No one tells you how to survive. As women, they just expect you to know. “Be safe, Don’t walk by yourself, Carry mace!” They remind you not to wear anything too short as it can be a beacon for trouble. As if you’re advertising. I was never a billboard.

I sank myself down into a watered-down version that men could tolerate. I took joy in the phrase, “You’re not like other girls.” I thought putting other women down to lift myself was self-preservation. I still can’t wear felt shorts. It’s seven years and I still remember what I wore that night. I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

My therapist tells me to change the scene by taking the color out. “Make it black and white. Then maybe it won’t be so intense.’ Ya know because while you got to walk away and live your life, I had to be constantly reminded every day of what you did. My soul was shot at that young age. I went through a mourning of the girl I used to know. The sweet, docile one that always agreed and was too polite to stand up for herself. But then I was like Scarlett O’Hara when she declares, “I will never be hungry again!”

I will never starve myself for attention. I won’t crave the male gaze. Instead, my feminism shot out and rang like a shotgun shell. I finally saw men for what they were. Dangerous. Evil. So I built my suit of armor from the inside. I hardened myself so no one, no man could get in. I became a beacon of toughness.

I was destined to prove that a woman could be hardened. Now and forever I became the hero I needed. When you have no one you learn to stand alone. Solitude is lonely at first. After trauma it’s deafening. Your own thoughts are a maze that you’re dying to get out of. You do anything to fill the void, even if that means destroying yourself in the process.

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