Lacy’s Story

“Going through trauma has given me a lot of perspective in life. Most things are a tiny bump compared to everything I’ve been through. I can persevere through it.”

Lacy was sexually assaulted and abused by her high school partner. As is common in intimate partner sexual violence, her partner used emotional manipulation to control and isolate her. Though Lacy had not yet told her friends of the abuse, they noticed her partner’s controlling behavior and helped her leave the relationship.

“No one understood what I was going through and what it was like in that relationship. But when we were apart, I realized how great it felt to be away from him—I really wanted that freedom.”

Lacy first disclosed the abuse to a friend over text, who then shared her messages with the former abusive partner. Because of this, Lacy didn’t feel comfortable disclosing to anyone else for a while. When she eventually opened up to her family, she faced disappointment and blame.

“At first, I felt I should have known better, I didn’t understand how I could let this happen to myself. I felt humiliated, and I was told I could not tell anyone about the abuse.”

Lacy faced continued abuse and harassment from the perpetrator after ending the relationship. He followed her around campus and called her continuously. “He didn’t want to let it go, he called me so many times my phone actually broke. I felt paranoid all the time; I’m still paranoid of the phone ringing. I had really bad anxiety and couldn’t sleep at night. I would find myself crying uncontrollably in the middle of the night.“

Because of the abuse, Lacy also experienced PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks, and stress-induced weight loss. Lacy is thankful to her friends, who made an effort to support and protect her during this time. They made sure she didn’t walk home alone where the abuser could find and harass her and provided her with emotional support.

When Lacy started college, she attended orientation events about consent and sexual assault prevention. These events gave her a platform to speak about what she had experienced and to fully realize the abusive nature of the relationship. “For the first year or two, I knew my relationship wasn’t a good one or a healthy one, but I didn’t label it as abusive.”

Lacy realized she was dealing with the pain she felt by drinking and over-working. “I became a workaholic so that I could exhaust myself until I’d go to sleep.” She decided to reach out for help through therapy, which she had not done before because she was led to believe that seeking therapy was a sign of weakness.

She wanted to find a therapist who had experience working with survivors of sexual violence and understood the cultural context Lacy was coming from. “It took me a couple tries to find a therapist I liked. The first few didn’t understand my cultural background coming from an Asian family. Then I found an amazing therapist who helped me validate my feelings and sift through what I should let go of.” 

In addition to therapy, Lacy has also found singing to be an important part of her healing process, especially as a tool to manage panic attacks. “If I have a panic attack, I’ll just start singing. It’s out of tune, but my muscle memory comes back and helps me slow down my breathing.” 

Through her advocacy work, Lacy has channeled the trauma she experienced into healing for herself and others. As an anti-sexual violence leader on campus, she has conducted trainings, lobbied for consent education funding, and identified and successfully advocated for extending and standardizing the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases across all University of California campuses. She is also a vocal advocate for the importance of recognizing the intersection of sexual violence and mental health and has served as a keynote speaker at a conference where she addressed this issue. 

Recently, Lacy has focused her advocacy on the importance of creating a cultural shift of attitudes about sexual violence, especially in the era of #MeToo. “We need a cultural change. We need to start recognizing small problematic behavior and talking about consent in high schools. We’re focused on legally what sexual assault is defined as, but need to bridge that relationship between what is legally OK, and what is actually acceptable.” Pop culture and the media can be powerful ways to create this cultural change, Lacy says, especially by making sure TV and movies have realistic portrayals of survivors. 

Lacy is a member of RAINN’s Speakers Bureau and has felt inspired by the other survivors she has met. She finds hope in learning from others and hearing how they have healed from the trauma they experienced. 

Lacy is a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and has started a new job at a charitable foundation, parts of whose work is with survivors of sexual violence. 

“Everyone has an obligation to educate themselves about sexual violence. You don’t know when someone will come to you and will need your help.”