Hannah Palmer

Morris • Minnesota

Story

When I was 7, I heard an orchestral song. As I listened, I saw movement. I saw dancers on stage in a costume as they moved together as one. I told my father about it and mentioned that I didn't understand why I could see those thing because I wasn't in dance. He simply responded with "you could be a choreographer one day." Little did I know, he was right. Dance has been my life saver. Dance has pulled me out of some of the darkest moments in my life. I'd like to share with you how dance most recently changed not only my life, but many around me.

**Trigger warning this is heavy and honest information. This may be difficult to read for some.
About a year ago, I found myself in a painful and debilitating situation. I am only just now starting to be able to confess it to myself, let alone other people. This situation is why "Survivor" came to life in the first place. So. Here is my story.
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I never really had a large amount of friends. I was scared of having friends, scared of getting hurt. I was off and on in different groups of friends but I never really allowed myself to become close to people because in my experience, people left. When I got to college I started to let myself get closer, only to be hurt once again. And then I met him. He was so kind and funny and seemed like he genuinely cared. He was there the second I needed it. I finally let someone in again. I let myself get attached and call him my “best friend.” It was always us. We cried together, we laughed together, we were one. I have never, and will never let someone get that close to me again.
Once I let him in I started letting others in. Slowly, one by one others came into my life. I started to let myself feel like I belonged again. I always had someone to talk to, someone to cry with, and someone to be with when I didn’t want to be alone. No matter what, someone was always there. Especially when my heart was broken and I was lonely. One friend in particular always seemed to take it upon himself to “comfort” me when I was upset. He found he especially needed to be there for me the night my boyfriend of two years left me. His idea of comfort was a bottle of booze and some forceful words. I was hurt and alone and he capitalized upon that.
One shot in my body was warm and the pain of what had happened slowly began to disappear. “Take another.” He said as he shoved the bottle in my face. “You just got dumped, you need more.” I agreed, although I knew something was off. I continued though, I took shot after shot and the night became blurrier. “You have to sleep with me tonight.” I was too sacred to say no. He slowly lured me back into his bedroom and pushed me down into his bed. I tried falling asleep before anything would happen but before i knew it i felt a hand on the small of my back. My heart started pounding but I couldn’t think straight so I froze. He quickly became more and more bold. My head was spinning but I couldn’t form words. I remember feeling vulnerable and objectified. Everything got blurry and eventually I stopped thinking and blacked out. The only memory I have after that is waking up with no clothes on, his body pushed up against mine and no sound but his heavy breathing to comfort me in the darkness of his room.
When I came too in the morning I panicked. I quickly grabbed my things and ran three blocks home without stopping. I knew something had happened but I told myself that it was my fault. I blocked it from my memory and pretended nothing happened. If I ignored it than it wouldn’t exist right? Plus, if I did tell anyone, they would just think it was my fault. I asked for it, I was drinking, I should have known better. I decided the best thing to do was to keep it to myself. If anyone asked I would just laugh it off like I planned on doing it.
It wasn’t until two months later that I finally decided to come clean. He did it to another girl, a friend of mine. I could not let her be alone, I needed her to know that she was not the only one. So I did it, I told people that I thought would do something about it and actually care. I put myself in that position thinking people would find it in their hearts to help me. I thought that my friends would be there and love me through it. But what I got instead left me more broken than I have ever felt. I am still recovering from the pain.
I told my best friend. I came clean and told him how much it hurt me. I told the rest of the group of friends. I was shaking and scared but I decided that they needed to know. Then I heard the words I never once thought I would hear. You are lying. My best friend, the one I told everything to told me that I was lying. He stopped talking to me. They all stopped talking to me. They all turned their backs and left me hopeless and broken. I had no one and I felt nothing but betrayal and pain. I was left sleeping on other people’s couches and scrounging just to get by. No one came to help me, no one came to see if I was ok. I wasn’t. All I felt was pain. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t function as a human anymore.
I just wanted to be ok and he ripped all of that right out from under me. And now he got the pity. He got the people asking him if he was ok. He got the love and support that I so desperately needed in that moment. While I was kicking and screaming from pain, my best friends closed me out. Even HIM. He turned away from me and I was left alone.
I’m still trying to accept what happened. I have to see my former best friend and my attacker often. Every time I do my heart stops and my legs get numb. Seeing them physically hurts. It takes me back to how it was before and how it could have been if perhaps I had just continued to hide it and just never said anything about it. But I have started realizing that none of this was my fault. I take this pain and I let it inspire me now. I let it fuel the reasons that I keep fighting. He tried to destroy me but I won’t let him. Because no matter what I am a strong beautiful person who pushed through the pain.
I still have bad days. I still have flashbacks and it is still affecting the way I think about life. I’m still scared of letting myself attach to other people but I know that with each sunrise comes another chance for me to keep fighting and another chance for me to prove that I don’t give up, and I won’t give up now.
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After this happened I knew I needed to do something. I knew there were other people going through as much pain as I was. I knew other people needed to share their story as much as I did. So I created a medium in which they could share their own stories in an anonymous setting. Of course dance was the medium I chose but to be completely honest, when I decided to do this I never once thought it would turn into something this powerful. I wrote, directed, and choreographed my senior dance showcase entitled "Survivor." This story above was one of the five performed in "Survivor". I found four other brave individuals who were ready to share their story. I needed a place to heal, so I knew there had to be others who did as well.

The show was performed to spoken word and live music. It was a mix of modern and contemporary.

"Survivor" gave me the chance to finally look my pain right in the eyes and say "you do NOT define me."
On the first day of rehearsals, we introduced ourselves. I asked them to simply state why they were part of this show. One of my dancers responded with "I think it's really cool that we are all here because we all believe in you." These individuals quickly became family. The bond we created will never break.

This last semester has proven to be incredibly challenging. I got suicidal from trying to handle the pain and often felt like giving up, but this company kept me going. Seeing the passion they had for something that they were simply volunteering their time for was humbling. And seeing the strength in the survivors themselves gave me a bit of hope to hold on to.
So I'm here to say that I am not a rape victim, but a rape survivor. Because I am "a person who was deceived and raped, but faces every new day fighting."

I know there are other people trying to fight a painful fight. I just want to say to them that you will be okay. Seeing the survivors go through the unthinkable and come out even stronger than before, gave me the hope and strength that I needed. I had a turn out of about 400 people come to the show. I had countless people thank me. I never thought I could inspire, and I am so humbled that I was able to take some of the darkest moments in my life and use them as fuel for my journey.