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?
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
"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