By Sarah Mathe
It’s hard to imagine that the 28-year old woman sitting across from me, full of energy and life, found it difficult to speak.
The morning of Thursday, August 14, 2008, changed Bridget’s life. She woke up with a rope tied around her neck and a man sexually assaulting her. He bashed her head so hard into the wooden headboard that it cracked. He had her hand pinned behind her back while hitting her in the back of the head and body. He left with the words, “If you call the police or tell anyone, I’ll come back and finish the job.”
At 24-years-old, Bridget had just enough strength to call the police from the phone that was in sight but just out of reach during her entire ordeal. With her face bruised and her body beaten, they brought her to Centegra Health System’s ER in Woodstock, where she spent 9 hours undergoing a rape kit examination and talking to police and detectives. Shortly after her admittance to the ER a victim advocate from VOICE Sexual Assault Services met Bridget. This advocate brought her something to eat and drink. Bridget put it best when she said, “Doctors worked on the medical end. The VOICE Advocate worked on the human end.”
For the next three years, every two weeks Bridget went to VOICE for counseling. They reassured her that everything would be done at her pace. The first thing that was emphasized was that her rape was not her fault, but the decision to reclaim her voice was hers to make. Her counselor made sure she knew, “Whatever is said within these walls, stays within these walls.” It was here that Bridget learned to talk about her sexual assault. It took Bridget 6 months to walk into the room where she was sexually assaulted and another 9 months to move back home. During that time frame, she was so afraid to go in that room, she had her family and friends get the things she needed. In fact, she was afraid to be alone period. She always had friends or family around her.
Talking about her assault wasn’t the only thing that Bridget had to face. For the next two and a half years after the attack she had to battle the court system where she was being called a liar, tramp, whore, attention-seeking and tainted. Half way through the court process Bridget was told to give up; that she wasn’t going to win her case. The morning the trial was set to start the man who attacked her admitted to everything. Bridget tells me, “[VOICE] not only helped me get through what happened but helped me get through the court process.”
Now at 28-years-old, Bridget, one of the most courageous and outgoing people one could ever meet, takes time to speak at trainings for those who want to become sexual assault advocates with VOICE.
Most recently, she spoke to Pioneer Center’s Board of Directors to share her story and thank them for saving this program.
Bridget is a remarkable young woman who as she puts it, “turned a horrible tragedy into a calling to help many people who were affected and hurt by [sexual assault]. I want to help everyone by letting them know someone will listen. Someone will believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.”
To any of those who have been personally affected by sexual assault, Bridget asked me to share this, “In the end justice will prevail—whether it is karmatic justice or judicial justice. Speak up and don’t give up, someone is there to listen.”