with her than he did me. But I don’t know. Just like I will never know what his true intentions were. Just what they appeared to be. I don’t know if he was just going to toy with me or if he was wanting to go all the way. And when we get to this point in our thoughts or at least mine, more question arise. Questions that I will never know the answer to. Some I don’t want to know the answer to because I realize it will do nothing, yet my brain still questions them.
KEEPING SOMETHING TO YOURSELF
There is a piece of information only I and a select few know. That I don’t want to share. I have chosen three people to share it with. First, a friend. Second, a therapist that I went to twice. Third, the therapist I’m with now. And at times I regret not telling this piece of information. But, I don’t want my parents to know. I don’t want the public to know. Even as I write this, my stomach turns into knots, and I feel sick.
There may be a memory of action or word that you wish to keep locked away, and that is okay. But just like the rest of the incident, you still have to deal with the memory you kept to yourself.
I choose to call what’s happened after the incident “my journey”, a journey to become a stronger, better person. It’s not only a journey of its own, but I also believe its a step in my journey of self-love. I’ve learned a lot after the incident. I learned how I dealt with the situation of being in harm’s way. I’ve learned about my panic attacks and how to deal with them. I’ve learned that I am strong and I can get through anything that life throws at me. If I can get through this part of my life, I can get through anything.
Over the past months, there have been steps I’ve had to take to get me through this journey. Some were simple, some more painful. A few were clear, others not so much. Several steps I took I didn’t even realize I was taking.
I want to thank Elina for allowing me a bigger platform to share my after on. My journey after the incident has been long and hard, and I have no guidance but what feels right. When I saw that Elina was looking for stories for #TEENTALK my stomach dropped. I instantly thought about my story. I was sick with emotion and having to make this decision of reaching out. Fear of rejection and fear of her not believing my story. But at the same time, as I listened to her Instagram story, I knew that this too was a step. A step that I needed to take. So thank you, Elina, for helping me with this step of my journey.
For those who are going through something similar: You will survive this. It will get better. If you ever need someone to talk to you can find me on Instagram @isabellapeytonbelden. And if you want to read the rest of my story, you can find it on my blog shespocketsize.wordpress.com.