Shelby DeWitt’s story begins in high school. A herniated disk in her back pulled her out of sports, something that had been very important in her life. She got into a slump, and began to fall into depression and started self-medicating: hanging out with the wrong people, partying, drinking.
Her senior year she attended a party with some friends where she struck up a conversation with a boy she had a crush on for some time. He asked her to go to another party with him, and she agreed to go, but it was there that things went awry. It was there when this boy took advantage of her.
“It was the longest five minutes of my life,” she says. “It was like I knew what was happening, but I didn’t know what was happening.”
She remembers feeling sick, in shock, her heart pounding. She was able to find someone to take her home that evening but wasn’t able to process through what had happened. “I couldn’t say much, I just knew something had happened at that party.”
A couple months later, Shelby fell into what she describes as the worst point in her depression. “I couldn’t really figure out why, but I didn’t really need a reason why,” she recalls. Her mom began to notice that something was off and encouraged her to seek some help.
One day while Shelby was sitting in class, a teacher asked what was wrong. “You don’t have to tell me, but you have to tell someone,” this teacher encouraged. Shelby then went to her volleyball coach; she told her how she had been feeling empty, not hanging out with the right people, and going to parties. She remembers her coach telling her to be careful, and that eventually someone could take advantage of her. It was then, in that moment, Shelby realized what had happened to her just a few months before.
The week that followed was extremely difficult; summoning up the courage to tell her mom, whom she says is one of the most important people in her life. A few days later she recalls waking up one morning feeling an overwhelming peace; peace knowing what step she was going to take next.
“I grabbed a bottle of pills from our medicine cabinet and began to take them one at a time. With every one I took, I thought of a person who was going to be affected by what I was doing,” she says.
Close to an hour later, Brook, Shelby’s sister, knocked on the door to check on her. “She looked like she knew,” Shelby recalls. Brook picked the empty bottle of pills up off of the floor and yelled. “Shelby, What did you do?” Brook then called an ambulance and ten minutes later they arrived and took Shelby to the ER.
“I wasn’t really worried about anyone else at that moment. In fact, I was kind of mad at people for not just letting me die.” After the emergency room visit, Shelby was transported to another facility to be monitored for a short time period. They put her in a tiny, sterile room; with a motivational poster hanging on the wall. She wasn’t sure of what to expect during that time and when they told her that her parents couldn’t stay with her that night, she began to cry.
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” she remembers. “I spent the entire night crying. It was probably the first time I had ever cried out to God… literally. I spent the evening just talking to Him out loud.”
The hardest part of being in that hospital was when they began to ask her what her plan was. What was she going to do after? What did she want to say to her parents? She knew that she wanted to tell her dad about the assault she had suffered. She had already spoken to her mom, but not yet her father.
“It was the hardest thing to say. I didn’t know what my dad would do, but as soon as I spoke, my dad got up and he didn’t say anything, he came over and just knelt at my feet and wept. I realized then for the first time God weeps with us when we weep and rejoices with us when we rejoice. He doesn’t just stand and watch things happen. He’s broken when we’re broken.”
From that moment on, Shelby began the process of healing. She had the opportunity to attend camp the following summer where the High School Pastor asked her if she would be willing to share her story, not knowing the full extent of everything at that time. She told him no, at first; then after some prayer decided to do so. When it came to the night to share her story, she couldn’t stop crying. After getting up on stage she locked eyes with her brother and sister the entire time; she held them as her constant.
The entire camp was silent as Shelby shared her story. Not a dry eye in the room. Immediately following a few girls approached her, opening up about the abuse they too had experienced in their lives. “It was really hard to hear, it was really sad. But at the same time it was encouraging, I guess, to know there are others who have experienced what I have and they were still living; because I didn’t think I’d ever want to live after that happened.” Camp was a big turning point in her life last year, being able to connect with people through her story.
“I think my story is really about discovering who God is. He is with us through absolutely everything. When we are in the lowest valley to the top of the highest mountain, He is constant.”