Editor’s note: Delaney is an incredible woman. We are touched by her strength. She came to her shoot with us at the request of her therapist as part of her healing from sexual assault. When she agreed to share her story on our blog, her courage and bravery inspired us. She is a survivor and her work with PAVE and Bullies Reality is helping countless others. Learn more about Delaney and her story here & here.
I think there’s still a part of me still convinced that the last six years of my life has all been just a terrible nightmare. For a long time, I would have said I wished this had not happened to me, that I wish I could go back to the way things were before, to the person I was before. But if someone were to ask me that today, my answer would be very different.
I was a sophomore in high school when I was raped by two senior boys at my school. The rape was set up by my two closest girlfriends. Like so many young and naive victims, I blamed myself and I told absolutely no one. For months, I could not sleep in my own bed. I wore only sweatshirts and baggy pants. I suffered random panic attacks and night terrors. When my attacker later victimized a 14 year old girl in our community, the guilt I felt for keeping the secret was intolerable and I finally broke down and shared my secret. Eventually the story became public, my parents insisted on informing the school and I eventually went to the police. The scandal grew and the gossip spread like wildfire. Cruel kids wrote and published a song shaming me. I had to see my rapists in school every day and face the questions, insults, finger-pointing and laughter of my fellow students, and our neighbors. I left school, I lost my friends and one day, when it was all too much, I attempted suicide. My parents saved my life. Over time, with their loving support, I grew stronger & stronger. Thankfully, I found an organization called PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment). With their help, I learned I truly have a voice, that my story could help other young victims of sexual assault and hopefully prevent the kind of re-victimization and bullying I experienced after my attack.
Through PAVE, I’ve met hundreds of young men and women who have shared with me their powerful stories of sexual violence, followed by ostracism, inequity, harassment, and prejudice. While we are all so different and from such different places, our stories and their traumatic and horrific aftermath are alike. We were violated over and over again — first in an act of violence, then in its backlash. Many of us were assaulted by people we thought we knew. Our closest friends, our schools, and even our communities turned their backs on us when we reported. I was not alone.
I eventually went back into therapy to deal with the issues I never really addressed. For example, I was wearing a bathing suit when I was attacked and had been unable to wear any remotely revealing clothing ever since. My therapist explained to me that victims of sexual assault are scared into hiding themselves physically, mentally and emotionally in order to avoid negative opinions, comments and the memories that may arise along with them. She also told me that the best way for me to break out of this was to do two things: get a massage and do a boudoir photoshoot. I laughed out loud the first time she mentioned this but I was able to rise to the challenge. I got the massage right away but it took me nearly a year to book the boudoir shoot. After weeks of extensive research, I chose Three Boudoir. They are an all-female team, creating “photography experiences for women, by women.” I had my photoshoot last month and I will forever be thankful that I booked with them.
Before the shoot, I’m pretty sure I said the words, “Nope, I’m not going,” and “I can’t do this” at least a hundred times. I am so glad I listened to my better instincts and made it through their studio door, because on the other side, I was greeted with warm smiles and given a memory I will cherish forever. Supported and encouraged throughout the experience by three amazing women, I conquered this immense fear I had held onto for so long. At the end of my session, I felt empowered, beautiful and strong.
If you had asked me three years ago if I could go back to that night in 2011 and prevent what happened to me, I would have said yes, without a doubt. But through my involvement with PAVE, I understand that what happened was not my fault and I recognize how it altered the course of my life. I am a different person now. I am a better person, because of what happened to me. I am a more powerful, outspoken, compassionate, and confident woman now than I was before and a lot of it I owe to Three Boudoir for doing this shoot with me. I have been told recently that I smile a lot more and hold my head higher. Even my roommate told me that I have had a different glow about me ever since I did the photoshoot. I am much more confident in myself and in who I am as a person and as a survivor.
For any women out there wondering if this type of shoot is right for them, I can honestly say that I believe every woman should do this photoshoot at least once in their lives. It was an amazing experience with some incredible people and I am so thankful I was able to do it with Three Boudoir. I truly cannot wait for my next one!