by Aiden Nelson, 2022 Take Back the Night Intern
I take back the night because every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. I take back the night because one in six American women will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. I take back the night because eight out of ten rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I take back the night because I am a survivor and there are people I love who are survivors. I take back the night because, in the past, I have been silenced and shunned for telling my truth.
This year’s theme is “Power of Community.” I feel this power during Take Back the Night Collective meetings. I feel this power as I write about my experiences and have them read by others. I feel this power when I am honest and am not met with judgment and accusations, but rather, met with love and respect. I feel this power when people trust me with their stories.
I was in an abusive relationship with someone a few years older than me. When I finally cut things off after over a year, I was consumed with loneliness. They had isolated me from the people in my life. They told their friends a skewed version of what had happened, leaving out important details and painting me like the bad guy, and the lies spread around the community. My trauma was turned into gossip. I had very few people in my life I could turn to, and these few people in my life did not know what had been going on in the first place. I felt confused, afraid, and isolated. I was alone in my experiences, forced to handle the emotional fallout all by myself.
But then I started talking. First, to a therapist. I went back to therapy soon after the break-up, very aware of how necessary it was for me in that time. I knew I needed a safe space to talk about my experiences with a professional. The first I brought up the sexual abuse I had endured, I remember my therapy saying, point-blank: “I believe you.” And that meant everything. I started talking to old friends who did not know what was going on when it was. I started writing about my experiences; I’ve even had a few articles about abuse published online. I found solace in honesty and being heard and being believed.
Since leaving that abusive relationship, I have built a circle of incredible people in my life. I have made many new friends in my time of healing. Friends who know the truth and believe me, friends who bring joy to survival. Even with the amazing support system I now have, I am not fully healed, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. To quote a poetry professor I had: “you’ll be writing this poem for the rest of your life.”
At least, as I write this poem, I have people holding my hand, listening to my story, and taking back the night with me.