“What happened to me controlled my life for a while. It controlled where I went, who I hung out with, and what I did,” Ashlee said.
Her relationships drifted apart as she put up a wall with her friends and family members.
“I lost trust with a lot of my guy friends. I would still hang out with them, but I put my guard up,” Ashlee said. “I couldn’t be anywhere alone with a guy without freaking out and thinking that something was going to happen.”
That distance prevented her from sharing her experience with the people that she was once close with. She waited for months before finally opening up to someone about her experience.
“I told my friend in February . She kept urging me to tell. I didn’t listen, but she respected that which I appreciate. I got to tell in my own time which, I think, was better for me,” Ashlee said.
In July, Ashlee opened up about her experience at a church camp after the friend she confided in urged her to talk to her youth pastor. After an emotional experience during the worship service, Ashlee talked to her youth pastor and some of the other campers.
“I just told them. I think they were all shocked, but really supportive. They told me that it wasn’t my fault. They made sure I got some help,” Ashlee said.
Her youth pastor arranged a meeting with her mother. Ashlee let the youth pastor do all the talking. She had no words.
“My mom was calm, surprisingly. I think it was because there were other people around. But she did respect my whole, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ thing,” Ashlee said. “I just wanted things to go back to normal.”
Shortly after telling her mom, a detective was called to investigate. He found nothing. Keeping her sexual assault experience a secret may have given Ashlee time to process what had happened, but unfortunately, any evidence that was present, was gone.
“It just sucked because Will didn’t even get as much as a slap on the wrist,” Ashlee said. “When we told his parents, he got in trouble, but he was only grounded for a few months. And that was it for him, but I’ve been in therapy ever since.”
The trauma that she endured and the drama waiting for her when she got home led her to look for other ways to escape from reality. When it seemed that there was nothing else to do, Ashlee turned to self-harm as a way to run away from the pain she was in.
“When I [cut], I couldn’t feel it. I just felt numb. I think it was because I wanted something that I could control,” Ashlee said. “Everything in my life felt out of control, but this was a pain that I could control. It was just something where I had a say and I had a choice.”
When the cuts on her thighs and wrists turned into attempts to bleed to death, Ashlee reached out to a friend before attempting suicide. After receiving paragraph long texts of reassurance, Ashlee decided not to commit suicide. Although suicidal thoughts were present in her mind, she never again attempted to kill herself.