A Survivor's Tale

I have been contemplating for a few years on whether to share my story with the world or not. But recently, with the attention surrounding cyberbullying, I feel compelled like many others, to share my story. I am not sharing my experience for fame, or to get followers. I am sharing my story, perhaps, more for a sense of closure on past hurts and pain. Or perhaps because I've finally accepted what happened to me. Or maybe it's because I realize - I am a survivor. And perhaps, just perhaps, if one young girl or boy reads this story, it will inspire him/her to share their own. If I can help just one person and save their life, then I can go on happily, knowing I've left my mark on the world. I made a difference. My life mattered to at least one person.

My name is Wendy. I am 36 years old. I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and still live here. My family is all here and out of respect for them, I will not involve them in my story. I am a pretty normal person. I have a full time job. I live in a great condo. I have a good group of friends. I go to church every Sunday. I enjoy hiking, photography and am a musician. A church musician no less. A songwriter, composer - a lover of music and the arts. I am a passionate person. I don't drink very much. I don't do drugs. I pay my bills. I pay my taxes. I am not married, but I do have people in my life that provide what I need. And I do have someone who loves and cares for me very much. I actually have it pretty good - I'm very lucky to have what I do now.

But - underneath all this, there are things hardly anyone knows. In fact, I only told my mother this the other night when I asked for her permission to share my story. I didn't need her permission really, but I just wanted her to know I loved her dearly and my family for all they have done for me over the years. I may get into trouble for writing this. But this is my story. And no one elses. It is my story to tell and share.

The one thing that hardly anyone knows about me is - I am a bully survivor. And unlike most stories you hear about, it was not just by one or two individuals. I was bullied by my entire class - all through junior high school. And not only that, but - later on as a young adult, I was raped. Twice, and I never told a soul. Not until recently, not until I told the man who loves me - did I share my entire story. After more than 20 years, I found someone I trusted enough to share my story with.

I was a pretty average kid growing up. But I had health issues (still do). I was born with bad knees and ankles. By age 9, I had knee surgery and was wearing a full length cast. My knees would give out when I ran, my left knee still does and because of this, as an "old" woman now, I have Osteoarthritis in my knees. Chronic pain is not something I wish on anyone, not even my former tormenters.

As a child, I spent a lot of time alone. Even to this day, I am a hermit. I love being at home. I'm an artist and a writer, a thinker. Or as my love tells me, "you are too smart for your own good, you think too much." I used to make up little word games. I would stay up and read all night long, sometimes 3 or 4 paperback books in one night. I would sneak out at night time and lay in the back garden watching the stars until I fell asleep. And I would pretend I was a DJ and listen to the radio, because back then we didn't have Ipods, internet or all these devices to play music on. I would make mix tape, label them carefully and soon I had mastered the pause button so there weren't any glitches between each song. I carefully thought out what songs I wanted and would wait until the song played on the radio. Pretty soon I got to know all the words to all the hots songs of the 80s...and 90s. Which as a kid, those songs were new! The first song I learned the words to was, Blondie's - Tide is High. She still is a favourite of mine today.

I was born with rare diseases and was ill a lot as a child. I spent a lot of time in the hospital, and going with mum to see specialists. Music became my escape from the daily world. Every day I sat at the old Yamaha. If I was sad, I would play sad music, if I was happy - it was always the Beatles or Bach. I realize now, that music became so important to me because it was the only way I could say what I was feeling. I couldn't say the words, instead I played what I felt. People tell me now they hear this in my compositions. And it's true. To this day, I still play soft and quiet music when I am sad or tired - which can be quite often, I have to admit. I have my demons I still face, nightmares that still come and go. They will always be there, they are a part of me...

Then Junior High started and my nightmare began.

Because I had bad knees, I couldn't do most of the gym activities the other kids enjoyed so I spent many gym classes on the sidelines. I remember one gym class - we all had to wear shorts. I hated shorts, it showed my ugly scars from surgeries. I still refuse to wear short skirts for this reason. I put my pants in the locker and forgot to lock it, I had already missed the late bell. When class was finished, I hurried to change - it was home time and I couldn't wait to get to my piano.

I opened my locker, it was empty. My pants and shoes were gone. Luckily, that was all I had stored in the locker. I sat on the bench for a long time wondering what to do. It was a cold winter day and we didn't have cell phones to call our parents back then. So I sat and waited. Trying not to cry and in walked Jennifer. She asked what was wrong and I started to cry. She got our French teacher, who drove me home. She asked over and over again if there was something going on. I shook my head and said no.

It didn't stop there. Boys would throw gum in my hair or spitballs in class. Girls would point at me and say "wash your hair" but try and be funny about it and say it like, "ashier". Waiting in line to use the pencil sharpener, one boy pounded on my back with his fists. "Because he was bored". I still said nothing. Why? I don't know.

I remember one shop class. We made clay pots. I was pretty proud of it and had made it for my mum. Mothers day was coming up soon. The teacher left the class and the boys grabbed my clay pot and started playing table hockey with it. Kids can be cruel. Until finally, I watched in silence as it fell to the floor and shattered in tiny pieces. The teacher heard the noise and came back in. "What happened?" he said and looked at me. I said nothing. He looked at the boys and said, "What happened?" they said nothing. We sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he let us go home. I never told a soul.

Looking back, I wonder. What if I had just told someone? What if I had just confided in my French teacher? Or the shop teacher? What would life be like now? Would the bullying had stopped? Would my parents have moved me to different school? What if...but as my love tells me now "focus on now, not the what if's because you can't change the past. You can only move forward, you my dear are stronger than you think."

High school got easier. I had a nice group of friends. I got more involved in music and Mrs. F who taught me English, got me involved in a theatre club. Together with a few students, we went to the Citadel Theatre once per month and I fell in love with it. Soon I was hooked and volunteered behind the stages in our school plays. I loved English class too. Mrs. F would talk about her son Nathan non stop, it felt like we almost knew him. I was just a few years behind him at the same school (Holy Trinity High School).

But grade 12 rolled around, and I still hadn't had a boyfriend. I still hadn't dated. I was still that shy, quiet, fat (but not really) girl who was too shy to talk to boys. Until I met him. The man who abused me for six months and later, raped me. I will not go into details, I want this blog to be family friendly. But just know, it took me a long time to get over that. I don't think I ever will. Rape changes a person. It stays with you forever. It wasn't until earlier this year, I was finally able to tell someone the whole story of what happened. I finally broke down in tears after a month of nightmares - I had to tell. I told my love.

And I cried harder when he said, "I'm so proud of you. I'm not going anywhere, I'm here for you. I am so proud of you for telling me." What really scarred me, is that if I had just told someone at 18, then the man who raped me wouldn't have been able to hurt the children he hurt later on. I found out that he had been arrested several years ago for child molestation but never spent any time in jail.

And here I go again with the what if's. I finally learned to forgive him. And myself for not going forward. I forgave myself for blaming myself. And I forgave myself because, I had done nothing wrong. I should have told someone at the time but I was too afraid. Like I was as a child in junior high, I was too afraid to speak up.

My story here is not to make you feel sorry for me. I'm not writing this to gain friends or attention. I'm writing this to tell the young girls out there - be strong. Don't be afraid to talk. Tell someone what has happened or is happening to you. Just know, you will get through this. You will survive. There is someone out there who cares. There is someone who will listen - you just have to open yourself up. Find someone to confide in - whether it be a teacher, a parent, a friend, a relative - or someone in your church. Just know the worst thing you can do to yourself is keep it to yourself. Get help. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Being raped and bullied changes you. It stays with you forever and can leave damaging impressions. It can leave scars that run deeper than any surgical scars can. Some of the deepest scars, are those that can not be seen nor healed.

You can do this. You can and will survive. Be strong. Life will get better. You just have to ask for the help. And if you really have no one to turn to - I will listen. I will share your story. Just know, there is someone out there who has been through what you have been through - and I survived. I made it.

This story is written for me. For me to tell all those people - all those who bullied me in junior high - for anyone who ever said a mean thing to me. This is my story. I won. I survived. I have a good life. I am doing what I love. I have people who love me. But most of all - I am happy, successful - and I love myself. I truly do. I never thought I'd say those words. But I love myself. And I know, others love me.

Life is hard. Life sometimes is unfair. If it weren't for discovering music in the way I did, I probably wouldn't have survived. Music saved me. Music was my saviour. And maybe God is reason I am still here. Maybe he really has been listening to me all these years. Maybe he's the reason I am playing at the church and why I am so lucky to be where I am right now. A professional musician doing what I love to do. I don't need to be famous, I don't need to be rich. I just need to be me, doing what I love.

Be strong. Be a survivor. Others can only bring you down, if you let them. Stand up for yourself. Be who you are and show the world the real you. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed of you are. Most of all, just tell yourself, you are strong. You will survive.

I have every faith in you.

And to those who bullied me, and the person who raped me. I forgive you. I just hope you read this someday.

"Music is not something I do. It is the essence of who I am. Music comes from a place I didn't know existed. It comes from deep within my soul - from the sadness, the pain, the happiness, and the love. I write, what I feel. And what I feel now, is loved. - Wendy Jensen"

And to the man to who I love, G - you know who you are, thank you, for listening and caring. You are my ROCK. I'd be lost without you.

by Wendy Jensen, age 36