Winter: cold, bleak, bitter, ugly. Almost like summer has taken off its mask and shown its true colors. Everyone is forced to see how ugly life can truly be. Others get a season of beauty: summer.
My whole life since January 8, 2012, has been a long, reckless winter.
The night everything changed I was having an old friend over to catch up and have fun. Her name is Paige, and she is a year younger than I am. At the time, she was 13, and I was 14.
We had been best friends since we were both very young, and continued to be best friends, even though I had moved from Albany to Maryville. She was in the eighth grade, and I was in the midst of my freshman year.
Life, overall, was great.
I was on the varsity cheer squad, a competitive dance team and had a lot of friends.
Paige is my best friend. Watching scary movies was always our thing. So, that's how we kicked off our night, along with alcoholic beverages. My mom didn't know we were drinking, and I was not supposed to be.
That night I was texting with a boy that my older brother had warned me about, but I didn't listen. Looking back, I wish I did.
It wasn't until later that night that Matt, a popular senior boy, had asked to hang out. Of course, I knew my brothers wouldn't allow this so, we had to sneak out. It was about one in the morning when my friend and I climbed out of my bedroom window. I was not interested in Matt romantically. I considered him my older brother's friend. I trusted my older brother. I trusted Matt.
Matt picked us up in a black car and drove us to his house. He had to sneak us through a basement window.
There were bedrooms and a living room area in the basement. I sat on the couch and gathered familiar faces from the room. Four of Matt's friends were there. Matt emerged from one of the bedrooms with a bottle of clear alcohol he wanted me to drink. This is when one of Matt's friends suggested I drink from a tall shot glass, which they labeled the "bitch cup."
About five shots tall, I drank it. I guess I didn't know how badly it would mess me up. But the boys who gave it to me did.
Then it was like I fell into a dark abyss. No light anywhere. Just dark, dense silence -- and cold. That's all I could ever remember from that night. Apparently, I was there for not even an entire hour before they discarded me in the snow.
Waking up was a complete blur. I had to be carried into my mother's bedroom, in complete and total confusion. I was freezing and sick and bruised, my hair in icy chunks weighted against me. When my mom gave me a bath, she saw that I was hurt down in my privates.
We all knew something wasn't right. Something had gone wrong in the night.
My mother told me she found me outside, left for dead, and when she heard me trying to get to the door, she thought it was a dog scratching. I was weak and could have died in the below freezing temperatures.
Next thing I knew, I was in the ER getting blood drawn and having various tests done. We all knew what had happened, we just wanted someone else to say it for us. The doctors examined the rape kit and verified that our nightmares were real. This nightmare, though, didn't end. It continued on for many long months. It was only later I learned that my best friend, a year younger than me, had been raped, too.
Days seemed to drag on as I watched my brother get bullied and my mom lose her job. Ultimately our house burned to the ground.
I couldn't go out in public, let alone school.
I sat alone in my room, most days, pondering the worth of my life. I quit praying because if God were real, why would he do this?
I was suspended from the cheerleading squad and people told me that I was "asking for it" and would "get what was coming."
Why would I even want to believe in a God? Why would a God even allow this to happen? I lost all faith in religion and humanity. I saw myself as ugly, inside and out. If I was this ugly on the inside, then why shouldn't everyone see the ugly I saw?
I burned and carved the ugly I saw into my arms, wrists, legs and anywhere I could find room.
On Twitter and Facebook, I was called a skank and a liar and people encouraged me to kill myself. Twice, I did try to take my own life.
When I went to a dance competition I saw a girl there who was wearing a T-shirt she made. It read: "Matt 1, Daisy 0."
Matt's family was very powerful in the state of Missouri and he was also a very popular football player in my town, but I still couldn't believe it when I was told the charges were dropped. Everyone had told us how strong the case was -- including a cell phone video of the rape which showed me incoherent.
All records have been sealed in the case, and I was told the video wasn't found. My brother told me it was passed around school.
My scars only come to the surface when I'm tan or cold now. It's as if over time my body learned to heal some of the ugly, but it will always be a part of me.
Just like this case. It will live with me forever.
Since this happened, I've been in hospitals too many times to count. I've found it impossible to love at times. I've gained and lost friends. I no longer dance or compete in pageants. I'm different now, and I can't ever go back to the person I once was. That one night took it all away from me. I'm nothing more than just human, but I also refuse to be a victim of cruelty any longer.
This is why I am saying my name. This is why I am not shutting up. Matt put on Twitter something recently. It read: “If her name begins with A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z, she wants the D.”
Since Anonymous has gotten involved, everything has changed. #justice4Daisy has trended on the Internet, and pressure has come down hard on the authorities who thought they could hide what really happened.
I not only survived, I didn't give up. I've been told that a special prosecutor is going to reopen the case now. This is a victory, not just for me, but for every girl.
I just hope more men will take a lesson from my brothers.
They look out for women. They don't prey on them.