At 16 I thought I had found my people. Although I was a young woman and the group was predominantly male, joining it gave me a sense of community and belonging. It was exciting to be with like-minded people who shared similar passions and I enthusiastically immersed myself in the group’s culture. Five years later I discovered that beneath the surface there was a very dark world of intimidation, bullying, sexism, and abuse. It was a community based on control and exploitation. I realized what I had naively gotten myself into was a cult-like community, built on destroying others.
My moment of realization hit abruptly when those I confided in and trusted in the group suddenly turned their backs on me. It was terrifying. I had nobody to lean on, nobody to talk to. Nobody understood the situation, nobody would listen. These people had isolated me, and I had isolated myself from reality.
I had to pick myself up and rebuild myself. There was no other option. I had to learn how to make new friends, connect with other individuals, and trust again. Being a victim was no longer an option. I had to fight for myself and my dignity and start over.
Starting over gave me a new chance at “me.” Although still a work in progress, I have been able to make new connections, build new friendships and relationships, and seek the support that I need through friends, professors, and counselors at RIT. There is always a way out; and there is always a way to start over.