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How 'Me Too' Helped Me Face My Fear of Speaking Out About My Abuse

At the age of 18 I found myself faced with only two options: Escape to live, or stay and die.

I chose to escape even though I knew  escaping the abusive household I was in was dangerous. Everyone talks about how big and scary the world is, but that big and scary world seemed so tame compared to the dark world that existed within my home.

I ran away from home at the age of 18, with only $100 and a trash bag full of clothes. I moved halfway across the country with the help of two friends in another state.

Sometimes people hear the word “freedom” and it doesn’t mean a lot to them. Freedom is something they’ve always known. That wasn’t my life. Freedom was something that had been stolen away from me, and it pushed me into a dark world of control, power, abuse, hopelessness and despair. When I hear the word “freedom,” I remember what it was like when I wasn’t free, but I also remember my first taste of freedom. In the backseat of a rental car I rolled down the window, closed my eyes, felt the cool air on my face and smiled for the first time in years. I was finally free.

What some people don’t know about abuse, sexual abuse and rape is that even when it’s no longer happening it doesn’t mean it’s over for you. In fact, my freedom was just the beginning to years more of suffering, just in a different way.

PTSD, flashbacks, paranoia, anxiety and fear followed me across five states, and while I was so happy and thankful to be free, I was unprepared for the aftermath of the abuse I had suffered for years.

After years of not speaking out, I found a therapist to work with, and together we worked through the fear, the pain, the heartbreak, the hopelessness, the guilt and the self-blame. She helped me see I was not what happened to me, I was not defined by that pain.

I was not “Mila, the girl who was abused.”

I was “Mila, the woman who escaped a very dark place and survived.”

While therapy helped me find my voice and helped me identify who I was outside of the abuse I had endured, I was still afraid to speak out publicly. I was OK say  I was a survivor, but I wasn’t OK telling others what had happened to me. I lived in fear of those who had hurt me for so many years, still.

When the “Me Too” movement began to be covered daily and women who had stayed silent and were silenced for so many years began speaking out and telling their stories, I was inspired — not only by their stories of strength and survival but by using their voices to name their abusers and stand strong.

Not only had this movement taken over the news but it had taken over the newsfeed of my social media accounts, and day by day my friends were speaking out, telling their stories, standing against abuse and facing their fears.

I began to feel my voice growing stronger and louder, and I found myself not just “having” to tell my story but wanting to tell it. I wanted to speak out and inspire others the way all of those who were speaking out had inspired me.

I wanted to give hope to those who have faced the horrible thing that is abuse and  show them that while the journey is long, painful and scary, it also so very worth it.

The “Me Too” movement showed me there is not only unity in our voices but there is strength and empowerment in numbers, and no matter how alone you might feel, you’re not.

I am not alone in my fight and that gives me strength to say:

I’m Mila, a survivor who will no longer be silent, I will not back down, I will not be afraid.

We are stronger together, and man, are we powerful beyond measure.

You are not alone. #MeToo

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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