My First Teal Ribbon 5K for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Lee, Jennifer & Onyx prior to 5K.

My husband and I participated in our second 5K this spring. The first one we did was last fall for the Dempsey Center who raises awareness and funds for those who have cancer, a deadly disease most of us have come in contact with at some point in our lives. I chose to do the Dempsey 5K in honor of my father who was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. It turned out to be a very healing experience for me. Instead of thinking about the sadness associated with the loss of my father, I now have a way to honor him and let him know that I will never forget him. This 5K is something I will do for him for the rest of my life. This 5K inspired me to do other 5Ks for things that mean a lot to me.

So when it came time to pick my next 5K, the choice had been made for me. I was a unsuspecting victim of sexual assault while serving in the US military.  I have reached out to local rape crisis centers over the years for confidential support in my efforts to figure out what was happening to me and learn new ways to cope. I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for the services that I have received from these organizations. I did not want to accept that the crimes perpetrated against me could have such a significant impact on my psyche. I wanted to suck it up and move on, never to speak of the incidents again. I pressed charges, I was supported to a degree, and for the most part people were held somewhat accountable. It should have ended there but it didn’t. Here we are almost twenty years later and I am still impacted by the actions of a few. I no longer stew on injustice or discriminatory policies or even the crimes themselves, now I sit here evaluating myself because I cannot believe how these crimes impacted me in such a significant way despite reaching out for help to anyone and everyone that would help me both while serving and especially since my medical retirement.

I now realize that it takes courage to heal. And in order to fully address the issues that arise as a result of losing your ability to fully trust ever again, you have to work hard at healing too. I treat my healing like I did my military career; I do everything I can to move forward and make progress. I refuse to let what happened in the past impact what my future holds. But it doesn’t change the fact that I am left with a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress because my fight or flight mechanism is jacked up. This is what I now focus most of my energies on because I have realized that the moments of intense fear in my life have impacted my brain functioning and responses to confrontation in general. I always think people have ulterior motives. And I look for red flags as opposed to enjoying the here and now. I look forward to the day that I can differentiate between what is Post Traumatic Stress and what is a real threat. I definitely acknowledge that the intensity of my response does not match the original stressor. Again confirming how it’s the response to certain stressors that reveal how the body’s flight or flight mechanism is out of whack. For this reason and many others, I regularly reach out to professionals to help me see things differently. I am appreciative to our hotlines and local rape crisis centers who help us work through the aftermath of these crimes. For this reason I chose the Teal Ribbon Walk/Run 5K to help bring awareness and show them how thankful I am for what they do for victims of crimes.

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The Teal Ribbon 5K was a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services event held during April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (South Paris, Maine)
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Honoring the victims of these crimes and wishing them well on their healing journey. I know how hard it is to recover after you find yourself a victim of sexual assault.
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Both my husband and I were pleased at how many people turned out for this event. It made me happy to see so many gathered together to promote sexual assault awareness.
After I posted my intentions to walk in the Teal Ribbon 5K on Facebook, I had a friend express interest in joining me. This is our team at the 5K finish line.

I look forward to participating in annual Teal Ribbon 5Ks with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services. I support the agencies who help victims of sexual assault with all my heart after having witnessed what they have done for me. Much like the healing experience I had with the Dempsey Challenge 5K for my dad, I felt the same way about this 5K. I own that I was a victim of this crime and support others who have been a victim of this crime as well. I now have a way to show that support in a healthy way both mentally and physically. My next 5K will be with Safe Voices in October in support of victims of domestic violence.

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