Pat Huffman has gone from a devastating incident to an accomplished and recognized hero. She has raised thousands of dollars for a variety of organizations and has received many awards for her hard work in helping others. We are very grateful that she has agreed to share her inspirational story with Her Suppz this month about being brutally raped.
I was your average person, teaching high school students and coaching cross country and track indoor and outdoor and I was a passionate runner. Taking 4th place in my age group in Marine Corps Marathon @ 7:40 minute pace. My half marathons times were down to 7:20 minute pace and I was winning my age groups with 5k times as low as 20 minutes for a 5k and 40 minutes for 10k. I was happy and I was blessed. I had everything I could have wanted. I was also coaching adults through the couch potato to 5k program and enjoying every minute of that as well. I love meeting people that struggle to walk a mile and as we work together for 8 weeks, they are running a 5k. It is amazing to see every time and I love being a part of people become more healthy and active.
Then everything changed…
I was raped; violently. The attack was brutal. I was left for dead in a field. I had gone there to cool down after a long run. It was a beautiful pass through the woods, not far from where I live. I had run alone there on many, many occasions. I was found by a hunter and his dog. They did not have a lot of hope for me when I was first brought to the hospital. I had been beaten so badly that my ribs were broken; which collapsed my lungs. My right lung never inflated correctly; so, it had to be removed. I had multiple internal injuries, a fractured wrist, a fractured skull, a concussion and multiple lacerations. The pain at times was unbearable; not just the physical pain, which was complete torture, but the emotional pain. I had an overwhelming sense of dread that I would never run another single day in my life. The doctors told me there was no way I would ever get back to the type of competitive racing I had been doing in the past. At best they thought I may be able to jog a 5k if I really tried hard enough and really work the rehabilitation program.
The doctors were wrong.
I’m back to taking first place in my age group. Winning races outright, my body’s back in perfect condition although at times I can feel the deep burn in my right lung due to working extra hard. I am grateful after all that I went through I still am graced with the ability to run, coach and to lead others down the path to health and wholeness through running.
My journey has been a very long one and a very lonely one. At first I didn’t know what was wrong. Friends would ask me to go for a run and I said no I’m just not feeling up to leaving the house and before you know it I couldn’t leave my house for a second. I couldn’t buy my own groceries or even go rent a movie. An entire six months past of not leaving my house until finally I was diagnosed with PTSD. For almost a year I ran only virtual races. Now, slowly I’m getting back into running regular races again.
I had to become an advocate.
When I came forward and testified, made my statements and went to court – going through the whole process has been and is still horrendous. There are so many stigmas attached to it.
In the midst of my own recovery, a dear friend of mine was raped and within a week of her rape she took her own life; because, she was terrified of the process. It was then that I decided I had to be an advocate. I had to get the word out there so I started a campaign and called it “Stop the Silence” that surrounds sexual assault in our communities. I organized a race and brought people together as well as connected people with one another. Currently I give lectures and speeches to women’s groups on how to stay safe mainly as a runner. Veterans suffer from severe PTSD but also victims of domestic violence, rape survivors, and child abuse victims all can suffer from severe PTSD.
What can we do?
The suicide rate for those who have been raped: one out of every four victims takes their own life in the first year following the rape. I have begun to bring awareness to the fact that we need to be aware and provide assistance to these victims as soon as possible. I’ve found my own way out of the darkness through therapeutic horseback riding. My service dog has also been a phenomenal aid in getting me out and about again.
I am now coaching again and racing again and competing again. I acknowledge the fact that I have PTSD but I refused to allow it to overtake me or make me angry. I am on a very personal journey of finding my own way by helping others through the process of healing. My hope and my prayer is that by my telling my story and bringing my awareness out there others will come forth to do the same. That’s what happened when I began “Stop the Silence”, people came forward and told their stories for the first time ever.
One woman was 94 years old when she signed up for my “Stop the Silence” race. She told me, “Sweetheart back in my day you just didn’t talk about things like this.” She got up, she used her walker and she completed the entire 2 miles. People that had lived with the secret of their own sexual assault were encouraged by others and began talking to family and friends about what had happened to them.
I refused to give my rapist what I have left of my life. What I have been through has made me more compassionate to everyone and anyone in need of any kind whatsoever. It is only been through telling my story that I have begun to heal and see that there is some good in the world. I have been nicknamed the Peaceful Warrior by my friends because I take on many causes very peacefully and get a great deal done. It is only through kindness and forgiveness that one finds healing. I am getting stronger by the day as my story is heard and more light is shone on PTSD. My hope is that more people are given the proper treatment after they’ve been assaulted and raped. I will be the voice for all those who have yet to find the ability to use their voice.
People do not ask to be raped.
I refuse to hide in the dark and pretend like it didn’t happen, as I move along on my journey; I will help as many people as I can. I will give them a hand up so that they can find a way to fight their way through the darkness, to see that life does indeed have beauty and there is still much joy and grace to be found in each and every day. I still have dark sad moments, they are becoming fewer and fewer. My memories of the rape day are recurring less and my future feels bright and full of promise. I wake up now each morning and the first thought that comes to me is first thank you God for letting me live through what I live through and second how can I be of service to someone else today? How can I make someone else’s life just a little bit easier today?
Blessings and Love to you always….. The Peaceful Warrior
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