I grew up with the best, supportive family with a myriad of extended relatives. My family and my faith and ballet were the backbone of who I was. I had such a love for the art form of ballet since I was three years old after seeing the Christmas time favorite, The Nutcracker. I trained for years, studying locally as well as many summer programs at Boston Ballet and other prestigious schools. I started dancing professionally at age fourteen touring with the Boston Dance Company through high school while still studying with Northeastern Ballet Theatre in NH. I went on to work with local ballet companies while studying at the University of New Hampshire receiving my Bachelor degree in Exercise Science and a second degree in Theater and Dance. I married my best friend, Phillip. It was in this new season of 2013 that I decided to accept the position of prima ballerina with the newly formed International Ballet Company in Burlington, MA, under New England Movement Arts. It was there that a renowned director gained my trust. He invited me to go to a Romanian competition and another following in Orlando, Florida. He also judged for both of them. To make a very long story shorter, I was sexually assaulted three times in the first twenty-four hours which began on an overnight international flight and continued for ten days in Romania. I feared for my life if I said a word. I was sleep deprived. I was lucky to make it home alive.
There is a GREAT need for education in what the effects of trauma look like. Please get this - a traumatized person does not think or make decisions like a non-traumatized person. Responses to trauma are fight, flight or freeze. I froze as so many victims do as a result of trauma. There are actual physiological changes that occur in the brain as seen on MRI's of traumatized victims with PTSD. Sleep deprivation (as with prisoners of war) causes extreme changes in the brain as well. I could not think clearly or make rational decisions. How I wish I could go back and talk to myself to run or cry out for help, but I was in such shock; I felt too scared to tell anyone and felt like I needed to appear normal to have a chance to get home safely. I stayed in this frozen like state in my thinking while I was being raped daily. I still struggle with my body just shutting down or freezing when I am anxious, feeling like I just cannot respond or speak. Society, including healthcare providers, need to be educated on trauma and how to come alongside victims and support them. I have so much that I would want to share about this. Victims need help to be brave in breaking their silence to see change come about. If there is one out of three women who have been sexually assaulted, there are a vast number of us that should come together and make a very large army for change. We need to be assured that the judicial system will support us and not hinder or re-traumatize victims as they speak out which helps the next women.
I am only at the beginning of my intersection with the judicial system, and have already experienced many changes that need to happen to help rape victims. Giving victims as many choices at every point in the process is so important. They did not have choices during their attacks. They suffer with feeling powerless and fearful. We need to give them their power back at every juncture when possible. My criminal battle is still being investigated by the FBI; my civil case is just beginning. It has been almost two years. We cannot heal with such outrageous timelines! We need closure. I find it unbelievable that my perpetrator, a master manipulator, is still allowed to be teaching minors. They are not safe! I am sure I will continue to see how our system needs to change as I walk through this arduous process.
Who will stand with the sexual assault victims? Who will see the importance to not just say "NO MORE" but push for change and bring about the many laws that need to happen for the masses who suffer in silence? I do not feel ready to fight, but feel called to the battle. I am choosing daily to Be Brave. - Lissa Curtis
Our thanks to Lissa Curtis for sharing her story and raising awareness about sexual assault. She and her community of friends and family who have stood by her in such a strong and visual way send a message to survivors that they are not alone and they deserve to be believed and supported.
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