I was raped.

Pause and contemplate those three words. I certainly have as I have been living with that reality since 2010, while I was pursuing my master's degree, when a celebrated opera singer and his boyfriend raped me.

In the aftermath of confronting this reality I was faced with two choices. I could choose to become someone who felt betrayed by everything, living a life of bitterness and anger, treating the world with hatred justified by what I had to endure. The other option, and the one I ultimately chose, was to reject anger and bitterness as driving forces in my life. I chose to pursue kindness and love, and in doing so, I have found a life full of potential beauty. Yet I often have to work hard to discover the beauty and it is not always apparent to someone who has endured life-altering and devastating circumstances.

Why now? Because this is my story and I hate that this is my story, but now I have the strength to own my story and to take back the power it has had over me and to use the power of its truth, its sacredness, to bring an end to rape. I have been terrified to talk about this publicly because, as many know, people in positions of power (or perceived positions of power) have not been held accountable in the past. There was a legitimate danger of destroying my career by reporting someone else’s assault against me. Because of this, I have lived with the fear of exclusion and being silenced which has meant that my story has not been told. And I was not willing to risk a career in opera by exposing this truth. But I know that I am not alone. My love for life and art and music and people compel me to tell this truth.

Recovering is a process, and there is no deadline for recovery. There is no single best way to deal with being violated and feeling empty. So many people are in that process of recovery, and we often don’t know who those many silent, grieving people are or why they behave the way they do. We often don’t understand why they seem to struggle more emotionally, psychologically, spiritually than the average person. Many of the people we encounter each day may be carrying the unfathomable weight of abuse, of undeserved shame, of rape. It is imperative to have and articulate hope, to be kind, to know you are loved, to love others, to show compassion, and to be empathetic.

As many survivors know, the steady devastation that becomes so familiar can eventually begin to lift, but it’s a process. It’s the process of making the daily, sometimes minute-by-minute choice to make it through just one more day, to choose hope against all reason. This is one way in which the oppression, the nightmarish fears, the seemingly permanent stamp of “damaged” loses power over time. For me, I started out crushed with no idea where to turn or what to do next. But as I kept choosing hope, hope grew, which allowed me to discover kindness, love, compassion, and empathy for myself and for others as I accepted life—and even this deepest pain—as an opportunity to learn.

Education is paramount. Yes, men are raped. I did not know that the word “rape” applied to what happened to me until I lethargically went to tell a friend, and told her through tears and emptiness, what happened to me. In fact, I was so naïve that I didn’t know that I should have gone to the hospital or even what a “rape kit” is. We must do better in educating each person about the realities and tragedy of rape.

At the end of the day I believe in hope and in the power of kindness and love. Our voices, our stories, our choices, and our hope create a shared strength that is more powerful than the dehumanizing tactics of those for whom the truth is inconvenient and who wish for our silence.

I hope this inspires others to come forward and say #MeToo.