Venesa Brakes was sexually assaulted in April 2014 by a person she didn't know personally, but knew "of." The man held her hostage and repeatedly raped and brutally beat her.
Police arrested Venesa's perpetrator. He was charged with several counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery. He pleaded guilty to a lesser crime.
The following is Venesa's account in her own words and edited for clarity.
I was brutally attacked. For 11 hours, I was held hostage.
I had a broken nose, my face was distorted. He did despicable things to my body. Continuously for 11 hours he told me he was going to kill me.
What he was trying to do was to break me down. He was trying to make me submissive to him.
I had to submit because I had no choice, and it was at a point where I thought that I was going to die. And I had came to the conclusion that if I was going to die at this time, let it be painless. So actually I had removed myself from the situation where no matter how many times he had beat me, I didn't feel any pain anymore.
I was determined to pursue this because I knew in my heart that I was the one that God has sent to survive this situation.
I went for a plea bargain so he would get six years. He has to sign up as a sex offender.
I was advised that we could still go to trial and lose.
I should not have had to make a choice.
I agreed upon that and I'm okay with that because I know that if he ever step out and do this again, to any other person, that I will be there willing and ready to go to court to convict him for life.
I ask myself and I say to myself, ‘Why not me?' So this is what has kept me humble and for me not losing my mind mentally.
This has affected me mentally. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety. My PTSD is on the status of a war veteran.
Every day is a struggle. So I am determined to stay focused and positive. In helping others, is helping myself. This is why I am sitting here today telling my story.
I've been receiving therapy once a week. I also participate with meditation. I also do adult coloring, which is very therapeutic. And I do a lot of praying. I do a lot of yoga and walking.
For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been able to learn more about myself and to do a lot of self-care. And within that self-care has become strength.
On a daily basis when I wake up, I make a gratitude list. Because I know I came that close to not being here.
I'm grateful for just being able to wake up.
I'm grateful to be able to feel the sun on my face.
I've decided that I refused to give up and let someone else take who I am. So I decided to make this a positive outcome instead of a negative outcome. And that is why I am able to sit here today.
There is many people out there suffering from sexual assault and sex trafficking. Well I am here today to let them know that you can overcome the obstacles and the struggles. It may not be easy, but it will get better.
You do not have to stay in a situation that you are uncomfortable. Pick up the phone and call someone. Don't be afraid to tell your story. Don't be afraid to tell your truth.
You don't have to go alone dealing with this situation.
Tell someone. Reach out to someone. Let someone know that you're in pain.
Out of this incident I have learned who I am and what I can become. It took me 52 years to realize what my place and what gifts God has given me.
I know my purpose today. And my purpose is to help someone.
I love myself today.
No matter what happens to you in your life, when you start loving yourself, that's something nobody can take from you.