New Girl Gang Series... Trigger Warning. / by jenna madonia

So here’s the thing, it’s not just one sole event that happens that shapes and molds us. It’s multiple. It’s the days after a traumatic event. It’s the way people react to it. It’s our own thoughts controlling our actions and our feelings. It’s the months after. It’s the years after. It’s every. damn. day.

I’m pretty open about the sexual assault that was taken against me. On some part, yes, it is so that I get the support I need to survive the anniversaries or a panic attack or a nightmare resulting in a PTSD episode. However, the ultimate reason is to raise awareness. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life. 1 IN 3! Let that sink in. Let it sink in that this is still a taboo issue. Let it sink in that this fucking happens every day. Let it sink in that our society immobilizes us to take action against our attackers. Let it sink in that this is something that changes you. It uproots you. It dehumanizes you. It degrades you. It makes you feel ashamed. It creates some major mental health issues within you.

So people may know that I was attacked, but many don’t know the circumstances. I worked on campus in the middle of the night. I’d either go in at 12-3, or 3-7 every other weekend. I had a “friend” who lived in the dorm next to where I worked. Every now and then I’d go and hang out with him and play video games before work. I remember Skyrim had just come out. I just wanted to play as a khajiit and be a badass mage. That didn’t last long. I’m not going to go into details because today is the anniversary and I’m trying to avoid a PTSD episode at all costs, but afterwards, I had to go to work. I sat there for four hours feeling disgusting. Feeling like I had just imagined what happened. How could he do that? He would never hurt me. He’s my friend. I’m just crazy. I must have deserved it.

I MUST HAVE DESERVED IT. I remember that thought being at the forefront of my head while I stared at the text book in front of me. After work, I walked back up to my dorm, threw my stuff on my bed, and went straight to the dorm showers. I must have sat there for at least four hours, fully clothed because I didn’t want to see my body after feeling so disgusting. I went back into my dorm room and just laid on the floor.

The key thing to note here is that I did not come forward until three days later. I didn’t even realize I had been raped until a friend of mine blatantly said, “Jenna, you were raped.” I had been trying to hide it. Trying to ignore that this ever happened. I just wanted to feel clean again. A series of events took place after this which I will also not go into.

So it happened. I think sometimes that the aftermath of it is almost worse than the actual event. A lot of people reacted poorly, and a lot of people ignored it. So much so that I eventually started to ignore it. I didn’t want it to be a thing. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life knowing that had happened. I didn’t want to have flashbacks to it. I just didn’t want it to be true. I started drinking. A lot.

It wasn’t until last year I really started dealing with it. Thankfully, I have friends and people around me that understand it and support me, and I them. This year, I took steps to get back into therapy to help me deal with this. I’m proud of myself for that.

A few years ago, I got the idea to do a sexual abuse series. When I have my nightmare, which is most prevalent in the entire month of March, I have to sit in the corner of my bed where it meets the corner of my room and cradle myself. I have a very hard time going back to sleep, but once I do, I usually wake up several times throughout the night afraid that I’m going to have the dream again. Most people know I adored my dog Jake. He was my rock when I got back from WKU. He used to wake me up when I’d have the dream by laying on me. He would stay with me throughout the night to make sure I was okay. When he was gone, I didn’t know what the fuck to do. This is one of the reasons I loved that dog and post about him frequently.

The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s not just the act that fucks you up. It’s everything else that comes after it also. It’s sitting in a shower fully clothed for hours trying to feel clean again. It’s being too afraid to leave your dorm room that you start missing class. It’s having to explain to people that don’t have any idea what happened that it did, in fact, happen and that’s why I’m having a panic attack right now. It’s waking up in the middle of the night to darkness but seeing your attackers face right there. It’s seeing his hands on your body. It’s seeing the bruises left behind and then having to curl up into a wall and try to make yourself realize that it’s not happening all over again, it’s just your brain.

I’ve always wanted to make this day better. I’ve wanted to do something that makes it a bit easier. I’ve always failed. Today however, I want to announce the next Girl Gang series. It’s called, “Warrior.” In this, I’m going to recreate these moments. For my own, I’ll either do photos of my fully clothed in the shower, or the aftermath of the nightmare. I haven’t quite decided yet. The point is to show that this is something we live with for the rest of our lives. It’s a fuck you to our attackers in that we are raising awareness that this happens, and this is damaging, but let’s get some m,ore resources and tools out there to help other survivors cope with it in positive ways… not by getting drunk all the time. or any other vices that many of us have taken part of to manage it. Let’s raise awareness that PTSD isn’t just about war vets. Let’s raise awareness that other women coming forward can feel safe and supported. Let’s make a change. Let’s make a fucking statement.

So with all that being said, any women who would be interested in this kind of thing, please, I encourage you to reach out to me. Even if you don’t want to be photographed. Even if you just need a friend who understands and can support you in your battle. Let me help you in any way I possibly can. I wished for someone to help me during that time. I don’t want anyone else in the world to wish for someone to care. I want to cultivate a strong community to be the voice for women who feel unheard. I want to be the platform for you to potentially grow and learn how to deal with this. Let me share your story so we can potentially help others and show our friends, family, and the members of our community that no matter what, we fight. We are warriors.