I was a varsity track athlete. Throughout my life, running has been the sole outlet for my safety and comfort, a commitment I’ve had since 3rd grade. Running a 5k on warm beaches clears my head of all family troubles: a suicidal mother, a drug-dealing father, life in poverty, and the academic stress of my demanding high school.

The first injury I ever endured was during my senior year. I tore my meniscus in a 400m sprint and was on crutches. I was pretty devastated: it meant I had to give up going to State Championships. I was injured during College Application season and unknowingly at the time my injury decided my fate to attend an all women’s college. At that point, my mom’s half brother had been living with us for a year and a half; I’d seen him a few times when I was younger but that was about it. He taught me how to drive a stick shift and how to Olympic weightlift, and we grew close. I thought he was quite cool.

My uncle began taking care of my injuryhe got me things from the kitchen, elevated my knee, and eased the pain. One day, he started massaging past my knee, and I physically could not run away. I was physically and mentally molested almost everyday I came home. I was 18 years old, and I was asked to give up going to college to run away with a man who told me he was in love with me. A few nights I could escape this torture when my mom decided we would spend the night at her boyfriend’s home. Unfavorably my mom’s boyfriend took the same methodical route and they were both unaware of each other’s actions. In a house filled with trouble, I was forced into silence, and made to feel guilty.

Massachusetts was miles from my troubled home, but surrounded exclusively by women, I was nowhere close to a functional relationship with any man; until I began taking courses at Amherst. I made friends, a lot male, and I immediately fell in love with the college. My transfer application was accepted and my sophomore year was enveloped with hope and promise. Two years later, almost to the day, I injured my knee running the same 400m sprint. The physical and emotional distress of being tied down to crutches meant so much more than an injury to me, I was in excruciating pain for weeks. No longer a varsity track athlete towards the end of my sophomore year my knee would still sporadically act up and I was in physical pain. A non-athlete friend, on my last day on campus before summer, watched a movie with me in bed. We’d been friends since freshman year and he was massaging my knee and my quad (another muscle I’d mildly injured during Outdoor season).

I was sober and he was not. He decided to take a similar horrible route my uncle and mom’s boyfriend had taken previously. Terrified, enraged, I kept moving his hands from the area of my body that had been abused so many times before, with little avail. Not nearly as severe as what I had endured back home and without entry, I had a minimal amount of courage to leave the room. I’ve yet to take criminal action against any of my abusers.

Growing up I never could grasp why one would guilt of being a survivor, until I experienced it. I’m unable to have a man perform oral sex on me because I simply can’t picture a man’s face, head, and mind anywhere near my knees.  I’m unsure of my role with men, I will always feel guilty at first for allowing any man to touch me, and was told by someone I dated last year that I’m fucked up for liking him because he’s a terrible person. I’ve been exploited and abused in numerous ways, but the sexual assaults have infinitely been the worst. My confidence gets ripped away: my ability to stand up for myself, to purchase certain clothing, to have certain conversations with men. Being vulnerable with a man and allowing him get to know, understand, and enter my world has and will continue to be an unequivocally difficult journey for me.

I’ve injured muscles in my legs about four times this year and was told I can no longer run competitively. Each time I’m injured it’s never solely a physical impediment, it’s emotional affliction; one I try my best not to endure for too long by attending physical therapy everyday. I work with all my might to use crutches or a cane for as little as possible. I’m a woman who may be labeled as distrustful of others, mysterious, and sexually alluring. My trust, hope, and faith will forever be stripped and an outlet that once gave me safety and comfort has disappeared simply because I was a sexually exploited athlete, and I can never run away.