When you are seventeen, you want to be careless and wild. You want to be able to make mistakes and try new things without fear of the repercussions. You want to go out with your friends and make the final self-discoveries before you are thrown into adulthood. You want to be young. You want to be free. You want to be who you are.

But what happens when that innocence is stolen from you? What happens when you become a mental adult long before you are supposed to?

One out of every six females are sexually assaulted before they turn 18 years old. This changes their lives immensely.

The boy that you used to play tag with during recess in elementary school suddenly makes you fearful that he might want to play the game again but, be a little more deliberate with where he touches. The male English teacher that asks you to stay behind after class to discuss your grade gives you a panic attack when the students leave, and you stay as asked. The neighbor boy that has always been like your big brother becomes someone you avoid at all costs out of fear of being left alone with him.

When a girl is touched or used and abused, she changes. It might not be a physical change; it might not even be a change that can be noticed by the outer world. But she does.

Small tasks become large stressors. Going to the store alone is terrifying and walking to the mailbox is even scarier.

Her mind starts shrinking in on her and tells her hateful things about herself before she can convince herself otherwise. “You deserved it.” “You were practically asking for it.” “You probably liked the attention that’s why you didn’t stop it.” All these things that were told for her when she asked for help. The thoughts do not leave, and they break her heart daily.

For survivors, you are seen, and you are not alone. You can walk around everyday convincing yourself that you are okay and whole. It is okay to need help. It is okay to be broken. It is okay to not be okay. What happened to you was wrong and is no way your fault. You are valid. You deserve a world that fairly and kindly. You are strong even when you do not have to be. There is help and it is okay to need it.

When you are seventeen, you can have your life ripped from your own grasp no matter what choices you make. One out of every six girls are going to relive the moment that their no meant yes to someone else and carelessness was no longer a privilege that they had. Believe them. One pair of helping hands could make all the difference in a life that is being darkened by others.