She always says, "I am not what happened to me."

Written by Maxwell Udell

My wife calls me crying, trembling with fear. She’s upset that her male doctor asked to do a pelvic exam on her, that a little boy looks similar to her assaulter, that she’s having a flashback in the middle of something important.  I struggle to find the words to calm her down and keep her in the moment, to take her pain away, to let her know that it’s okay now. I just can’t seem to find the words, they evade me and her. She seems distant, terrified of that memory. I try pulling her back into the moment, I wish I could make it all go away.

I am not perfect, I make many mistakes, so it's wrong for me to judge, but I am furious with this man. He gave my wife feelings that she can’t help but feel, a memory she won’t forget, a sickness that’s taken away what could have been beautiful moments in her life. He didn't ask and he wasn't sure of what he was doing before he did it. I never really know if what I’m saying or doing is helping and this is overwhelmingly frustrating. I’m furious that he took advantage of her. He was wrong. She never consented and now she has to live with what he did to her on a daily basis. By no choice of her own, my wife is traumatized and he is to blame. Shame on you.

Bless her, she's been through so much – the hospital visit after the assault, being questioned; reliving the memory over and over, dodging questions from a private investigator hired by her assaulter who was trying to get her to say something to get him off the hook, going through counseling and standing a trial where she was told she was never raped. She's been facing it since the day it happened.

She carries on through life, graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when the assault happened her junior year, with a degree to teach children - kindergarten through 3rd grade. She attracts friends and people into her life who fall in love with her, friends and family who are more than glad to be a part of her life. Her smile radiates, all who see it see a strong, confident woman. Her light does not go unnoticed, it shines. When she talks, people listen. When she laughs or shows happiness, it's contagious. She sets the example for all sexual assault victims that their life goes on.

Living with the memory is something she may be forced to do, but not living is what she refuses. She always says, “I am not what happened to me.” I couldn’t agree more. She's so much more in so many ways.