I still look over my shoulder every single time I unlock my front door…

Fifteen years ago, I was attacked from behind in the hallway of my apartment building but the memories are as vivid as yesterday.

I was attacked right outside my front door. I am still haunted by the memory of his large, sweaty hand covering my mouth as he grabbed me from behind. One look into his sinister eyes and I knew that if he got me inside my apartment something very bad would happen.

According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. The majority of these assaults occur at, or near, the victim’s home. In addition, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. One out of six! Those are sobering statistics. Think about those statistics on your next girl’s night out. Someone in your group of close friends has been victimized.

I knew I had to fight my attacker…time stood still. A struggle outside my door ensued in what felt like slow motion. At some point during the altercation, I had a clear shot of punching him between his legs, and I did just that. That’s when he released me from his grip and began running away. I ran after him screaming for someone to stop him. He was eventually caught, the police arrived after my neighbor dialed 911 and that son of a bitch went to jail.

I am sharing my story to hopefully inspire other women to speak up much like Taylor Swift’s sexual assault case inspired fellow survivors to seek help.

It took me a long time to find the words to share my very personal and raw story. However, there is strength in coming forward and pursuing justice.

The night before my attack, I was celebrating the holidays with my two best friends with lots of wine and laughter. The thought never crossed my mind that I would become our group’s “statistic” the next day as a victim of attempted sexual assault.

I hope that by sharing my very private and personal experience with you, it inspires other women to stand up to perpetrators. Working with so many women through business and fashion, I couldn’t neglect taking advantage of my professional platform to share the message that it’s “OK” to speak up.

Did you know that only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are even reported to police. Why do we insist on keeping quiet? Why do we insist on devaluing ourselves and our safety? Don’t assume your assault is personal because its public, very public, and it’s always important enough to report.

I’ve always been very vocal about standing up for what I believe in. Especially when it comes to equality. I remember when I was 10 years old shopping with my Cuban mother at the Sawgrass Mills Mall when I heard the cashier say to the family standing in front of us “you damn Cubans”. Even at that young age, I recognized prejudice and I demanded to speak to the manager. This is my first recollection of knowing I had a voice and ever since then I haven’t been afraid to use it.

Today I am using my voice to share my story to let others know that they aren’t alone. Share your experiences. Share your feelings. Share the sisterhood so we can come together to share in hope!

(Statistics Source: RAINN)

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