Schools increase focus on mental healthSchools are feverishly trying to adapt to meet the needs.
More than a dozen Utah school districts from Cache to Kanab applied for and received money from House Bill 264 that provides $2 million to hire elementary school counselors.
Jordan School District is using those funds and their own to put a psychologist in every high school, middle school and even in its 36 elementaries. At Herriman High, where there were seven suicides last year, there are now nine counselors, a psychologist and a social worker.
In the Canyons School District, administrators are working to get a half-time psychologist and a half-time counselor in every school. And they have a family resource center which among other things, teaches anger management to kids in third to fifth grades.
Alpine School District also prioritized hiring a batch of elementary counselors, recognizing mental health may carry the same importance as academics.
KSL spoke with four new elementary counselors in that district about what they are seeing.
“There’s always been a need,” said counselor Carrie Whitney. “It’s just a priority need now.”
“It is very hard for them to keep up with everything that’s being thrown at them,” added counselor Julie Thornton.
Alpine counselors and others say at the heart of the skyrocketing need is a growing number of kids who face more traumatic experiences at home: things like poverty, homelessness, divorce, parents using drugs, a parent who’s incarcerated, a parent who’s deported.
“You see them come to school with adult issues,” said counselor Michelle Porcelli. “They’re no longer able to just be kids.”
All agreed it is important to work with children at a younger age.
“It’s important to start now, start earlier, the earlier the better,” said counselor Jeanette Perez. “Teaching them those coping skills so then when they do go to middle school or high school, they know how to cope.”
Learning to copeThose coping skills are a steep learning curve for high school senior Jamie Cutler.
A few years ago, her parents divorced. They moved in with extended family. She lost her friends, her mom and her financial stability. One of those family members was a drug user.
“We had a lot of traumatizing experiences, cops at our house all the time,” she said.
Jamie Cutler is finding the support she needs at Mountain High.
Cutler stopped going to school for a time, but then ended up at Mountain High, an alternative high school in the Davis School District.
Principal Kathleen Chronister estimates 85 percent of her students struggle with at least one mental illness.
“Meaning that it has been crippling for them, which is why they haven’t been doing well at school,” she said.
Since coming to Mountain High, Cutler has gotten back on track. An impressive 96 percent of the students at this school graduate.
But she admits it is only possible with the targeted help and support she gets for her mental health.
”I don’t know how stable I’d be without them, if I’m being honest,” she said. “You don’t get a lot of help when you’re in your room.”
Assessing riskAll of us have a role in helping young people. Research suggests we shouldn’t dismiss the severity of these disorders, or their impact on a child’s development.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, untreated anxiety can play a role in future depression, drug use and even suicide.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control also found a direct link between childhood trauma and issues of chronic disease, depression and emotional problems later in life.
If you’d like to see if you or your child could be at risk of physical and mental health consequences, you can take the ACES quiz here.
My Journey to Forgive After Being Stalked, Abused, and a Stranger Changed My Life ForeverSome people have a hard time being vulnerable. I am some people. This post has been brewing for decades. I am proud to be such a strong and confident women and it is hard to talk about when I was not strong nor confident.
Here is the story about my journey to forgive after being stalked, abused, and a stranger changed my life forever.
Taken from manuscript: The Greatest Life, by Michelle Porcelli
Section Five: He Cries With You
The Elephant in the Room
I often spend time scanning over various social media apps to see if anything grabs my
attention. Sometimes I find an uplifting quote on Instagram. Other times, a funny video of pets on Facebook brightens my day. To say the least, I waste a lot of time lurking around social media to see who has a better life than I do, or see who may struggle as often as I do.
I find myself quickly scrolling over the uplifting posts of people having fun on vacations or those sharing pictures of their children’s many accomplishments. I am tired of hearing how great everyone else’s life is. I seem to be drawn more to those going through difficulties. It sounds a bit morbid, but I am more comfortable with these types of posts.
However, one particular morning I refrained from posting anything in my life that would
make me look vulnerable. I didn’t want to post about my own misgivings, but watched as other people posted about their misgivings. I like to post advice on other’s Facebook feeds. I am a helper and it gives me confidence to think I might actually have something to offer those who are struggling.
I remember the first time I scrolled down my Facebook feed and saw a #metoo post. I
didn’t really understand what it was all about. “Why in the blazes would anyone want the world to know they were abused? Why would anyone want the world to know they were a victim and be seen as weak?” I told myself. What should have been compassion on my part, turned into eye rolling. I felt the people posting about their abuse stories were just attention seeking and pitiful.
There are some things that should be private. A story or post could be so real to personal
situations that it could trigger someone else reading it and dig up old wounds that were buried so long ago. Had they no shame?
My Facebook feed became flooded with people coming out of the woodworks to tell their
#metoo story. Famous people were all over the news talking about how they were mistreated by someone in the past. Hollywood was being blamed for something women have put up with for a very long time, but have not talked about before for fear of being seen as a whistle blower.
Then, I read a friend’s story of abuse by someone she loved that was a trigger for myself
and reminded me of my own story. Memories of abuse from someone I loved came flooding
back into my head. My heart ached and I could feel pressure filling up my lungs and breathing became difficult. However, I refused to post about it. I was not only a counselor, but also a public speaker and seen as a very successful and strong woman. I wasn’t about to open the floodgates of pity from strangers liking my #metoo post.
I am the youngest of six siblings and have had to be a fighter since the day I was born. I
was also raised in a time where good 'Mormon' families shouldn’t have problems. At least, in my mind, if something was wrong, then we just weren’t righteous enough. If we went to church every week, read our scriptures, and said our prayers, then we should have a very good life. I also thought if we are righteous we would have a life without struggles caused by others or ourselves. I know there are many families that ‘hush’ stories so they can maintain the appearance of having a smooth home life, perfect children, and that God is rewarding them for being so spiritual and righteous. I fall into this category. At least, I did for a very long time.
I have a #metoo story that I have buried for over 25 years because I merely wanted to
move on and have a normal life. The memories are still so fresh in my mind that even talking about them triggers the same feelings in my body as if it were only yesterday.
Through my studies, I learned that oftentimes people are abused by someone they know.
They are abused by someone they trust.
Telling my story is a huge risk for me because I don’t want people to #blameme for the
role I played. I was victim shamed for a long time. I am sharing with you now so that someone can relate to this, understand, or draw strength from hearing what I call my #metooiamasurvivor story. I also want the other person involved to be able to move on with their life as well. He has repented, paid his dues with prison time, and deserves a good life.
Young and Dumb
When we head off to college, or other adventures after high school, we think the world is
ours for the taking. We think this because all the well-meaning counselors, church teachers, and motivational commercials have told us we can become anything we want to become. They told us we could do whatever we wanted do. They told us we were a chosen generation. And, we believed them.
I had the world in front of me. I had long, blond, curly hair, which I had bleached from
brunette during an initiation of what my college roommates called ‘Brigham Angels’ club. We
all had to have blonde hair and tan skin. It was the first time I had been tan in my life. I lost a
few pounds because I couldn’t afford food. I looked pretty cute. I had been an EFY Counselor where all the youth loved me and many young boys asked if they could marry me, at least when they got older. I could feel others looking at me in admiration and they actually listened to what I had to say. I knew appearance mattered and I loved every minute of the results. I felt respected. I felt wanted. I felt interesting. I felt alive.
By the time I was in my sophomore year, I still hadn’t claimed a major, but took a lot of
Spanish classes. I remember my Spanish professor was from Barcelona, Spain and I really liked her. One day I came home from Spanish class and my roommate told me she wanted to line me up with her friend’s brother. She showed me his picture. He looked like a good kid; maybe even the student body president. I said, “Yes.”
On the day of the set-up, just minutes before he was to arrive, she said, “I forgot to tell
you. He just got out of a drug rehab center.” What in the heck was she talking about? I would never date someone like that. Didn’t she know I could get most any guy I wanted? Why would I stoop so low to date someone like that? She proceeded to tell me that his father taught at BYU and was in the Bishopric. I thought maybe I needed to be more Christ like and realize this kid is human too. He obviously is trying to be a good person now. “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t care,” I responded.
I remember meeting Trevor. He was very controlled in his actions and slow moving. He
had a nice smile. His hair was weird and still in a mullet style cut. He rolled up his pant legs
like we were still in the 1950’s or something. But, he came from a good family and I could sense goodness in him.
He took one look at me and was hooked. We were both so young and dumb. He paid
attention to me like I had never had a boy pay attention before. He bought me roses all the time and left me hand written cards. Our relationship flourished from there. He was exciting and not like the boring Mormon boys on campus. He would take me on motorcycle rides, make me dinner all the time, he even bought me my first pair of Guess jeans, and seemed to really take care of me.
I didn’t have many girlfriends at this time. Girls would often play the exclusion or hate
game with me and I was so tired of all the drama. So, I was quite lonely in the friend category, and Trevor seemed to fill the void. People would stare at us when we would go out. I had many people say things to me, “What are you doing with him?” This just made me cling to him more.
How dare they judge him? He is a child of God too. Yes, he looked and dressed like a stoner. We looked like a re-enactment of West Side Story. However, I took it upon myself to prove to the world that we all can be Christ like. I was going to save him and get him on a church service mission. That would show everyone. I would be seen as a miracle worker. I even got him to go to church with me. Things were going well and the naysayers could just mind their own business.
We had been dating for a few months when I felt like I needed to go a different direction.
I broke up with him. His mother came running out the front door of their house as I waited in the driveway to pull away. She was crying and begging me to stay. She told me I was the best thing that had happened to him and that I helped keep him away from his other friends.
I gave in. I stayed.
I felt trapped, but continued to play the nice girl.
Around Christmas time things began to change. He bought me so many things.
Expensive things. I didn’t know where all his money was coming from, but I didn’t question it. He began to follow me places. He was everywhere I was. As soon as I would leave class, he was in the hall waiting for me. As soon as I got off work, he was in the parking lot waiting for me. I would go to church and he would be there. I would be home and he would be there.
Something had changed. He became possessive and clingy. I couldn’t breathe around him. He was suffocating me with his presence.
I remember sitting at my desk at work as a ‘collections clerk’ for a local credit union,
when he came up to our private ‘employees only’ area. He wouldn’t leave. He wanted to talk. He always needed to talk. He always needed me. My boss came in and kicked him out. Luckily, he complied. She talked with me and I told her how I couldn’t get him to leave me alone. She told me she ‘had my back’ and security would escort him off the premises the next time this happened. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t going crazy. I felt validated in my concern of his clinginess. I realized his actions were not my fault.
The next time I tried to break up with him ended with his mom telling me, “It’s six of one
and half dozen of another” meaning I needed to take accountability over the situation. It made sense and I believed it. I was partially to blame for his actions because I kept taking him back. I was partially to blame because I would often scream and be out of control. Trevor felt like it was his job to keep me in control and I am sure his mom felt the same.
Every time I would try to break up with him, he would cry and be upset and tell me how much he needed me. I felt if I left, he would go back to drugs and the life he had before we met. My mind played tricks on me and I changed from being strong and independent, to thinking: “I had to stay with him. I had to save him. It really was partially my fault anyway. It was my fault he couldn’t live without me.
It was my fault he felt he needed to stalk me. I had such a strong and confident personality he didn’t know how to function without me. I was his saving grace. I needed to play the part.” I grew to love him, likely as a personal project for myself, and kept thinking, “He is a child of God too. I need to be kinder and more accepting.”
He would often hold out his hand and expect me to grab hold of it as he would say,
“Come on. Let’s go.” He was always trying to get me from my current location and into his car so we could drive somewhere and talk. If I didn’t reach back and take his hand, there would be drama. We would likely create an entirely new episode of our latest soap opera as to why I wouldn’t take his hand. Eventually, I would wear down and it became easier to just take his and and go along with his game.
A few more months passed. He kept stalking me and it was getting even more out of
control. I needed to be able to study for my college classes and I didn’t have any free time. He would come to my Spanish class a few times and the professor was kind. She would let him wait right outside the door. Trevor would often peak in the door and just stare at me, always trying to get my attention. However, my professor could sense my increasing angst.
After a few weeks of playing my role as his personal Savior, my Spanish professor asked me to stay afterward. I apologized for all the drama and talked to her about the situation. I told her I needed to help get him on a church mission where he could grow and change, and it was all up to me to do that.
Our religion teaches us to be Christ like and to help others. I was doing that. “Michelle. You
cannot help someone in quicksand if you are in quicksand yourself. There was only one Savior and it is not you,” she said to me sweetly and really wanting to help. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Those were the exact words my heart had been longing to hear for a very long time. Those words gave me permission to work on saving myself. Those words gave me permission to be released from his emotional prison. I guaranteed her I would break up with him and move on with my promising life.
As I left Spanish class, I got into his car and we drove around campus while I ‘tried’ to
break up with him one more time. I told him we needed to stop seeing each other and he was crushed. I then told him I couldn’t miss any more classes and he needed to take me back for my other classes. He wouldn’t do it. I screamed and told him he needed to take me back to class, “Now!” He pulled over in a parking lot close to campus but wanted to talk some more before I got out. He always had to make sure things were okay with our relationship before I left.
However, things were not okay. I was breaking up with him. He couldn’t handle it and
wouldn’t let me leave. He grabbed my arm. “I need to get to class. I am leaving,” I cried. I
opened the car door and tried to get out. However, his grasp was too strong. I was half in and half out of the car with my right leg and arm hugging the outside door as it was pried open.
Another student was walking across campus and could see me struggle. Certainly she
would come help me. I began to scream for help. But, Trevor started to drive off and I felt I had no choice but to slide back in and close the door. Here we go, yet again, with the cycle of:
relationship is okay - relationship struggles – arguments – stalking – fear – giving in – making up – relationship okay again.
He drove up the canyon so we could talk. I told him I was going to jump out of the
moving car and that I would rather die than be with him. This scared him. He began to drive
erratically and I screamed, “Stop it”. He then said, “Maybe I’ll just take us both out”. “Oh,
great. So you’re going to kill us both? Just do it then.” I should have controlled my temper.
That was the worst thing someone could say to another person thinking of harming someone.
However, Trevor calmed down and recanted what he said, “I would never do that. I was just
being stupid. I am so sorry and I love you.” I calmed down like I always did when I heard him
tell me that. “I’m sorry and I love you too,” I responded.
About a week after this episode of ‘As Michelle’s World Turns’, the BYU Police called
me. The girl who had seen us in the parking lot had reported the incident. Hallelujah! I might
finally get some legal help this time and the ability to reclaim my life.
I was nervous as I entered the campus police station. I waited nervously while sitting on
a worn down, wooden brown chair and I could feel the eyes of others upon me. I would usually think they were looking at me because I was so cute, but I knew better. I could feel their judgment. Something was wrong.
I don’t remember the officer’s name, but he began with basic questions of my identity
and where I lived. Then he dropped the bomb, “We have had reports of a girl and group of 2-3 boys that are staging kidnappings where the girl screams and they take off with her. They are doing this as a joke to scare other people around campus. We know that you are this girl.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I was restrained against my will by someone I thought I was
in love with, and now I am blamed for it? I tried to explain how Trevor wouldn’t even let me talk with another boy without flipping out. I explained how he followed me everywhere. I explained what happened the day in question and how he drove off with me half way out of the car while grasping my wrist. I explained the screams that appear overly dramatic to others are often a victim’s only defense because they are being physically overpowered. My screams were not a scene from the latest theatrical release, but were real. Screams, being dramatic, and out of control was my only defense in that situation.
The officer just stared at me. He didn’t believe me. He told me, in not so many words,
that it was my fault because I kept going back to Trevor. And, if my story were true, why would I stay with him? I soon saw the ‘writing on the wall’ and there was no way he would ever see my version. I was being victim shamed. The officer let me go and told me he would be keeping an eye on me and that I should not stage kidnappings anymore. I walked out, deflated and defeated. I felt alone, scared, and confused. The very person that could have helped me instead blamed me.
This is a common story many victims tell. The public or their personal families often
blame the victim for staying in relationships or for starting the relationship to begin with. “It is
six of one and half dozen of another,” right? Victims often stay with a perpetrator because they feel many things. They may feel they have no other options. They may love the person and pray for their redemption. They may feel scared. They may feel like they need to take care of the other person. They may feel hopeless. They may feel they don’t deserve any better. They may feel like they are to blame. They may feel like it really is ‘six of one and half dozen of another’. Victim shaming has gone on for centuries.
One night, Trevor sat in his car in the parking lot of my apartment complex. He kept
flashing his lights and calling my apartment for me to come out. I wasn’t coming out. My
roommates at the time were enthralled in the scary excitement but encouraged me to stay with them. I decided to call his mom. No answer. I decided to call Trevor’s brother to ask him to come get him and tell him to leave me alone. “Hi, Luke. This is Michelle. Trevor is sitting in my parking lot and I can’t get him to leave. Can you come get him?” “So, it’s a free country.
He can be in the parking lot if he wants to,” Luke replied starkly to me. “Luke, if you don’t get
him to leave I am going to call the police. He follows me everywhere. He is stalking me.” “So, that’s your problem,” and Luke hung up the phone. I look back at this moment and knew that Trevor’s family had decided I was to blame in all of this. I was pretty emotional after all. I’m sure I was blamed for leading him on, staying with him, forgiving him and taking him back every single time. Maybe I was the one at fault here. I probably should let it go and just go talk with him, right? My roommates wouldn’t let me leave. I went to bed and kept staring out the window. Eventually, he drove off.
In the morning I decided I wouldn’t drive my car to campus. Trevor would see it and
likely hide behind it until I came out of class. I decided to take the bus. I walked slowly,
peeking around every corner to make sure he wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything, but the
butterflies remained in my stomach (that is what we used to call situational anxiety). I got on the bus when I heard his voice calling me, “Michelle! I just want to talk to you,” Trevor shouted expecting me to obey his request. He always just wanted to talk, like for hours, taking over my life. I pretended to not hear him and jumped onto the bus quickly and sat down near the back so he couldn’t locate my seat. Then someone yelled, “Hey, that guy is following the bus super close.” It was Trevor.
He was on a moped this time because him mom had taken away the keys to his car. It
was actually funny and scary at the same time. He didn’t have a helmet or any winter gear on. The roads were full of snow and slush. The bus was flipping up slush from the back wheels and hitting him in the face. A part of me thought he was getting what he deserved and I tried not to giggle. But, then I remembered the bus would soon come to a stop. “What should I do when I need to get off the bus?” I thought. He surely couldn’t follow me all over Provo could he? I knew I couldn’t get off at BYU where I had originally planned, but then I would surely be late for Sociology class. This would be one more class I would miss, for the umpteenth time, thanks to my dedicated stalker. I stayed on the bus for quite a few stops and Trevor was still revving his moped and going as quickly as he could. I gave up.
The next drop off at the south end of campus was the last stop until the bus swung back to my apartment. I would be safer confronting him in front of people on campus than alone at the apartment. I got off the bus and of course he was right there. He wanted to talk some more. I chose to reassure him that things were okay and that I still loved him. I had to smooth the waters just so my life could go on. I could both fake that Ioved him and keep him from freaking out, or I could tell the truth and forever be emotionally
abused and stalked. I chose the former. I know people don’t understand that. They don’t
understand victim mentality. No one understands until they have been in that situation.
When Trevor wasn’t at my side, I had to wear a golden colored ring from Avon that made
it look like I was married. I couldn’t have guys hit on me and then become another victim of
Trevor’s wrath. Trevor wasn’t afraid of many people and he wasn’t afraid of a fight. He had
punched a guy in the face at a park once because the guy said I had cottage cheese thighs.
Although it was true in my mind, (I wish I could have those tiny thighs now, but in the 80’s
anything above 8% body fat was seen as obese), it was a signal to me that no one else should even be talking to me. It was a signal that I needed to watch myself. I wore that gold ring on my left finger so the boys would leave me alone. It was for my safety as well as theirs.
However, some boys knew I wasn’t married and they would ask me out anyway. These
were the days when boys asked girls out face to face and not by a text. There was one gentleman that was earning his master’s degree in business management. He was also a body builder and one of the hottest men on campus. Guess whom he liked? Me. This would be trouble. Steve had bright blue eyes, tanned skin, dark wavy hair, and a body builder’s chest. He worked hard at his life and had served a 2-year religious mission. He was a prize in anyone’s eyes. He asked me if he could take me to breakfast that weekend. “Yes, I’d love to.” Wait. Why did I say yes?
The answer haunted me all week. I couldn’t put someone of his integrity in harms way. I
pictured Trevor following us into the restaurant and challenging Steve to a fight. I didn’t know who would win. It wouldn’t be fair to Steve. On Friday night I called his apartment. We didn’t have texting or instant messaging, but that would have been easier and I could explain everything. But, we would call and hope someone was home so we could talk with him or her.
His roommate answered,
“Hello, is Steve there?”
“Can you give him a message for me?”
“Can you tell him that Michelle cannot make breakfast in the morning. Something has
“Oh, wow! Ha Ha. Killer! Yes, I’ll tell Steve.”
I couldn’t explain everything to his roommate. I didn’t want anyone else drug into my
relationship drama. Steve was crushed. A few months later he told me, while introducing me to his new fiancé, he had never had anyone treat him like that before. I felt cruel. I also felt
crushed that I had to turn down someone so amazing just to save myself the drama. I was a
martyr. This is how I would live for many more months, martyring myself with the thought, ‘I
will suffer, and pretend like everything is okay even though I am dying inside, just so we can
keep the peace.’
Spring semester was beginning and Trevor gave me a day or two reprieve of his presence,
and I wondered what was going on. He had been meeting up with his old friends. I knew he had gotten back into using drugs, but we never talked about it. I felt if we didn’t talk about it then it wouldn’t be true. We could hide it and still get him on a church mission. We could still make this work.
He came to see me and we were standing on the sidewalk. He wore a new shirt that was
light blue. This is one of my favorite colors and I asked him where he got it. He laughed and
said, “Let me teach you something very valuable. Never leave anything in the front seat of your car and leave the door unlocked.” My heart sank. He was a stalker, drug abuser, and now a thief. I cried. I freaked out and told him, yet again, that it was over. I called him “Psycho” and he did not like that. He started yelling at me and told me to never say that again.
He didn’t want it to be over. I then got in my car and tried to drive away. He jumped on
top of my car and held onto my windshield wipers. I was going about 5 mph and slammed on my brakes to try and shake him off. It didn’t work. I then turned a corner really fast and he jumped off. This was very risky behavior on my part. I am lucky he didn’t get hurt or I am sure I would have been blamed once again for the entire situation.
The weeks following, I would find him with even more old friends whom I had never met
before. He didn’t ever really let me talk with them. I could have and should have just called it
quits at this time. He might have felt he had friend support and didn’t need me anymore.
However, I was addicted to the abuse cycle. I had no one else. My roommates ignored me.
My old friends wouldn’t talk with me. His family blamed me. My family was far away. Others that wanted to believe my story would see me with him and then no longer believe I was still
struggling. They lost trust in me. I was so lonely. So, I strung him along and stayed in the
Lightning From God
Summer was now here and so were new opportunities. Trevor had been hanging out
even more with his old friends and I could breathe a lot more too. Life seemed to be going well, at least for me. Then, one night on a hot July evening, there was a lightning storm, but no rain.
There was some cool, zigzag sparks impressively brightening up the blackened sky. I was
looking out my apartment window from the third floor when I heard the doorbell. It was Trevor. He was scared and seemed strung out. He rocked back and forth. I was so naïve, but knew he was in trouble and likely back to his old lifestyle in full force. All the good, (self) righteous work I thought I had accomplished with him had been lost. His eyes were glazed over as he stared at me with a stern, yet hopeful look. “Come on. Let’s talk,” he held out his hand just as he did many times before. My mind began to whirl and I had a decision to make. I could say “No” and cause a dramatic scene in the stairwell of my apartment, or I could go down the stairs and talk with him. “Okay, but we stay outside,” I replied. “Okay,” he agreed.
We were on the grass and could hear the Thor like thunder. The lightning really was
beautiful as it lit up our world and we could see reflections of cars parked around the building. Trevor was panicked for some reason and wanted me to go into his car and talk. I knew he would drive away with me one more time and I would be stuck with nowhere to go. Thoughts of previous threats and actions filled my mind. “No. We talk here,” I responded. Trevor wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer and grabbed my wrist. I yelled again, “No!” He grabbed even harder and started dragging me across the cool evening grass. I began to scream for help and dropped my bottom to the ground so he couldn’t take me so easily. I tried to scream in a high pitch voice so others might be able to hear me over the roaring thunder. Trevor then placed his hand over my mouth and nose to prevent and further noise, and I couldn’t breathe. He then put his other hand across my neck. He dragged me across the yard by my neck and head, still covering my mouth so no one could hear my cries for help. My eyes faced up and I looked toward the sky as if I could find support from above.
My feet tried to keep up under my body as we crossed the yard, giving my body a little
bit of support. I prayed he wouldn’t break my neck, as I was being drug along the grass.
However, I couldn’t breathe and was now fighting for my life. I could feel the spit coming out
of my mouth and making his hand slippery. Maybe a few squeals would come out and someone would hear me. Maybe my spit could move his hand just enough that it wouldn’t cover my nose and I could breathe better. My feet couldn’t keep up with Trevor’s pace and my entire body flailed as legs were getting scratched up while being drug across the ground.
My neck felt like it was ready to break.
Just then I heard a stranger yell, “What the hell are you doing? Let go of her.” A male
college student ran over and chased Trevor off. The young man had been outside to watch the lightning storm and saw our altercation. He didn’t know what to do at this point, but walked me up to my apartment. He turned me over to my roommates to take me to the police station. I thanked him and got his name. My roommates looked surprised when they saw me with red marks all over my neck and said they heard me screaming, but thought we were just playing around.
At the Provo City Police Station I met with a woman while being checked in. I was
relieved it wasn’t the campus policeman. She took pictures of my neck and wrote down my
testimony. She then referred me to the Women’s Shelter and advised me to go there right away.
I went the next morning. A middle aged, brunette woman called me into her small office. She also wrote down my testimony and then she told me she would handle everything. She said we were going to file for a restraining order. “What is a restraining order?” I asked. “This will keep him away from you. By law, he won’t be able to come near you or stalk you any more. We will also give you a court appointed attorney to represent you in court.” I was being validated instead of victim shamed. I was being seen. I was being heard. I was still scared, but that young gentleman looking at lightning and the lady at the women’s shelter, saved my life. One saved me physically and the other saved me emotionally.
That very week my parents showed up at my apartment forcing me to move home. I
watched as they packed up all my things to put into their car. I knew they were right. It was
what was safest for me. However, I felt victimized again. I was used to playing the victim as it meant that I surrendered my power to others. I did move home. I lost my housing, although I still had to pay for rent for two more months before the next semester started. I lost my job, as moving home meant we were too far away for me to remain at the credit union. And, I lost my college credit as it was in the middle of the summer term and I didn’t make it to class the rest of the month. I lost my roommates that ‘off and on’ seemed to be my friends. I lost my community. I lost my self-respect.
But, even after losing all of that, I allowed myself to move home. I felt safe there. Trevor certainly wouldn’t dare confront my dad. My parents really didn’t know what to do at
this point. Things seem to be hushed, at least hushed around me. I am sure there was plenty of talk among the family. Everyone seems to have the solutions for everyone else. But, all I really needed was for someone to be like my two rescuers, the two perfect strangers that reached out and helped me. I needed someone to physically take care of me. My parents did that. However, now I needed someone to emotionally help me.
Living in Shame
No one went to counseling or a psychiatrist back then. To do so meant you truly were
mentally ill and belong in an institution. We also didn’t have many resources or knowledge
about these issues. There were no stalking laws in place yet, at least laws that I knew of. The only reason I qualified for the restraining order was because someone saw him choking me. Many women feel helpless and like it is normal to be overpowered by men, whether
mentally or physically. Many are taught women should be barefoot and in the kitchen and the man as the provider. Some think women have no power. That is exactly how I felt in those moments. I am thankful women have come so far in a matter of decades since this experience.
I could have been bitter toward God. Why would he have allowed this to happen to me?
I was trying to be a good girl. I didn’t drink, smoke, I read my scriptures, I went to church, I said my prayers, etc. Didn’t I deserve better? Hadn’t I earned a smooth life? Trevor was a Christian.
He came from a good family. Why was he allowed to behave this way for so long? Why did I
always get blamed for being with him? Were people blind? I was confused and embarrassed. I was angry. I was angry that I could feel so alone even with people around me. I was angry I worked hard to get into BYU, get the credit union job, create a future for myself, and it was all taken away. My dignity was destroyed.
No one really talked about the situation at home. Maybe they didn’t know what to say.
Maybe they didn’t understand the danger I was in. A few weeks passed and I saw a gun in my dad’s side table next to his bed. I asked my mom why it was there. My mother looked at me and said it was to protect us in case Trevor came around again. I was so caught up in my own fear I hadn’t realized how this had affected my parents. I was truly the victim, but they were the victim’s parents. That must be a very hard role to play.
Even though I lived 40 minutes away from him, I often looked over my shoulder
everywhere I went to make sure Trevor wasn’t there. Every time I got into a car, went to the
store, went to school, went to class, I could feel his shadow upon me. I would often walk slowly and scope out locations. I walked scared for a long time.This paranoid feelling would not leave for many years to come.
Very soon after moving home, my dad asked me to come work for him at Bettilyon
Corporation. He paid me $13.00 hour. That is a pretty good wage for 1989. I typed up about 2-3 checks a day and said “Hello” to people as they came in the building. I had a lot of free time on my hands. I transferred up to the Salt Lake BYU extension center and my mom even took a Sociology class with me there. We had fun. With all my free time at work, I did homework. I pulled a 4.0 that semester. Things were looking up. It was during this semester I met Dean. I didn’t tell him about Trevor for a very long time. However, that following spring I was summoned to court to testify against Trevor. I soon received a phone call from his mom. She said she just wanted to see how I was doing. But, I knew better. She wanted to smooth things over before I testified against her son. But, I wouldn’t be bullied anymore.
The court date came and I asked Dean to come with me. This meant he would find out
how weak and vulnerable I truly was. He would find out that I am overly emotional and possibly not want to be with me anymore. But, he was the only one I felt like I could turn to and I needed support. I had to trust him.
I decided to pray to my Father in Heaven and asked for strength. I couldn’t believe I was
still going through this. I felt safe physically because I knew Trevor couldn’t come near me.
But, I also felt emotionally broke. I felt like everything was my fault. I’m the one that kept
going back to him. I fell to my knees and cried out to ask for support and comfort. I needed to know someone was on my side and could see my point of view. Thoughts of the BYU officer previously accusing me ran through my head. Thoughts of others blaming me every time they saw me with Trevor and ‘Why do you keep taking him back?’ comments, not understanding the full situation, troubled my heart. I then remembered that the atonement means that Christ felt all our fears, pain, struggles, weaknesses and doubts. He was the only one that would ever understand my heart. He was the only one that will ever understand my thoughts. I had to trust him. I had to become vulnerable again.
It is interesting that becoming humble unto Christ can be so hard. I believe it was hard
for me because I had hardened my heart over the past year. I had hardened myself as protection from others and their judgments. I didn’t want to talk about my situation and thought not talking about it might make it seem like it never happened. I pretended to be emotionally strong with others because I didn’t want to deal with any more drama.
As I began to converse with the Lord in prayer, my heart began to talk to me. I learned
being humble and vulnerable with Christ is actually what makes you strong. I deserved to
humble myself, get his help, and feel his loving arms around me at this time.
I like to close my eyes and kneel when I converse with my Lord. It helps me to focus and
block out the outside world. As I closed my eyes it was as if I was closing my eyes on the past and ready to open them back up to the future. I talked with Christ, pleading with him for
strength, tears filling my eyes. They were cleansing tears as if a baptism or renewal.
I knew I would still have to face Trevor in court, but this time with a renewed spirit. “I can do this,” I thought. I know I’ll likely break down in court, but I am a survivor, fighter, and worthy of moving on. With Christ by my side, I can do hard things. We are promised the gift of the
comforter John 14:16-18 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive,
because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and he’ll be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
I would accept this promise and use the gift of the comforter to get through the court
case. I knew I wouldn’t be alone.
Come to Order
Trevor was escorted into the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and shackles on his ankles.
Did I do this to him? Was this all because of me? I looked across the room and saw the boy that rescued me the night of the lightning storm sitting in one of the seats. I was grateful he was there, but he seemed a bit bothered to be summoned to court. I couldn’t let that shake me. I wanted to be strong.
I was called to the stand and the judge asked me what happened that evening. My
personal waterworks put on quite a show and the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. The emotion of the last year was too overwhelming. I shared my version of what happened and then the stranger boy confirmed my version. It was now Trevor’s turn to take the stand. The shackles clanked as he shuffled to take his seat. I tried not to look him in the eye because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, but I couldn’t help it. I glanced up every now and then and
I decided it would then be better to stare into space. “I am truly sorry. My actions that evening were uncalled for. I hope that you can ever forgive me,” Trevor pleaded. Was he putting on a show or had he truly changed? My heart dropped thinking I was the one that put him in jail. “No,” I said to myself. “Don’t fall for this again. You have come too far. Be strong. Be strong.” I kept a straight face and then the judge handed down the sentence. I realized Trevor had not been sentenced for our situation yet and it wasn’t me that put those shackles and jumpsuit on him that he currently wore.
I later found out Trevor had previously committed armed robbery and was currently in
jail for that crime. My charges would add to his time served. It was now time to announce
sentencing and I don’t even remember what the judge said at this moment. I just wanted to get out of there. And then it was over and Trevor was escorted out of the courtroom.
I was free. At least, I was physically free and that had to be good enough. My #metoo
story has never been told in detail until now, but it deserves to be known.
Trevor must have been let out of prison a few years later. I saw him driving on the road
next to me on University Parkway in Provo, Utah. I froze and hoped he wouldn’t look over
towards my car nor recognize me. He then saw me driving on the road and honked to wave at me from his car full of friends, as if nothing were ever wrong between us. But, now I was
married, pregnant with my first child and very intimidated at the situation. I stared straight ahead and pretended not to see him. Memories flooded back into my mind. Although I had moved on, I knew I would never completely heal. I felt forgotten. Where was God now? Why didn’t I feel more support from family, church members, church leaders, and God throughout this entire soap opera? Why did it take a complete stranger to finally get me the help I needed and deserved?
I put up many walls and put on a good show that I was in control, yet inside felt
completely heart broken, ashamed, and alone. I stuffed emotions just so I could continue driving and get away. Trevor just drove off and I haven’t seen him since that day. At least, I haven’t seen him in person. I wish I could say I felt comfort from God or anyone that day, but I didn’t.
One blessing that kept me going emotionally was my unborn child. I felt such a
connection to this baby and knew I had to be strong. I wanted to be the ultimate mommy and couldn’t cave in to my depression. I knew this child was a gift from God. I then had to force myself to focus on the life I had now and not dwell on the past. Another blessing I recognize that Christ honored me with was the blessing of ‘being busy’. Some may never view that as a blessing, but in the moments I feel most alone, I learn to get busy. I get busy with study, service, work, family, and anything to help me focus on what matters most and take my mind off negative emotions.
Time passed and passed, I slowly began to emotionally heal and no longer peeked around
corners. I had my own growing family to focus on. I earned a degree and became a
schoolteacher at an alternative high school. I taught the young mothers and learned a lot about relationships and psychology. I later owned my own preschool and those little kids fed my soul.
I felt emotionally stable but never talked with anyone about my experience. I never attended
therapy, counseling, got advice, nothing. How I wish I had gotten help, but I never knew my
options and no one offered any solutions. Yet, I was a proud survivor and became more secure about myself as time continued on.
About 20 years later, we were given the miracle of Facebook. This is where many older
people look up former friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, bullies, etc. to see what everyone is up to.
Then, upon my Facebook feed appeared a familiar face. It was a bald headed guy with caring eyes. Was it Trevor? I looked closer and saw a very cute lady with him and a bundle of children. It was Trevor. He had made it. He had figured it out. He married a darling lady and his kids were so cute. Why did he deserve a happily ever after? Why did things work out for him? Where is the justice?
I was in the middle of my master’s degree in counseling at the time and it helped me
understand my feelings. I learned about the 5 main stages of bereavement and how it can beapplied not just to a death, but also to any relationship that is severed. It can be applied to
divorce, break-ups, and so on. I wondered where I fell on the steps of bereavement:
My reaction to the Facebook post was quite interesting to say the least. I saw how happy he
looked and how cute his family was. The picture I saw was of them all dressed in white as they hugged each other. They had been sealed in a religious temple to be a family for all eternity. He indeed found his happily every after. However, I wasn’t angry. I was happy for him. It was a relief for me that he could be happy. I knew that I had forgiven him. I knew that I have forgiven myself for the drama I caused. He would never have found that happily ever after with me and I was okay with that. He could move on. I could move on.
That may be my personal psychological reason I never posted on social media about my
#metoo story at that time. I don’t want to look back. I want to look forward. The #metoo
movement was a trigger for me and it was too painful to relive all those memories, especially over social media. I also worried that someone who read my post might victim shame me all over again. They would ask questions. Doubt would set back into my mind about the role I played and if I really was the one to blame for it all. I know better now, but there will always be that
I had hidden my story for years hoping it would just go away. However, sometimes just
being heard helps someone move forward. Victims deserve to be heard. They deserve to NOT be victim shamed. They deserved to be understood. They deserve to heal.
I am ready to be heard.
I will not be victim shamed.
I am ready to share my #metoo story.
I am ready to heal.
So, to my perpetrator, I say “Congratulations. I am happy you figured out how to have a
healthy relationship. I am happy we both can move forward. Peace be unto you and all your
family. I forgive you of your trespasses and I forgive myself for the role I played in our story.”
"Never Surrender" is about living in a time stricken with 'giving up' attitudes-HOWEVER, people can become Resilient, Manage Stress, Learn Love of Self and Faith in God. Gordon B Hinckley said, "You can be smart and happy, or stupid & miserable. The choice is yours." This blog is dedicated to those who struggle, have struggled, or will struggle but NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT! Life? You Got This!