My name is Erinn Foglesong. I live in yoga pants, am fueled by coffee and kettle corn, and have an unhealthy obsession with double stuffed Oreos. I am married to my BFF, Jarad, and together we have a son, Max. I am a mom to two perfectly spoiled rescue dogs and a calligraphy + design business owner. When I am not working or caring for Max, I am busy advocating for mental health, animal rights, and human rights. I mainly spread awareness through blog posts. I am a member of the Mental Health Advocates International Group. I was also asked to be on the board of the Ampersand Violence and Prevention center, but now is just not the right time for me and my family. My story involves three different incidences (unfortunately, not the only three) of sexual assault, including relationship violence.
I was diagnosed with PTSD by a doctor circa 2013, a little more than 10 years after the first event occurred. I am not going to go into detail about my experiences, because I can’t bring myself to relive them so vividly, on purpose. But, here is a brief timeline: In 2002 I was sexually assaulted by a group of men at a party. I had blocked this memory out, and it came back to me during a therapy session in 2013. In 2005, I was sexually assaulted on prom night by my boyfriend. Some people may say that since he was my boyfriend I couldn’t have been assaulted by him, but yes, you can be sexually assaulted by your boyfriend. It continued to happen sporadically throughout the next few years until our relationship ended. In 2009 I was sexually assaulted by a stranger on the dance floor on spring break. I was told,“Maybe you shouldn’t have worn that dress.”
In 2013 I began working at a college, with my internship based out of the counseling center. I was working on a campaign about sexual assault and realized what it was, and that it had happened to me. Long story short, I visited a doctor and was diagnosed with PTSD from sexual assault. I was put on medication (thank you modern medicine), and started seeing a therapist.
THE NEXT PART WAS THE HARDEST AND SCARIEST PART. I had to tell my husband, my family and my friends. I was so scared they would think I was lying, or that I was stupid and naive for letting it happen and not knowing what it was. Thankfully, they were very supportive. They were shocked and sickened and angry, but so supportive. My demeanor and attitude and outbursts of anger suddenly made sense to them. I also confronted one of the assaulters. They didn’t deny it. That’s when I knew I wasn’t crazy. I felt disgusting, stupid, ashamed, did I mention stupid? HOW did I not know what it was? How did I not see? I remember in college telling a few friends about a situation with my ex, and they actually stopped being friends with me because they couldn’t support me being back in a relationship with him. I didn’t understand why they would de-friend me? Now I know it’s because I didn’t understand what he was doing. Not saying that de-friending me was the right answer by any means, but it allowed me to see their perspective.
In 2014 I began handlettering and creating art. How does handlettering help me? I get the following question all the time: “Erinn, I had no idea you were an artist. Have you always been this way??” The answer is no, I haven’t. It wasn’t until after I was diagnosed with PTSD that my creativity really came out. Research has shown that creativity is an unexpected side effect of PTSD. In 2015 I officially opened my business: Lexington Lettering, LLC | Calligraphy + Design Services. Handlettering and art has become a creative, and HEALTHY outlet for me. It allows me to live peacefully in the moment, giving me some time in the day without experiencing flashbacks, or obsessive, ruminating thoughts.
I still have PTSD, and still experience flashbacks and obsessive thoughts and am triggered almost daily. But my safe haven is my home, with my husband (who essentially saved me), my son, my unofficial therapy dogs (adopt, don’t shop), and my in-home handlettering and design business. PTSD from sexual assault changed me forever. Do I wish it didn’t happen to me? Of course. Every single day. It’s tortuous. But, I am a better friend, better wife, better mother, better daughter, better sister, and an all around better person because of it.
After sharing my story, I received mostly support, but was also treated horribly by people I thought were my friends. People thought I was making it up…asking “why now? Why did she wait so long?” Since none of my “friends” would come to me, minus one, who told me I shamed one of the perps family’s by sharing my story, I followed up with another post…“WHY NOW? WHY DID SHE WAIT SO LONG?” So, if you asked this question, this post is for you. It is extremely common for victims of sexual assault to delay disclosing their trauma, IF they ever do. Here are several reasons why I waited:
◦ “I am so embarrassed I let this happen.”
◦ “I am such an idiot.”
◦ “I feel so disgusting and violated.”
2 GUILT EXPERIENCED AFTER COMING FORWARD
◦ “What if this has happened to other women? I could have stopped it. It’s my fault.”
3 FEAR OF CONSEQUENCES
◦ THIS. It was terrifying for me to come forward with this information because I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me. I was afraid people would hate me. I was afraid people would bully me and think I was trying to get attention. Guess what? THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED. You wonder why people never even report?
4 I WAS TRING TO PROTECT OTHERS FEELINGS
◦ I didn’t want to hurt any friends or family of the assaulter(s). Hence, why I left out names. As the victim, I waited YEARS to come forward because I was scared of hurting people, and let’s be honest, even the assaulter(s). So, while I waited, considering and trying to protect the feelings of others, I made myself sick. But now, I am 30 years old and tired of making myself sick. This first happened 15 years ago, then again 13 years ago, etc…and now it is time to care of me.
SHARING this experience is an extremely crucial part of my healing process. These experiences have changed me forever. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD. I have to take 150 mg of an SSRI every. single. day. to be able to perform daily functions like a normal human, and I STILL experience side effects of all of the mental disorders mentioned above.
One of my darkest moments was when I was 15, after the first incident. This same year, my grandpa had just passed away so depression had taken it’s toll. I was shamed while walking the halls. I was crying one day in class because of my grandfather’s passing, and I will never forget, a boy threw a box of tissues at me saying “boo hoo”, then laughed. I have never told anyone this, but I took to cutting myself, even my wrists. I didn’t want to be alive. I felt like I had no one in my corner, and felt like no one would even care, let alone notice, if I died. I am honestly not sure what kept me going. God’s grace, I guess…fast forward to 2007, in January my grandmother passed away. In February I lost one of my closest friends in a car crash, and in March another friend completed suicide. Alcohol was my coping mechanism. I wasn’t taught any other ways. I drank every chance I could, socially. Never alone. But, one night, I had so much to drink, while on anxiety medication (you aren’t supposed to drink because it heightens the effects and can lead to alcohol poisoning), I blacked out, to wake up in an ambulance. I prayed to God to just take me. I didn’t want to be alive. But, He had another plan for me. Again, God’s grace.
The third (and final) darkest point in my life, was when I realized that my high school/college boyfriend of 4 years had been sexually abusing me. I worked at a private university, and was working on a sexual violence campaign. I learned about consent for the first time, at 25. I was sick. I felt alone. I felt STUPID. How did I not know??? And I felt betrayed. I remember finally getting up the courage to tell a family member about what happened and they said “oh, hes just being a boy!” That was when I shut down. I again resorted to partying whenever I could. I’m so grateful my now husband stayed with me during this time. He had no idea, but knew I couldn’t control myself when I drank, or couldn’t stop at just a couple of drinks. One night, I drank too much, and supposedly told my best friend’s then boyfriend that she was talking with another guy. I don’t remember any of this, but they broke up because of it. I still haven’t forgiven myself. After that incident, I knew I had to get it together. I confronted my ex, told him why I hadn’t spoken to him at all in years, and he admitted his faults. I also told him that if I heard of him doing what he did to me, to anyone else, that I would go to the police. Me realizing that the actions of these men made me sick, and changed me forever, is what kept me going. I deserved to be happy and healthy. I deserved justice. And that is what helped me walk through the fire. My husband, my family, my friends: they deserved to have the best of me.
I am at peace, now, and much more outspoken. I still suffer from the affects of PTSD every day, which has changed me forever. I won’t ever be the same person I was. But, I am at peace with that, and with myself, and with where I am in my life. I want to be alive, and I want to help others want to be alive. Opening up about my experience lead to at least 20 different individuals contacting me, confronting their past, telling me that my story gave them the confidence to seek treatment, and allowed them to get something off their chest that they had carried for years. That is one of the reasons I share my story.
The advice I would give to someone else going through something similar is to fight. Fight for yourself, fight for your happiness, fight for your peace of mind, fight for your life. You might lose people along the way that you thought were going to be in your life forever, but for every asshole, you’ll have twice as many supporters. You will find your army, and I will most definitely be apart of it.
*If you would like to reach out to Erinn you can contact her via her website: lexington-lettering.com