OUR STORIES


What is your story?


"My name is Michelle, I am from Indiana, and this is my story.


In 1996, I was assaulted at gunpoint as I entered my home and was forced into the trunk of my own car by three serial criminals. They drove me to a remote location, sexually assaulted me, and left me bleeding from the head and half-conscious in the trunk of my car, where I was convinced I would die. Then I was miraculously rescued by an off-duty police officer.


That trauma and the long, painful journey of healing that followed redefined my life and eventually led me to become an advocate for victims of violent crime. The heroic officer who rescued me has become an extension of my own family, and over time I have come to embrace the experience as an opportunity to shed light on the ways violent crime can tear a person’s life apart. I now appreciate every day of life with gratitude and grace.


My attack was the final crime in a string of assaults, and I am grateful the attackers were found and brought to justice. However, that fact did not alleviate the pain of the experience. Telling my story, and eventually releasing the book, “Found” in 2021, has been an important way for me to give other survivors hope and offer their loved ones a greater understanding of what survivors go through in the aftermath of trauma.


An unexpected outcome of my experience has been the opportunity to work with first responders and medical professionals to create awareness of what victims of violent crime are feeling in those important moments and how to keep from retraumatizing someone who has just been through the worst experience of their lives.


I also cannot tell my story without acknowledging my husband, Chris, whom I was dating at the time of my attack. He was there for it all and has stuck with me through thick and thin. Our love story has been tested by time and circumstances, and he remains a tremendous source of strength for me still. We have two amazing kids who are advocates for their friends and communities because of our family story. I know how lucky and blessed I am to have them."



In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?


"Life-altering.


At first I tried to go on like nothing happened. I didn’t want to be defined by what had happened to me. But trauma cannot be ignored. Only in acknowledging the way my experience changed me could I allow myself to be shaped by the healing process. When I realized there was no such thing as “getting back to normal” I was finally able to relearn how to live and eventually find a sense true peace and purpose."


What would you compare your experience to? And/or what analogy would define your

experience?


"I have been a person of faith since I was a child, and I always prayed and believed in God. But when I was losing consciousness in the back of my car, I felt Jesus there with me and we were weeping together for each other’s pain. I can honestly say it was the first time I ever identified with what Christ might have felt in His dying moments, and I understood without a doubt that he could identify with everything I was feeling. That forever redefined my faith, not as an intangible belief system but a beautiful relationship in which I knew I was loved and fully understood."


What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?


"To anyone who has been through a trauma of any kind, I first would say, “I’m sorry you had to experience that horrific, life-altering event. No one should have to experience that.” Then I would encourage anyone to find people and resources that help you feel understood and empowered to heal. Reach out to me through my website if you don’t know where to start. I’m serious. There are so many good people in place now to help with trauma recovery.


I remember reading a book many years ago that was written by someone who survived a violent attack, and it was the first time I knew of anyone with a story like mine going on to have a normal, happy life. It’s important to have that hope in what is possible, and it’s equally important to be able to fully process what happened to you in ways that help you regain your sense of safety and well-being.


Be patient with yourself. It takes more time than I ever would have thought to feel like yourself again. Relief comes gradually, and healing is marked not by one big event but over time, with fewer and fewer bad days and more good days. Just know that healing is possible, and that ignoring the pain brings a lot more long-term ramifications than the temporary discomfort of facing each feeling, each fear, and each uncomfortable step toward freedom."


Hear the song "Found" inspired by Michelle's profound story: Available Everywhere 4.15.22


** To contact Michelle and learn more about her story go to www.michellecorrao.com


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What is your story?


"My name is Laura, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about losing my husband.


I’ll never forget the day he drove by in his blue car, with his maroon jacket and long hair, and he smiled at me.


From that point on, I knew he was the one for me. I can still see him in that jacket.


I was only 14 years old but we knew that we would marry each other, and we did. We got married on December 6, 1974 and we truly meant every word of our vows, we knew it would be forever. The day we found out that he had cancer was the worst day of our lives. We never knew when his time would come, but I did my best to give him the best everyday."


"My name is Francesca. I am from Michigan and will be sharing my story about my father, David.


David is my dad, my hero, my motivator, and my strength. Since I was a child I’ve always been close with my father. He was my confidant. He worked hard but loved our family harder and his love was truly something special. He showed my sister and I how a woman should be treated, honored, respected & loved by adoring our mother. He pushed us to be independent and intelligent so we could support ourselves and never be forced to rely on a man. He was passionate about helping people and serving the Lord, so he taught us to do the same."


"My name is Francisco, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my father, David.


David is my father and no disrespect to anyone but he truly was the greatest. He knew how to love. He gave all he had to his family. He worked hard but was always at our practices and games."


"My name is Mark, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my father.


I would need months to share my story about time spent with my dad. As I write this, many stories come to my head. Then a week from now even more stories will come to me that I wish I had shared but in the end, all my stories end up being the same. My dad was always there for me. From childhood to my adult years my dad would always call just to check in on me. Man how I miss those phone calls. Even as cancer ate at him, taking his mobility away, he would still try and fix things around my house. But that best describes my dad, he was always taking care of his children until the very end. My dad was always there for me."


"My name is Audrey, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my dad.


My dad was a wonderful father and grandfather. He would do anything for us no matter what. Everyone would be jealous that I had a dad who would drop everything to be with his grandkids."


"My name is David, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about memories with my dad.


I remember dad as being strong, caring, thoughtful, loving and faithful. Dad loved his family. He taught me to work hard at everything in my life. Dad also taught me that family comes first no matter what. He provided all of us with the best life possible."


In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?


"Devastating would be the best word to describe the loss of my husband. An entire part of me is gone, I will never be able to live and love the same way again. The honor and love that he showed me was unparalleled. There’s no other person, place, or thing that can make me whole. I’ve lost a piece of my heart." - Laura


"In one word I would describe my story as love. My father did everything with passion and love." -Francesca


"Great. He taught me everything I know." - Francisco


"The google definition of "priceless" is: so precious that it's value cannot be determined. The time spent with my dad was priceless. What that man taught me, how much he meant to me, you can't put a price on that." - Mark


"Blessed. Blessed to have a father who was a great role model." - Audrey


"Grateful. I am so grateful to have been raised by such a wonderful man. The life lessons he has taught me are now being passed down to my children." - David


What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?


"I cannot give anybody advice because I don’t even have my own life together. I could give a shoulder to cry on, but I could never tell someone how to cope. It’s unbearable." - Laura


"My advice to anyone experiencing loss this extreme is to remember that person daily. Honor them by living your own life to the fullest. Own each day and remember that tomorrow is not promised. Love deeply and sincerely and sit with your feelings as often as possible. Life will never be the same but it can still be beautiful." - Francesca


"Make every second count." - Francisco


"Advice I would give to someone is that same advice my dad would give to someone. Have faith and turn to God. If you have faith and God, you can get you through anything." - Mark


"I want to be a great grandparent like he was." - Audrey


"Cherish. Cherish every moment with family because you never know how short or long it will be." - David


Hear the song "Never Gone" inspired by the loving memories of David's wife and children: Available Everywhere 10.15.21



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"My name is Rachel, I am from my van, and I will be sharing my story about abandonment in my childhood."


What is your story?


"It feels very unnatural to go back in time and attempt to recall my experiences and tell my story. It can be daunting and uncomfortable, there is so much information. But what I will attempt to do is recall some of the experiences and some of the pains that have formed in present day me and recall them without trying to rationalize or justify them.


I tend to recall a story and leave out the emotion, only emphasizing the utility or lesson, and downplaying the impact and importance of a life shaping experience. I might not be alone in that.


The particular part of my story I want to share (or that I am attempting to share with reckless abandon) is about my mother and my relationship with my family. I always tell people it’s complicated, but it really isn’t. There is unconditional love (without conditions) and there is everything else. My family is the everything else type.


When I was younger, I never felt connected to my family or to anyone who was “supposed to love me.” When there were fun experiences, it rarely felt like love. It was more frustration, passive aggressiveness, and contempt. My sisters and I were put into classes and were homeschooled and I suppose we were loved in some variation of it, but it always came with...stuff. Conditions.


My mother left when I was 14. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world that she would be leaving us. I believe I said, “just go” when she told us she didn’t love my father anymore and had been a “mother for 18 years and was done.”


Something that didn’t happen until much later (as I was telling this story) was being able to truly see how much grief and anger this experience held. While also acceptting the subtle and slow burn neglect had on my psyche. Not the obvious kind (like the abrupt abandonment that came when I was 14) but the kind of neglect that makes people venture out on their own because it can be less lonely to do life alone. These experiences might shape an independent, strong-willed, brave individual, but it is in the wake of these subtle and deep cuts.


The story comes to a head as I identify that my independence and strength has come from the depth of a pain that is not easy to see and has taken a whole lifetime to trace back and connect the dots on. The anger and fear of people not loving me for who I am has been a cage my entire life.


Accepting love, accepting help, accepting what people say at face value or understanding they are also communicating from the depth that they have accessed as well, these are all terrifying. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater though. I can be independent and brave AND be fucking angry that I wasn’t loved the way I would have wanted when I was younger or what I needed.


Independence and the ability to experience solitude is a gift.


I find my life is filled with more peace, joy, and presence when I allow both the experience of neglect to be painful and the outcome of independence being something that serves me, to be true."


In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?


"Catalyzing.


Without pain, there is no growth but it’s missing the outcome...to see the experience as something that

triggered the life that I have now allows new positive perspectives and I can leverage the experience over and over again. It can be something that creates foundation rather than instability. "


What would you compare your experience to? And/or what analogy would define your experience?


"The ugly duckling children's story.


What’s beautiful about the story is that the ugly duckling doesn’t give up attempting to find her community...she keeps trying. Because she physically can’t, she never conforms to the community she doesn’t belong in. Instead, she searches until she’s accepted and loved, and ultimately learns she wasn’t understood because the ducks weren’t supposed to understand a swan.


As I get older, I find people who understand me in ways that felt impossible when I was younger, especially because I was rejected by my mother, the one person who is supposed to understand and love and accept you no matter what."


What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?


"To read the story of the ugly duckling and find comfort in the fact that this is a story (and essentially this archetype is something) people can connect over. "


Hear the song "I Am That Swan" inspired by Rachel's story: Available Everywhere 10.15.21




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