Melinda Howard - Sexual Violence Survivor


I was born in early 1962 in Des Moines, Iowa. My parents were very conservative politically and religiously.  I was raised in a no nonsense household that held firmly to the belief of, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."  The rod was firmly administered to excess.  I recall, even in high school wearing clothing that strategically hid bruises.  At age 22, a Senior in college, I received my last "official" spanking.  

Now that I am an adult and in my 50's, my parents, obviously, can not longer "spank."  Instead, they switched to what I call, "mind games."  It's maddening how two people, people you haven't lived with in over 30 years, still try to control your life.  It's actually very sad.

The silver lining in all of this is on the first day of 8th grade, I was sent to the principal's office before the school year even officially began! Another boy and I were walking to the office together, that is how I met my future husband.

Something happened during that walk to the office that morning – we became fast friends.  That friendship lasted through those turbulent junior high years, high school and college.  After nine years of dating, we were married and have been very happily married 31+ years.

I am retired.  During my career, I was for the most part, involved in fitness.  I was the Youth Director for a local YWCA and when we moved to Colorado, I was a personal trainer for a short while before I got sick.

Before MFH (My Favorite Husband) and I were married, I taught school for a short time.  That was a disaster.  The school was a disaster.  The town was a disaster and what happened was a disaster.

I was raped.

I never reported it.

Within two weeks of the incident, I had packed my bags, quit my job and moved back to my parents home. I never mentioned it ANYBODY. As a matter of fact, my husband and I had been married 20 some odd years before I told him!  

I was ashamed.

I was horrified.

I was angry.

I am a survivor!

While living in Colorado I began having problems with not being able to breath due to altitude. The medication they put me on caused an extreme amount of weight gain.  We decided to move to a lower altitude.  8000' to 5400 feet.  Unfortunately, we waited too long and the change wasn't enough.

In a desperate attempt to save my life, seven years ago, we moved to Mississippi.  215 ft total elevation. That move has been the best thing that has ever happened to us! I found a new doctor who has gradually weaned me off of all by one medication and he gave me a prescription. RUN. I started running 5 years ago because my sister asked me to do the C25K program with her.  After completing the program, I was hooked on running and haven't looked back.

So, after all of this background, what would I find to be the BLESSON in all of this?

I have learned that I am tough.

I have learned that I can bounce back from whatever life throws at me.

I have learned that I have the unconditional love and support of my husband.  Let's face it, a LOT of guys would bail at some of this stuff.

I have learned that I am strong.

This past summer I learned about BLESSONS and I thought, that's so awesome! There are so many of us women who for one reason or another, life has given us the short straw.  Here, there is a place of safety, security and encouragement! How perfect is that!?!

My husband and I see the poverty and discouragement in our area and our heart breaks for people.  We have started a radio station that broadcasts audio books. It is our hope and prayer that maybe somebody might listen to one of the books and check it out from the library and get hooked on reading.  We are trying to do our part to improve the literacy rate in our little section of Mississippi.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a strong, positive role model AND have a mental illness or be a past survivor of abuse or rape?  I think that's exactly how things should be!

The question is asked, how do you stay positive after all of that stuff?  Why even TRY to stay positive?  Well, I refuse to admit defeat.  It's that simple.  My doctor prescribed that I run as many miles as my body would stand.  Those miles, those endorphins, they help me see the bright side of life. I CHOOSE to be happy.  

I know that is a slogan and that it's lame but it is also true.  I do my darnedest to find the sliver lining in everything.  If I couldn't laugh and enjoy life, I would be such a sad panda!  If you saw my social media...well, let's suffice it to say, I enjoy my life and try to help others enjoy theirs, too. I was asked about running and staying injury free: I run 5 days a week. Being almost 55, I need a few rest days tossed into the mix.  My rest days are sacred!

This past summer, I let go of my old coach and started with a new one.  The reason for that was because my old coach wasn't listening.  I was tired but he kept piling on the miles – making the workouts harder and harder and basically impossible to complete.  I was turning myself inside out to complete those workouts.  I knew something bad (injury) as looming so I took matters into my own hands and started looking for somebody new to train me.  Fresh eyes and all of that...

The change was immediate!  No more running according to pace/distance but instead running according to my HR/Time.  Together, my new coach and I spent the summer helping me recover from extreme fatigue.  I went ahead and ran the Berlin Marathon in September.  The goal was to finish~just go to Germany and have fun.  I did exactly that!

Now, I'm training for my first 100 Mile race.  Again, the training is changing but with a new twist.  My new coach actually listens to me!  Amazing!!!  When he sees me struggling with fatigue or not feeling 100%, he will change up the training plan a little bit until I can give it my all. Have to say, this guy saved my bacon!!!  I can't impress enough on the importance of a good coach.

I'm sure you can tell by now that I'm a talker.  Hahaha!  My mouth doesn't have an "off" button. I'm guessing by now that your eyes have glazed over and are ready for me to wrap this up.  I do want to say that most of the stuff I've written here, I've never shared anywhere before.  Because I believe so strongly in BLESSONS, I'm sharing here now in the hopes that it might comfort and encourage somebody.

- Melinda