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Hi, my name is Holly Holland and I am a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. The abuse started when I was very young on a Naval base. I was three and was raped by three thirteen-year-old boys. I didn't remember anything till I was 29 when the flashbacks started. I would see images of being shoved down to the ground face down in the grass and see faces of young boys and not knowing who they were. I saw my panties being ripped off, they were laughing and saying nasty words as they plunged their body parts into me over and over. I saw myself screaming...I was a toddler. Next thing I started seeing was me on a stretcher in a hospital and the doctor taking samples of my body fluids and removing grass from my eyes. I shut down totally then and wouldn't talk. I remember being in a sound booth and the technician asking me questions and I didn't respond. I thought I might be remembering old dreams and images until my mother confirmed these actions of rape. I was very very angry at the age of 29 when I found out about the rape and at my mom, the one person who was supposed to watch me but instead she justified it by saying I was determined to go out and play and no, my mother didn't go out with me and I was not in her sight. I don't know how I was found. My dad was at work. I don't have very many memories of my life then because I was so young but had grown up starting to know something was not right with me and started counseling and therapy when I was thirteen. Dad had retired and moved us to central Florida. I had a private counselor and was in group therapy but felt I was different and could not relate to anyone in the group or anything. I went through my early years feeling like a person looking and going through life from the outside of this world...something was wrong with me but I couldn't quite understand what that was. I sought acceptance from the boys in high school as all my friends had boyfriends and I wanted a boyfriend too, but the mere suggestion of any physical intimacy from them made my mind panic. I lived in fear because I wanted to be like everyone else...normal, but I wasn't. I had my first real sexual encounter just out of graduating bible college. The pain was horrible and I cried the whole time but he handled it so sweetly and that is when I knew I loved him but he never loved me. Sex is not love...two different things that took me many many years to discover.
My father was a naval officer and expected order and obedience from my sister and me at home. I was trying to be what he wanted me to be and failed miserably. After his retirement from the Navy, he drank and yelled a lot, was violent towards the others in my family while I shrank into the deepest corner of my bedroom afraid he would take it out on me. He did one night...I thought he would kill me. I had done something very bad, or so I thought it was bad...I ran away from home because I was miserable. He picked me up at the police station and nothing was said. 24 hours went by and nothing was said until the middle of the night. He had been out drinking late, came in slammed my bedroom door open and started yelling at me words of how ungrateful I was and how I had it made and he should kill me because I didn't deserve anything. He jerked me from my bed and just yelled into my face with words so vulgar and I had never heard these words before. The police were there immediately stopping me and he threw me against the wall that a trip to the Emergency room was needed. I had no concussion or broken bones, scars or bruises. I was lucky. There was no jail time for him and the behind the legal scene actions I never knew. Secrecy ruled in my house and in my brain. I told no one, not even my very best friend. When dad was home during the day I did everything, I could to let him allow me to go to my friend's house because I was afraid of him erupting and anger. I learned how to act proper and hide the terror within me to get permission to go to her house where love and refuge came from my best friend and her family. There I could be me...accepted for me and have fun and affection from her and her family. I escaped the fear even if it was only for a little while. I frequently began getting permission to spend the night at my friend's house. It was a short distance from my house so I could walk there or they would come get me. I was 15 and was walking to her house when a car pulled up alongside me. A young man stopped me to ask directions and I went to the car to give him directions and he was masturbating. I immediately ran to my friend's house banged on the door and she let me in. I told her what happened and she and her father told me to come inside where I was safe. Her dad said he was going to call the police but I told him not to...I didn't want them to know and have to deal with telling the police what happened. I was embarrassed and I wanted it all to die. In 1987 the flashbacks started, I saw images and didn't understand them but wanted those images to go away. I did not want to live. One night I found myself driving on the expressway and wanted to drive directly into a wall at high speeds but something stopped me. The emotional pain would always be there and I wanted no more physical pain. In 1988, I married a man I had known in college through friends of mine from college. I thought he was wonderful because he was a Christian, as well as a deacon at his church...the same church we were married in. Six months after the marriage the abuse started. He came home from work angry the house was a little messy. I had just finished cooking dinner and dishes were in the sink. He yelled at me and slapped me. The physical abuse continued to get more violent through the 4 years I stayed in the marriage. He threw me out the down the stairs of the house and came down grabbing me and beating me, he kicked me when I was on the floor kick in the head and stomach. He would accuse me of having affairs when he was the one having affairs as a sex addict our whole marriage including having a girlfriend. I called the police and they arrested him for assault and battery. My husband forced me to drop the charges when he made bail and came home. His parents picked him up claiming it was my fault and he was a pillar of the church and community. When he beat me the second time I called the police who told me they would not help me anymore. I had friends that knew and would escape to their house. He showed up at one of my friend's home demanding them to get me for him to go home. They didn't and thankfully my friend's husband stood up for me threatening to call the police. Finally, I had someone on my side who saw personally what I had been going through and could stand up with me. I left my home with their help and moved away. I didn't see my husband again until the divorce hearing. I was granted my divorce along with my maiden name. We had no children so no need to be reminded of him. The memories and fears were still there and I let them haunt me for many years. I released them after 20 years through counseling, church, and medicine. My friends were a great support but yet I yearned to be loved and accepted. In 2008, I married a man just like the first, supposedly a pillar of the church and community. I had grown up in the church and God has always been part of my life. I liked going to church and being part of things there, making friends and doing things with them. I felt accepted but when people learned of accusations I had said about these two husbands they didn't believe me and said I would go to hell for lying. I stopped going to church in my 30's and started living a wild life of drinking, going to bars, cussing and so many other wrong things. I would have sex with any guy I dated and just ignore that what I was doing was wrong. I treated people badly. I was never physically violent except to myself through alcohol. I would drink to forget. I stopped counseling and isolated myself within my apartment. I carried a big grudge towards everyone especially men. Many people reached out to me but I refused help. I was not worthy of the help. I thought I was nothing and didn't deserve anything good. During my second marriage, my husband didn't accept me for anything I did. He was a bible thumping, judgmental, condemning man. He didn't like my clothes, how I would fix my hair or makeup, he didn't approve of the version of my bible or the Christian music I listened too. He would gather the people from the church and they would come over and gather around me insisting I submit to my husband in every way even though he didn't show love or have my best interest. It was my husband's way or the highway. My husband would say all the time he was the head of the house and demanded me to submit. He would constantly quit jobs after very short terms with them for one reason or another which always was about a person or action he didn't approve of never grasping the fact he was responsible for taking care of me, loving me and providing for me. I was on disability by this time granted to me for emotional stability. The money was very little and unable to support us both. On December 21, 2010, he was driving my vehicle down a very curvy wet road in North Carolina where we lived. We were fighting as usual and I kept asking him to slow down. He tried to drive the car off the mountain but I managed to stop him from doing so. A few minutes later we both saw a dog in the road...he was angry and tried to hit the dog. I yelled for him to stop my truck, get out and said I never wanted to see him again. For some miracle he did. I drove off into town and went to the park, parked and just sat there in my truck all day wondering what the next step would be. That night I called 911 and they directed me to the sheriff office where I met my victim advocate. They took my statement, and we worked out an immediate safety plan for me. The advocate told me about a shelter close by that I would be very safe so I went there. It was a shelter for the Reach organization and they helped me find resources so I could take care of myself and move out after the time allotted in the shelter. I found a job, an apartment and a new life. I went to counseling, started making connections in town.
During this time, I met a man and we began dating. He had invited me to his house for dinner one night. The night started nice with a good meal and conversation. After dinner, we went to sit on the couch. He began kissing me gently at first then harder and forced me down harder into the couch where he took my clothes off and raped me. I screamed for him to stop and he wouldn't till he was done. I was crying and he told me to get out. I jumped off the couch, got dressed quickly, got my purse while searching frantically for my keys, found them and ran to my car and drove home. I was ashamed by what happened and didn't report the rape or seek help. I just isolated as I always did. I also had to take care of a dilemma of officially divorcing my husband and I had to move back to my hometown in Florida to do so. In 2014 I did and it was hard finding somewhere to live in my hometown. My dad didn't want me at the house but I lived there anyway and he tolerated me always telling me what to do. I hated that. I moved out and got divorced, returned to North Carolina, got reconnected with Reach here and the sheriff office that had helped me. During that time, I had some roommates that were full of drama, anger, and negativity in their lives. During these roommate's bouts of anger, I stood up for myself. I was not afraid...I HEALED emotionally. I went to the Reach shelter and was there for a very short time before they helped me find housing and the things I would need. Reach is a very safe place to be with security cameras throughout the shelter, someone is always there to talk to and help anyone needing safety from abuse or rape. Reach partners with other agencies in the county so victims can survive and thrive. Reach is a non-profit agency existing on grants and the generosity of others. There are so many needs for the clients of Reach that go on beyond money. It does take a village or in this case a county to make sure domestic violence is stopped. Domestic violence and rape are crimes. Reach is so much more to me...they are resources to livelihood and healing so I can be happy. I have a circle of friends and a church I can go to be part of a vital place. I have a savior in Jesus Christ and relationship with the father God who I am no longer angry at. Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a plan for us, not to hurt us and give us hope for a future. Do you long for the violence and pain to stop? Do you long to be safe and free? Do you long to be happy and do things you never imagined possible? Reach of Cherokee County, North Carolina is there for...
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