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Rising above sexual assault

Rape victim implores others to seek help

“Hanna was just a happy-go-lucky kid…she loved life, had lots of friends, was always playing, always having a good time,” her dad said.

Then she became one of 293,000 people sexually assaulted in the United States each year, and like many others, she holds the anguish of her experience inside.

It was an average day.

“I thought, I‘m gonna go to the park and take a walk. It’s not dark yet. I’ll have some time to just breathe and have some time to myself,” she said. “Something told me to turn around but I didn’t listen to it of course. There was a group of six guys.

“One of them looked at me and said that I should stay a while; we could have some fun. They started pushing me around and touching my face and hair. The first guy choked me and held me down…the second guy had a pocket knife…”

The details are difficult to retell.

Hanna was assaulted and raped by these strangers, and left lying in the park. “Something picked me up, and everyone says you have your guardian angel and looking back, I believe that is what got me off the ground,” she said.

She didn’t tell her parents about the attack, fearing that that they might view her differently. Like many others, she determined to deal with the pain alone. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 68 percent of sexual assaults are never reported.

Without a vent for the pain, she cut herself for the first time.

Self-injury, also called self-harm, is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt, but is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.

Hanna cut the word “soul” into the skin on her stomach because she said she felt that her soul had been taken from her.

“I don’t know, I still thought it was my fault. I decided that I didn’t want to go on anymore,” she said. “No one could ever love someone like me.”

The pain grew, and Hanna swallowed a full bottle of pills with alcohol.

But the next morning she woke up. The attempt at suicide was unsuccessful.

“At that point I realized ‘you’re supposed to be here. What are you doing?’” she said. “I wanted to get better; I wanted help.”

Hanna talked to her parents and she found help.

“She cried in my arms, and she begged me not to look at her differently,” Hanna’s dad said. “I told her I never would. She is my daughter — no matter what.”

Hanna now urges others to not bear pain alone.

“If you are going through this, get help — there are programs out there that can help you,” Hanna said. “If it’s the only thing you do… just get help.”

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