Editor’s Note: The following patient story contains information about sexual violence and rape. If you are in need of rape crisis counseling please visit Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Growing up in the South Shore neighborhood in the early 1990’s, I was an outgoing kid. Because I understood how it felt to be an outsider, I always tried to make everyone feel included and was always up for hanging out with anyone. As a high school student at South Shore Community Academy (now South Shore International College Preparatory High School), I was involved in a lot of extracurricular like cheerleading, track team, and student council. But all that changed when I was raped.
When I turned 16, I joined ROTC because I wanted more than anything to go into the military. We would all hang out at the military recruiting station and it was there that I met one of the recruiting officers. He took an interest in me and I thought he was just being friendly—until he raped me.
Thankfully, he was arrested, tried and went to jail, and throughout it all, my mom was so supportive. She went to all the court proceedings and was by my side when he was convicted. When I found myself pregnant, I couldn’t imagine having his baby. When I told my mom that I wanted to have an abortion, she suggested we go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL). It was a lifesaver for me to know I had the option to choose what I wanted to do.
When I had my abortion, I remember how nice the nurse was. She was so easy to talk to that I told her things I had never shared with anyone else. After the abortion, I definitely questioned if I’d made the right decision, wondering if I had made the very best choice for me. I also felt very alone and kept wondering if I was the only person this had happened to.
A PPIL social worker connected me with a support group of other teens who were in the same situation. Because no one had spoken to me about rape before, I hadn’t realized there were other girls my age who had also gone through the same experience. Some of the girls in that group had stories that were similar to mine, and others were very different. But to hear what other girls were doing when they were sad or anxious or depressed was really good for me. I could pick up the phone and say “Hey, I’m going to court. How did you deal with that?” and feel like someone else understood. This group helped me realize I wasn’t all by myself.
Looking back I realize that sex wasn’t something my family ever talked about until after I was raped. I have three siblings and my older sister had my niece when she was just 14 years old. The only thing my mom said to me about sex was, “please, don’t get pregnant.” But she didn’t tell me how not to and I wasn’t given any sex ed in school. I learned everything through my friends and they had very bad information. I even had a friend tell me that if you peed after sex you wouldn’t get pregnant.
I’m sharing my story now because I believe that everyone deserves to be armed with complete information about sexual health and reproductive rights because not knowing can be dangerous. I can't tell someone else what to do with their body or what options are good for them, but I can advocate for them to get the information they need to make informed decisions that are right for them.