What does a rapist steal from you? …..Thanks for asking this question of me; you have prompted me to take an interesting journey into my deeper thoughts.

There are many ways that I can answer this question; but for now, I’ll go in just one direction. When I was nineteen, my response to this question would be much different than what I’m about to say. Aside from the physical damage caused by a rapist, I always believed that one of the first things a rapist steals from you is your self-confidence. I believed they also take away your confidence in others; in life; in systems; and anything you once believed was stable and solid. When police officers enter a crime scene, they look around to quickly assess what’s missing. Following my rape, when I was alone and opened my eyes for the first time, I made this same assessment into my spirit.  I immediately discovered it was my confidence that was gone. Various edges of my core had been wounded; but, it was most noticeable that only a pattern of dust remained where my confidence had once stood. I searched everywhere for it but it couldn’t be found. I tried to find it in other people so that I could claim it as my own; but it wasn’t there. I searched for it in superficial activities and light conversation over a glass of wine; but it wasn’t there either. I couldn’t find it in shopping centers, jewelry stores or fancy resorts. The more I searched to find it in my physical appearance or in the affections of other men, the more apparent it became that I had lost it for good. I mastered the smile. I discovered that the more I smiled, the more comfortable others were in watching me live my life. It was important for other people to see me pushing through the experience. My family and friends needed to see me smile and I needed to see them happy. I tried the practice of “Fake it until you make it,” but it was only good on my exterior. It was helpful for creating good habits, but it didn’t help me for the long haul. It was the “fake it” part of the practice that wasn’t reliable and just didn’t fit me. I tried to master the art of applying a fake mask of “acceptance.” I put on the mask as if it was sheer make-up from Cover-girl.  All the while, deep down in my core, I believed my true confidence was lost. I was the queen at living vicariously through the achievements of others. I’m now certain this is why I became an inspirational speaker. It was glorious to lead others down the path to great success. I flourished while giving others the tools they needed to be strong and confident.

Then one day, I stumbled upon a piece of my own confidence and I thought…”There you are! That’s where I put you.”  It hit home when I repeated the words “That’s where I put you.” When we know a storm is approaching, we take our valuables and put them somewhere safe. When a thief is about to steal our belongings, we quickly hide them out of sight. We protect what we see as valuable and to me, my confidence was very valuable.  I know that when I have to move quickly, sometimes I’ll outsmart myself. I’ll put something in a special spot and think, “Annamarie, you’ll remember where you put this.” When I’m hurried or stressed, I forget the secret spot all together and in time I’ll consider it gone forever.  

Today, at the age of 57, I have a different opinion. I know the man who raped me AND the military justice system that didn’t protect me….didn’t take my confidence. I’ve had it along. I believe that in the moment of crisis, I reacted quickly to protect who I am….my spirit. My confidence was only shattered and not stolen. I had quickly tucked it into safe places in my soul. It was never lost; I had only forgotten where I had placed the precious pieces. Once I realized that I had all the pieces inside of myself, I became a master confidence hunter. I have learned to search within myself to pull all the pieces together. While teaching others to be confident and successful, I discovered how I could pull the once fragmented pieces of confidence into the completely whole woman I am today.  Sure, now and then I’ll still stumble on chips of broken confidence; but now it’s easier to recognize them and put the confidence right back where it belongs.

It’s a long answer but I felt it needed explaining. I believe that my rapist stole nothing. I am whole.

My suggestion is: If you believe that someone; something; or some experience, has taken something from you….look deeper. Seek out counselors and professional resources to lead you to the best hunting spots within yourself. You’ll find that your confidence is still there. No one took it from you. Like me, you may have put it away for safe keeping. It’s in you.

Thank you for submitting your questions and it will be my honor, to communicate in future blogs, some of the best places to hunt and capture that confidence you have within yourself.