The driving force behind Voices of Hope is to tell the story of my sexual assault through the words of my family and friends. My assault is an experience that goes beyond me, especially because a piece of them was also destroyed when my innocence was taken away.
The first official Voices of Hope excerpt that I will share is from my Husband, JR Irwin.
“When Kristine and I first start dating it was 2011. I remember the first year that we were together when the anniversary of her rape approached. On that day, she was different…not sad, just distant. It was obvious that something was heavily weighing on her. However, since then, her emotional state on that date has become completely different. In 2011, she still felt bad and struggled with blaming herself. Now, in 2015, when that day arrives, it’s no longer spent in a haze of regret and distance. It has now become a day of encouragement and determination! Her sorrows have turned to motivation. If she can have this traumatic event happen and do the amazing things she has, then she can show others that experience sexual violence how it can be turned into something to help save themselves and others. My admiration of her strength and willingness to help others grows daily.”
It is very interesting for me to reflect upon JR’s thoughts, because a lot of emotions tend to stir up for me around this time. During the fall of 2010, I was not in a relationship and posted the following to Facebook:
“What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment…yet as much as I want to be an advocate for that (because truly I am)…How can I when this is the first time I truly am alone on the anniversary of a particular event in my past that altered my existence.”
Up until 2010, I had always been in relationships during the fall. 2010 was a challenging time to not officially be in one. I knew that I had a great support system with friends and family, but I was still in the mind set that I needed to be in a relationship, when what I really needed was to learn to love myself. It was not until the beginning of 2011 that I truly learned to do that.
During the summer of 2011, JR, my husband, and I began dating. He was the first man who officially accepted me for who I was at the time and who I was in the past. I remember waking up on 10/10/2011 and the anniversary had become more of an after thought rather than something that was immediately in front of my mind as it had been in previous years.
I feel I can thank JR helping those feelings finally shift in me. Entering this particular relationship was very therapeutic because it opened my eyes to a world that I have never been in before. I was finally able to be open about what had happened to me and not feel ashamed. As time went on in our relationship, my confidence grew stronger because I knew that I had this amazing person standing behind me.
A few weeks ago, I went to a Sexual Assault Counselor training at PAAR (Pittsburgh’s Action Against Rape). During the training, the organizers shared stories of those who have experienced sexual violence. Both watching and hearing these stories caused tears to well up in my eyes. It was painful to hear about the experiences of others and I was mourning for them. One in particular which stood out involved a little boy, whom after his therapy shared that the wanted to put all the perpetrators in the world on an island so that they couldn’t hurt any one anymore. For that young boy to make such a powerful statement was incredibly eye opening to me.
I know now the fight to end sexual violence will be a long and hard battle, but I hope anyone that has either experienced a sexual violence, knows someone who has experienced it, or just wants to be educated on how to prevent it, takes the time to make a difference and help change our culture!