Weighing in at about 250 pounds and dressed in leopard print leggings and an oversized sweatshirt, Rhonda was the epitome of inspiration. I met her at a support group for survivors of sexual assault when I was 18 years old. All Rhonda wanted was an apartment of her own and a lot of cats.
At that time, Rhonda was in her late 40s. Rhonda’s brother and father molested her until, in her early teens, she finally fled home. She remained homeless until right before I met her and throughout that time, she suffered continued abuse.
But when I met her she was still strong beyond words and she had gained a fiery sense of humor. She taught me that even when you can’t see the light in your life, there is hope. She inspired me to spread that hope to others. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it is time we think about the Rhondas of the world and continue to spread these stories.
Rhonda lived her life without someone to help her and tell her the abuse she survived was not her fault. She didn’t know where to go to find the resources she needed to regain her autonomy.
Call for help
If you or someone you know has experienced a sexual trauma or is in an abusive situation, please call the DSVS helpline 24 hours a day at (406) 425-2222..
The most poignant part of her story is not the horror she survived every day for decades, but the light she found at the end. She eventually found a community that embraced her, rehabilitated her and supplied her with her very first apartment. They enabled her to get the first in what she hoped will be a long line of cats. With her tenacity and strength, imagine what Rhonda could have done or who she could have been if someone had helped her sooner.
Carbon and Stillwater counties have resources to help survivors of sexual assault. Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Red Lodge provides support and resources. It doesn’t matter whether the experience is recent or was in the past, we help everyone.
Our office provides crisis intervention and advocacy, safe and confidential transport to health services in Billings, safe shelter, and the kind of guidance that helped Rhonda get her life back together. We are also able to refer to trusted resources for psychological care and counseling.
Survivors are not alone. We empower them to make informed decisions about their care. DSVS is always here to help.
Anna Drew is the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services office coordinator.