Dear World,

The spring in Holland is very pleasant. The sun slowly chases away the cold days and the tulips are starting to blossom.


I was looking forward to a trip to America that my husband and I were due to take later that year. We had just been approved to get our visas, and I was going to pick them up after my laundry had dried.

I was glad for this trip with my husband. My life has been riddled with many highs and an unusual amount of lows; from hereditary blood diseases that caused damaged veigns and lungs, neurological problems after a skiing accident, a tumor in my right leg at the age of 19, to early childhood abuse, and group rape at the age of 12.

And so, I look forward to holidays, and time with people I love. It was with great anticipation I readied myself for the day, starting with the laundry, then to the American Embassy, and then to work.

I heard a knock at the door and saw Henk, my neighbor, standing there. He asked me to remove my washing from the communal laundry line. I promptly walked up to the attic to oblige. Henk followed me up, which I thought strange given his apartment was on the second floor.

As I began removing pegs, I sensed something was wrong. Henk moved towards me, and suddenly I felt blinding pain in my skull: he had hit me with a wooden stick and was now punching and biting me, as I struggled to get loose.

We wrestled and fought, back and forth, his stature far bigger and more powerful than mine. He grabbed my hair and swung my head against a wall, kicking my thigh with a big black boot.

I was dragged into a room in the attic and I saw there a mattress. I knew what would happen on that mattress, and fought back harder. Bizarrely, I wanted to apologize when I bit his hand to escape his grip. Even in this situation, my system is programmed not to hurt another person.

I closed my eyes and left my body while the assault took place. I tried to think, what was the attacker afraid of­–what would deflect him? I don’t know what happened to my body in that moment, but I suddenly remembered Henk's mother's shouting at him a couple of weeks before. It’s hard to fight without the neighbors being able to enjoy it in our building.

"You have been a bad boy," I sternly said. "You have not thought ahead again!"

I looked him straight in the eye, with my angriest expression, and I saw him freeze and felt his grip loosen. 

"Look what you've done with her, and you do not even know how to remove a blood stain," I began. "Use what few brains you have. What are you going to do now?”

With Henk's hesitation, his mother's voice suddenly burst hysterically from my mouth.

“Are you going to kill her now, how do you plan to do that and what will you do with the body? Do you have any idea how a dead body smells? How can you drag her down the stairs without the neighbours noticing? And then the corpse, will you move it on your bike?” I said with clanging laughter. The laugh came from my mouth and was my voice, but felt as if it belonged to somebody else. That’s how the body protects itself: by dissociating I was able to disconnect from my surroundings, and the overflowing feelings of fear, anxiety and shame.

Henk lets go and rolls off me to get up. He stands at the desk in the corner with his overalls around his ankles, looking away from me, like a naughty boy sent to the corner to wait for his punishment. The door is locked and the key removed.

"Henk, just let her talk, you are not yet in trouble," I said gently. "I can rescue you! Let's pretend nothing happened, that way there are no problems."

I tried to sound as calm as possible, but my heart is beating madly. I saw despair in Henks' eyes, and so raised my voice to say firmly, calmly and with all the perseverance I can muster, "Henk, open the door and let me out, if you do so I will pretend nothing happened today."

"But,” he stammered.

"No, no, no," I said, ”no discussion. I won't tell your mother, nor my husband, nor the police, but you have to open the door now. I will still get to work on time and we'll just pretend nothing happened."

My heart is pounding in my throat, but to my surprise he takes the key out of his overalls, and slowly but surely, walks over and opens the door.


I am still here.


I still have a hard time looking at myself and looking at pictures of myself, so it was a big step for me to have my picture taken.Then I remember it is other people looking at my picture, and I have been afraid and ashamed to share my story for too long.

I still have doubts whether I was doing the right thing by putting my story out there. But I am starting to see it as a huge present to myself: the anti-poison against the shame I always feel and the hiding in the background I do against my nature. I feel like it is time to step out of my own shadow and share my story.


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