Lauren Reid

Lauren Reid

My name is Lauren. I’ve been raped three times in my 31 years: once during the summer before my senior year of high school in a rural town in Eastern Oregon, and twice in college at the University of Montana in Missoula (dubbed “America’s Rape Capital” by Time Magazine earlier this year).

These experiences have no doubt had a significant impact on my life, but despite them (or perhaps because of them) I’ve had the strength to accomplish several things I’m proud of: I have a successful career, great friends, and now the WYR Project. I’m happy with where I am in life right now, but it has been a long and sometimes difficult road.

As I mentioned in My Story, after being raped the first time my life began to spiral out of control and continued to do so throughout the rest of high school and college. But I was a paradox: I worked hard and got good grades – but was binge drinking four or five nights a week. I had a two (sometimes three) part-time jobs and was fully supporting myself – but I went into serious credit card debt trying to buy relief from profound self loathing. I had a few good friends who loved me and would have done anything for me, but I didn’t feel I deserved it so I never asked for help. My only choice, it seemed, was to (literally and figuratively) keep moving.

San Francisco: Giving Back

I got a great job in San Francisco in 2006, it was the fresh start I needed and I thrived in the big city. I wasn’t yet ready to focus on myself, but I was starting to heal. I became a Big Sister, took a leadership role with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, volunteered with the Special Olympics, and was a team leader for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer…among other things. I poured myself into helping other people and slowly started to feel better about myself.

Amsterdam: Travel and Friends

My career soon led me to Amsterdam where I found a new passion: travel. I explored as many countries as I could, often travelling alone but sometimes with friends. Two things happened in Amsterdam: I began to like myself, and I began to connect with others. Travelling on my own gave me confidence, and I started feeling inspired again. I made a group of amazing friends from all over the world, and as expats do, we very quickly developed meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime. I also started writing more.

Toronto: Love and Yoga

I remained single for the six years following the second rape. I went on dates but couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone so a relationship was out of the question. In 2009 my career brought me to Toronto, and I was finally ready to put myself out there. I met the person who would become my husband and my best friend.

Early in the relationship I realized it was something special, and I felt I needed to be honest about my experiences. Until then I’d never told anyone about my rapes. I was anxious and nervous for a few days (I wrote a poem about the anxiety I was feeling), trying to come up with the right words and playing out various possible outcomes in my mind. What if he didn’t want to be with ‘damaged goods’? What if he didn’t want to deal with ‘baggage’? I had been living with the secrets for a decade, they were buried so deep and my life had moulded itself around them. Do I even need to tell him? I’m fine. I’m totally over it. Right? But part of loving someone is letting them get to know all of you, so I decided to go for it. Through uncontrollable sobs I told him I was raped. I was so ashamed, I felt humiliated.

He asked me if I wanted to talk more about it, and I said no. And that was fine, I wasn’t ready and he didn’t push for more details. He just held me and said, “when you’re ready, I’m here.” Because of his gentle strength and patience, I was able to learn how to love – him and myself. I also learned how to be loved, and most importantly: I learned how to trust. We’re not married any more, but he’s still a very important part of my life and one of my biggest supporters, and someone I will always love deeply for the gift he gave me.

Four years ago I said the words “I was raped” out loud for the first time. Since then I’ve gotten married, bought a house, adopted a rescue dog, switched jobs twice, sold a house, become separated, travelled, and written…and I’ve continued healing. I discovered yoga which has helped me learn to respect my body and be mindful in other aspects of my life. I said the words out loud a few more times, to women I trusted and women I knew had been through similar, and the shame started to dissipate. I never shared details (or even the fact that it happened three times) but I could talk about it on a surface level.

And then at the end of 2014 the media fire storm around Jian Ghomeshi/Bill Cosby/UVA/Rolling Stone got me thinking that someone should really do something about this. And then a few brave women did, and the rest, as they say, is history (you can read more about the inspiration for the WYR Project on the ‘about’ page).

What next?

I have no idea what’s next. All I know is that I’ve figured out what I can to do to help others heal and move forward from their experiences with sexual violence. I’m excited beyond words to see where this goes.

A few people who have reached out in the past few days have asked me if I see a therapist, out of concern for my well-being. The answer is, at this very moment, no. I’ve seen therapists before, but I’ve never talked about these experiences – probably because I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now and that will be on the agenda for 2015. I’ll also be seeking guidance on rape counselling, to help me best respond to the many women who are sharing their stories with me and to help me manage my own well-being through that experience.

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you up to date on this Project at the WYR Blog.

Permanent link to this article: http://whenyoureready.org/aboutwyr/lauren/