Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Heroes Break Our Hearts

In our daily lives, we all have people that we look up to, people we aspire to be, people we call our "heroes." I know a lot of us in this survivor community look at Mariska as our hero, or the SVU cast members, or members of the Joyful Heart Foundation (I once did, but don't anymore -- that's another post).

Yet also in our daily lives are the unsung heroes, our friends, peers, mentors, ones that don't get recognition but deserve all the credit in our lives. The people that we surround ourselves with, look up to, aspire to be, love with all our hearts. These are heroes too.

And the worst heartbreak comes when our own heroes betray us.

Survivor Heroes

The past year for me has been wrought with hardship. Along the way, I have met an incredible survivor community because of SVU, women that had survived horrible abuses yet had somehow managed to overcome them. They picked me up, taught me incredible things about the will to survive. One young girl that I came across confronted her attacker in open court -- and he was convicted. She is much younger than me, but in that moment I was overcome with tears of happiness for her -- a beautiful soul who had faced the worst adversity and had CONQUERED it. She became my hero, and gave me the courage to fight for my legal case. Although it failed, I owe my spirit of fight to this brave young girl.

Yet among this "sisterhood" of survivors comes a world of problems. Having a large community of survivors is incredibly important, because they can understand exactly what I am going through when many others cannot. However, because we are all at different stages of our healing, survivors can turn and become our worst enemies, break our hearts, and betray us in the worst possible way.

This has happened to me more times than I can count this year.

One such friend of mine I met online via SVU in the winter. She was a strong-willed woman, had overcome abuse and flourished into a woman with a passion to stop sexual assault. She was also younger than me, but I looked up to her. She became one of my best friends, was with me through all of my legal case. We laughed hysterically about everything -- SVU, Mariska, cats, and so much more. I could talk to her for hours upon end and it never got old. She was someone I loved dearly. She was my hero, because she gave without a second thought, loved without regret, and made the worst week of my life one of the bests, full of positive memories. She promised me that we'd be friends forever, that she'd never betray me like the other betrayals that I'd had (and there have been three major ones this year, some too painful to go into still).

But the betrayal came.

One day, POOF, she was gone. No explanation, except that she was going through a "tough time." I tried to reach out, to be there for her, to help her like she helped me, because I loved her dearly. And she pushed me farther away. She fired back at me when I attempted to reach out to her, and she threatened to end our friendship right then and there.

Um ... what?!

I had shown this girl so much love and appreciation, and then all of a sudden she threatened to end our friendship right then and there. She said that my one year friendship meant nothing compared to her other friendship with her friend of seven years. The friend that I had listened to her complain about how she doesn't appreciate anything, the one I tried to help her work through to communicate better with. Suddenly I was nothing compared to that.

She ended our friendship -- the sisterhood I thought I'd always have, one of the friendships that i cherished most in my life. POOF, gone.

The pain of losing a best friend is beyond what my words can express. And the issue lies in the survivor community. Even when someone appears to be put together and strong, when they have not dealt fully with their demons of their past, be wary. I'm not saying these survivors are bad people -- hell, I'm not nearly as put together as I seem sometimes! (although I'm getting there). As my mom says: "One thing in common does not a friendship make." Very Shakespeare-an, but so true.

Girls can cause some of the worst pain. They backstab, they lie, they betray, they turn on you. I find this especially heart-wrenchingly true in the survivor community. One issue that seems so small to an outsider can be magnified 100000000x in a survivor. And that creates an immense amount of issues, as seen in the fallout of this friendship that i cherished so much.

This girl was one of my heroes, and she turned on me so suddenly I was left nearly breathless. It breaks my heart. But there is one thing I learned: online friendships, especially among survivors, are a dangerous situation to trust. We put our lives out there, we give our stories and our souls to these "sisters" in the survivor community, and in an instant they can turn on us.

However, that does not mean true friendships among survivors do not exist.

Hold on to the friendships that you do have. Keep the people that are trustworthy close to you. Be wary. I'm extremely jaded and cynical now ... but not beyond repair. Nourish the true friendships that you do have, because true friends are hard to come by. And the best ones will never leave your side, no matter what.

When Heroes Abuse

I want to touch on a very difficult subject for me, the one that has nearly destroyed my life and all semblance of happiness this past year.

Like many other survivors, I have been the victim of more than one assault. The hardest ones I have been through may not have been the worst or most dangerous situations, but they nearly killed me because it was perpetrated by someone I cared about.

Sexual assault is a horrific crime. No sexual assault is worse than another -- they're all just different. But for me emotionally, the two that I experienced that were perpetrated by someone I knew affected me the most.

My most recent one was perpetrated by someone I deeply cared about. He was my mentor, in a profession I desired to enter. I had known him for over 2 years. He knew about my history, was always so kind to me with regards to my past. We laughed hysterically together, he taught me so much. He was also old enough to be my father.

  The day that it happened nearly destroyed me.

I lost all the happiness I had in my life. My soul was tarnished and blackened, my body wrought with pain. Not physical pain, although that did come soon after. But the deep, penetrating emotional pain of a betrayal so great, the worst violation possible, of mind, body, and soul. I blamed myself for many months, thinking, "I shouldn't have had that much to drink," or, "I shouldn't have gone to his apartment." I looked for any excuse to blame myself, "Maybe I didn't try hard enough," although pushing his hands away constantly and saying I needed to leave my clothes on would be a sign to stop, right?

But I tried to just tell myself it was nothing, that it was my fault. Because the truth that he was capable of violating me in that way was far more than I could handle, the pain of the realization that he was capable of doing something like this, when his job had him writing about sex crimes ... no, it couldn't be.

But it was.

I had to face that harsh reality. And it hit me. Hard.

For many months I finally was able to see what had happened for what it really was. That he didn't care about me. That he had groomed me for over year, had lied to me on every interaction, countless times. I finally broke free from his grasp over me, and I felt STRONG.

But all that changed with the investigation.

With one phone call to this man, I became trapped under his spell again. And that scared me. 6 months of not speaking to him, I had become strong willed and convicted, sure in my story, knowing he was a bad man. All that disappeared in a 15 minute phone call with the police listening.

The inherent issue lies in the desperate attempt to convince ourselves that it was a mistake. That he didn't mean it. That it was really our fault. Because blaming ourselves is SO much easier than looking the situation in the eye, head on, and saying, "Yes. This man, my hero, my mentor, RAPED me."

I became horrible confused yet again. I attempted confrotning him myself over the phone, thinking I'd get straight answers. Ha! He denied everything of course. I had been drunk, so there were parts I didn't remember, but the parts I do remember were clear -- I wanted him to stop. He denied everything.

I had tried to maintain a neutral stance with him, in case, God forbid, I had to work with him one day. I still cared about him, and it was hard to let that go.

Deep down, though, I had this impenetrable hatred towards him. A hatred so beyond comprehension, one that enveloped my soul in a fiery mass of anger.

I knew that I could never have an interaction with him again without this hatred popping up. But I had to end it on my own terms, not someone else's.

Sadly, that did not happen.

I received this email from him the other day:

Rachel, you and I have been friends for several years so I’ve tried to give you the benefit of the doubt about what you’ve been accusing me of since last January.  But after thinking about the phone calls we’ve had and your email a few weeks ago, I’ve finally realized your accusation isn’t just a mistake.  It’s a lie, plain and simple.  And there is no way for us to remain friends after that.   Bottom line: I'm done. 
  I lost it after that.

In another short paragraph, he had gotten into my head. "It's a lie, plain and simple."

All the conviction and strength that I had disappeared.

I was a mess, doubting everything that I had ever thought about this situation. Doubting myself, doubting my truth, doubting what I knew deep down was what happened.

But worst of all, the pain of the realization that this man did not give a SHIT about me.

I went on a rampage after that, tearing up everything he had ever given me, anything associated with him, even the short blurb in a book that I had. I tore everything up and scattered it in my room.

It's amazing the power that these abusers can have over us. I blamed myself for this situation, because I went back to him so many times, when I could see the signs hitting me in the face that I needed to walk away, But I didn't want to believe the truth -- that he could do such a thing to me, when I cared about him so much.

The past few weeks have broken me. The fallout with the NYPD, the subsequent issues and betrayal of the SVU cast, the horrific harassment that ensued from some very sick girls via social media, the fallout with my best friend ... and then the final closing chapter with this man whom I cared about deeply.

It's cut me to the soul. It's nearly destroyed me.

The sad truth is, abusers come in all shapes and sizes. Very few are the creepy old men watching children on the playground. Or the stranger in the dark alley.


These abusers are our friends, boyfriends, uncles, fathers, cousins, mentors, teachers, pastors, and priests. They are our loved one, our mentors, our heroes.

This man has forever changed my life. He nearly destroyed it, every shred of happiness and faith I had gone up in flames of fury.

But I'm still here.

Somehow, I've managed to survive.

And that is because of the heroes that haven't left my side.

It comes full circle.

The heroes that abuse are among us, the friends that betray are among us. But so are the true heroes of our lives.

And in honor of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the true heroes in my life. The friendship that I have with an incredible woman that I will cherish forever. My amazing high school teachers, who have NEVER left my side since 2006. The few people that I can call no matter what and they will listen. Even the friends who can't understand what I'm going through, but can take me out and show me a good time. Those are the heroes among us, the ones that we need to cherish and keep us safe.

Sure, heroes can be actors on a TV show, or philanthropists, or famous activists. But I say the real heroes are the ones who never, ever betray us. The ones we fight with, but still love at the end of the day. The ones that can say, "You're pissing me off right now," but know will never leave your side.

Those are the ones that keep us alive.

And I thank the ones who have been with me through the worst times of my life, through this entire year of heartache and pain. I thank the ones who call me on my bullshit without creating drama. But especially the ones at the end of the day, who, no matter what happened, can say, "I love you," and I know they mean it.

And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When Heroes Fail, and the Importance of Olivia Benson

Unlike a lot of the hardcore SVU fans out there, I have only been watching SVU for 4 years. I wasn't one of the ones who sat down and watched every season in order from start to finish. I let the episodes come in a random order, which made watching it on TV that much more exciting.

The first time I watched SVU, I immediately fell in love with Olivia Benson, and then shortly after, Mariska Hargitay, who really models Benson in real life.

90% of the people I have talked to who love SVU -- many of them survivors themselves -- all say that they love Olivia because sometimes hearing her words on the show is exactly what they (as a survivor) need to hear.

I could not agree with this more.

After the first time I was sexually assaulted, I did not report to the police because the first time I tried, I was treated like crap. I didn't even attempt to go through the legal system because of how the responding officers treated me.

Yet in my aftermath, I found solace in Olivia's words.  In SVU. The incredible writing, combined with the beyond talented Mariska Hargitay, has created a virtual healing process for survivors in all parts of the world. Survivors who can't go through the legal system, or whose legal system failed them, find solace in Olivia getting justice for those who have no voice.

And not only that, the more I reach out into the SVU fandom, the more I see that Olivia Benson has inspired young women to want to become SVU detectives.

I need to emphasize this point.

Young women who watch SVU see Olivia Benson as a lioness, a fierce protector of victims, always believing them, guiding them through the healing process, providing a sense of comfort and solace and understanding that few survivors receive throughout the healing process. SVU viewers see this interaction on TV and are inspired to become detectives like Olivia Benson.

Olivia Benson is not real; but her inspiration is.

And the world needs that.

I want to share with you a little snippet of my own experience with the legal system (the full story will come soon but it's too fresh to go into).

I have a very long story with the NYPD. I have met some incredible detectives, and some that should not have a gun or detective's shield. One such experience happened recently.

A female detective at the NYPD SVU precinct had a real beef with me. She had been rude to me on several occasions, in person and on the phone. I had been expecting a call from their precinct about the next move for my case but hadn't received it yet. I was about to go into yoga, so I called the precinct to inquire about my case and the next move. The FEMALE detective answered me: "your case is closed. Don't call here anymore."

I was stunned and said what the hell are you talking about, because a few hours ago my detective on my case told me they were going to make their next move. And she just kept repeating what she had said, really rude and bitchy: "Your case is closed. You can't call here anymore".  She wouldn't give me an explanation and just kept telling me to not call there anymore. 

Then the worst part is that she started telling me that this was all just a game to me, that they were just pawns in my little game and that nothing criminal happened so they can't do anything about it and I cant call them anymore. She said that I made the whole thing up because it was just a game to me, that nothing criminal happened. And she wouldn't give me an explanation as to why they closed the case so suddenly when two hours before that they were gonna make the next move. She isn't even assigned to my case and she bitched me out and saying that I made the whole thing up.  And that it was just all fun and games to me and they don't do that there. That she's sorry that he gave me an STD, but that nothing criminal happened. She said that I have to get closure somewhere else because there's nothing that they can do for me.

Let me re-iterate -- this was a female detective, at the real NYPD: Special Victims Unit. The unit that Olivia Benson is based off of. The unit whose sign on the door reads: "Home of the World's Greatest Detectives." Some of them are -- I truly had some wonderful people there, that were the real life Elliot Stabler. But where was Olivia?

Olivia does not exist.

At least, not in my reality of what I went through. That experience with that female detective tore me up so deeply words cannot even begin to describe. And the fact that she turned around and LIED to my mom (who called her) about saying those things to me ... she is one that should NOT be on the Special Victims Unit.

But this is where YOU come in. Yes you. The one reading this blog, the young woman/man who has been inspired by the TV show SVU to become a detective.

The world needs you.

Mariska said this perfectly in her National Press Conference speech back in March, but the sad reality is that most detectives are not trained to handle victims.

On SVU, the unit is perfect. Granted, they are wrought with the usual personal struggles: addiction, family issues, mom issues, anger management, etc. But not a single one of them handles victims with anger, blame, or criticism.

The sad reality is that this is not the norm.

My experience with that female detective is more the norm than the kindness the others showed me.

To those of you reading this blog, inspired by SVU to become a detective -- please follow your dreams. The legal system needs more Olivia Bensons. Survivors need and deserve that kind of treatment in any police department.

You have the power to change someone's life.

Maybe you think you're just one person, and you can't have that much of an influence on someone. But read this: you can.

Dream big. Create your reality. Live the life you've always wanted. If an SVU detective is your goal because Olivia Benson has inspired you -- go for that goal. There will dozens -- hundreds -- of survivors who will look you in the eye one day and thank you from the bottom of their hearts that you were there. That you became that lioness that Olivia has always been on the TV screen.

Olivia Benson is not real -- but she should be. And with peoples' dreams, she will become a reality.

My positive experiences have wanted me to give back and become a detective as well. But my negative experiences have both discouraged me for ever wanting to be near an SVU precinct again ... but have also instilled in me the need to really change the system. To be on the legal side of it and know exactly what the victim is going through. The positive experiences I had with other detectives were incredible, because they believed me and advocated for me, but they always ended like this: "...but it's easy for us to say, because we have never been in your shoes before."

I'm not saying that every survivor needs to become an SVU detective. But it having that personal empathy, or having the Olivia Benson spirit within you makes all the difference in the world for the victim.

If I had been treated like the way that female detective treated me from the getgo, I would've run as fast as I could in the other direction.

No one deserves to be treated like that.

It all starts with you. Make that dream your reality. Make Olivia Benson real. It will make all the difference.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."


Monday, July 1, 2013

Heart Opening #2

Man. The past 2 months has been an absolute whirlwind of excitement, stress, and heart openings.

This past weekend I was at a workshop/retreat led by my chiropractor Dr. Joe Dispenza. Now, Dr. Joe is NOT your average chiropractor. In fact, he is probably one of the farthest things from "average" that I can think of (alongside Mariska).

I found Dr. Joe through my team in Colorado who was helping me with my pain. Through a series of crazy coincidences (or maybe not coincidences), I started seeing Dr. Joe at his clinic in Olympia.

For those of you who have known me for a while, you will know of my chronic pain that I've had since 2009. What most of you don't know is the way that it nearly destroyed me. I don't talk about it much, bceause I don't like to focus on it, and I'm still fearful that by thinking of it, it will come back. But, I feel the need to really illustrate where I came from and where I am today.

In 2009 I was at the beginning, but height, of my lifting career. I was crazy good. I only competed twice and my second meet I qualified for every single national meet the US held. I was a junior lifter,  but was qualifying for senior meets.

I never got to compete in any of them.

My pain started the day after my last meet in 2009. At first I thought it was just an injury that would get better. It didn't. For those of you who saw me in 2011, my pain progressed to the point where I could not even turn my head from side to side. I was a shell of my former athletic self. You couldn't touch a single point on my mid back up, neck, and shoulders/rotator cuff without having me cry out in pain. I didn't want to live any more. I had no life, and I believed I had no future. It was the worst thing I have ever gone through.
Adding on top of the physical pain were multiple emotional traumas in the form of abuse, sexual assaults and breakups Each time an emotional trauma occurred, it became locked in my physical body.

Late 2011 is when the changes started. Coincidences happened, and I was put in front of people who could help me. Who DID help me. The end of this experience was marked by my treatment team in Colorado, and subsequently Dr. Joe.

Dr. Joe has his chiropractic business, but his true focus is on change. Change on a quantum level. He has multiple books, documentaries, and studies that chronicle his experience with changing your life from the atomic/quantum level. i was fascinated with his book that I read. Not only that, but things started happening for me. My body began to come alive again. I began to do things again that I haven't done in year. I did a handstand for the first time since 2009. Miracles were happening.

His premise is based on quantum mechanics. I won't go into the details because they will probably bore the majority of you, but the principle that underlies all of life is that atoms are made up of 99.9999999....% energy and .000000....1% matter. so most of existence is energy. Within the atom, electrons exist in a cloud of possibility ie, they could show up at any particular area in this cloud. Within his teachings he builds on this principle that since everything is energy, different things happen in life/diseases occur as a result of this energy. And that chance can occur if we can change the energy of something.

Take for example an optimist vs. pessimist. Ever notice that an optimist tends to get less sick than a pessimist?

Or, have you noticed that if you focus really hard on something that you DON'T want -- it'll happen? Or, on the contrary, if you focus on something that you do want -- it'll happen?

The things outlined in his book have explained a lot of the events that have occurred in my life. Physical injuries, emotional traaumas ... things that are too great to be considered coincidences.

But, all of this was in his book.

This weekend was spent refining techniques in his book and learning more meditations. We spent a great majority of the weekend meditating. And one thing I kept hearing him say was, "Open your heart ..." do this and "open you heart ..." etc. And I was taken back to the gala and the heart openings that occurred there. At the JHF, they use it as an expression. But, what if, like Dr. Joe was saying, it really truly was energetic? That heart openings were truly energetic in principle?

One of the things we did yesterday, our last day, was the blessing of the energy centers. Namely, the blessing of the chakras. All we did was direct loving energy towards these centers. And something very strange happened to me. At 2 of the centers I was BAWLING when I was directing loving energy towards them. Like sobbing. The 2 centers? The one located in the pelvic floor and the one located at the throat. If you are a survivor of sexual assault -- can you understand? The pelvic floor and the throat (your voice) ... I was floored.

After this, I was reminded of something that had been in the back of my mind for the last few months, and interaction I had with Dr. Joe about 2 separate events the past few months. The first was around March. I was dating a guy (the first since my ex broke up with me and since my assault), and I was very happy. I walked into Dr. Joe's clinic and waited for him to come into the room. He walked into my room and as he was adjusting me said to me and his assistant, Dana, "SOMEONE'S been doing a lot of kissing!" I turned BRIGHT red and laughed and he just kept going. I was lost for words (Dr. Joe is hilarious, by the way) and turned to Dana and said, "How did he know ...?" And she just shrugged and laughed. So, either I was an open book, or Dr. Joe is VERY good at reading people (or, both?).

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago. This was a Wednesday, and I had had a conversation with someone the night before on the phone that was incredibly difficult, heavy, but had given me an enormous amount of strength, courage, and power. I felt POWERFUL. So I walked into the exam room and waited for him. A few min later he came into adjust me and he said, "Uh oh, who's the boyfriend?" I looked at him and said, "There's no guy!" He didn't believe me, but I assured him there wasn't. It went further. I told him that I had a realization that whereas I wasn't where I wanted to be physically, I could do SO much more than the average person, and I was so grateful for that. He took a sharpie and wrote on a white board and dated it: "6/13 Rachel is aware of her greatness."

He then went on to say, "If there's no love interest -- then you are TOTALLY in love with yourself and your life." And I now realize the power of that -- that that one energy center had profoundly opened the night before, and that I was at the place where I could truly appreciate where I was.

I had a flare up after that (currently in one). But with a big hug from Dr. Joe and faith from him that I'm changing -- I believe more than ever that I will be ok.

<3 p="">

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Something Funny ... CHRIS MELONI!

So most of you know by now that Chris Meloni did a Huffington Post Live interview today ... and they chose my question that I asked! Not only that, but it was a video that I posted -- and they played it! I am both mortified (I looked like crap after a long day of work) but also thoroughly amused.

Anyways, enjoy =)

Click here to see the full interview with Chris Meloni

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The beautiful side of humanity

I posted this on my facebook, but wanted to crosspost it here because I think it deserves its own post.

I want to mention something that I've been thinking a lot about the past week and a half.

When we were at the gala, and the three of us were sobbing in the bathroom, and Kelli Giddish Had comforted us and had left, two women came over to us and started to take care of us. One of them identified herself as being related to SVU. I thought the other one was her friend and they had been sitting together. The two of them showed us immense kindness, gave us a pep talk for about 20 minutes, and said that this is what joyful heart was all about, helping people like us, and told us if we needed anything we could call her (the one related to SVU).

I talked to the SVU related woman the other on the phone for about an hour; she helped me through something difficult and I confided in her, and we talked about that night at the gala. She told me that the other woman in fact was not her friend -- They didn't know each other AT ALL. That that woman who saw us crying had turned to her in line in the bathroom and said, "We need to do something." The two of them teamed together to try to help the three of us.

It's sad that this is something so amazing… That two strangers came together to help three more strangers in our time of need. But, this is what makes humanity so beautiful. And what makes being human so beautiful.

No one in our group now knows who that woman was or where she is now, and will probably never meet her again. But because of her, four of us have a very special bond now. And that is a beautiful thing.

Keep this in mind, if you see somebody who is a stranger who is upset and may need someone to talk to… Don't be afraid to reach out. Beautiful things will happen.

If anyone ever needs to talk, I am here. No judgments. Complete anonymity. You can seriously email me with anything. I know that feeling of being alone and helpless and afraid it will never get better. I've heard it all -- really.

xo, R

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Joyful Heart Foundation Gala: Yes, Risk Joy

The Thursday of the gala, me and my two friends I was going with all had hair and makeup appointments all day. We were all so excited up until the end of my makeup appointment because we realized we were gonna be super late.
We were all super stressed when we got back to the place we were staying, and we had to rush to throw our clothes and shoes on and then leave. So we run outside and try to flag a cab down. We jump in the cab and are stuck on the same block for about 10 min. it’s already 5 min past when we were supposed to get there and we were all the way across town. So we ask the cab driver how long it’s gonna take us to get there and he says a half an hour. So we say “eff that!” and get out. I suggest we get to port authority so we can get on the 7 at times square to take us across town.
So, in full makeup, hair, and dresses, we start SPRINTING to Times Square. My two friends take their heels off (I’m wearing flip flops) and we are legit sprinting there. I can only imagine what the people thought around us! At that point, you had to laugh. We were royally late, but the thought of what we must have looked like was hilarious.
We FINALLY get to the subway, hop on the train, get to Grand Central (the site where my SVU adventure first began in 2010!), we get off and sprint to Cipriani. FINALLY. We are there.
We walk in to this ENORMOUS hall, unlike anything I’ve ever been in before. We go in to get our seats, but see the “red carpet” line going on. Mariska is there in a gorgeous elegant white dress. I smile from ear to ear and get closer. Harry Connick Jr. is right in front of me, giving an interview whle I see Mariska, Kelli, and Danny posing for pictures.
We go and put our stuff down and find the rest of our group we were sitting with. Linda, who was kind of the head of the group, says to me, Meloni’s here!” and I almost die as my heart skips a beat.
Behind our table is the bar and ballroom where the photo booth is. The rest of the night is a bit of a whirlwind as we look for people we know. Linda said Meloni was sitting near the stairs at a table. I go over there and don’t see him, but see Belzer and his dog sitting with other people. He was talking to people and I didn’t want to interrupt but his dog was chilling near my feet so I asked if I could pet him and he smiled and said yes.
Then we walk over to the photo booth, andd Kelli Giddish walks by us and I call out to her.
“Hey Kelli!” she turns around. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I met you a few months back and your dog loved me.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right! How ya’ll doing?” We re-intrdouce ourselves and start to chat. I tell her that every time I see a dog I think of her, and I tell her about the video I got of my dog and my cat playing together. Kelli tells us that her knees are all scratched up from playing with Frannie at the park today. Then she looks around and says, “Don’t tell anyone this, but she’s gonna be in the finale! She chases down a perp!”
we all laugh and are like “no way!” and she is like a proud stage mom, super adorable. Then we ask her if she’ll take some photos with us and she says sure. So we go to the photobooth and we get some absolutely GREAT shots.
We keep walking around and see Danny. We say hi to him, make small talk (he doesn’t remember us which is fine haha) and ask if he’ll take a picture with us in the photobooth. He says of course but he’s gonna go get a drink first and then come back. We wait around for a while, and one of my friends hits me and points: “IT’S MELONI!” I almost die. But he’s talking so I wait as we weait for Danny to come back. Wihle we’re waiting, I see that Peter is free for a second so I take my chance and go up to him.
“Peter?” He turns around. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I had dinner with you and Mariska in 2011, when you were out with Neal and Mike Doyle. Dan Truly brought me.” He pauses for a secondbut then his face turns into recognition and he says, “Oh yeah! You were the weightlifter!” and he does a weightlifting motion.
“Thank you so much for coming tonight!” he says.
“Oh of course! I wanted to say thank you for talking with me because you were really welcoming that night and I really appreciated it.” He smiles, we make small talk, and then he runs off – poor guy was so busy!
After that I was super happy, and went back to the photo booth and saw that they had already gotten a photo with Danny. I was disappointed but I was glad I got to talk to Peter. He’s the nicest guy.
Social hour was about to end and we were gonna go back and take our seats. I saw Meloni just starting to walk back to the dining area, and I took my chance.
“Yeah?” He says as he turns around.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m the weightlifter that Carlos Guerra brought on set in the summer of 2010 a couple of times.”
He also pauses for a second and then goes, “Oh yeah! You were with that guy!” (meaning my now ex boyfriend)
“Yeah my boyfriend, we were both weightlifters.”
“Oh yeah! What was your name again?”
“How ya been?” I’m now dying inside.
“It’s been a rough few years but I’m doing ok.” I augh and say, “You never lfited with us that sumer!” (that was what he said he was gonna do)
“You know,now I remember why I don’t. I usually only do hack squats, but the other day I was squatting and – boom – I blow my back out.”
“Oh man,” I say. “Herniated disk?”
“Everything,” he says. “I herniated a few discs in high school and it’s never been the same.”
“Yeah I remember you saying that.”
Then I ask him if he’d take a photo with me, and my friends got some AMAZING ones.
Then – OMG – I say to him, “You know you’re my ass twin, right?”
“Do people confuse our asses?”
“People call me Assy McBigPants #2.”
He laughs and gives me a high five and then we all go back to sit down. I literally almost died.
Then the entire program started. I got a lot of it on video, which was great. The beginning was mostly of peter hosting, and doing the hosting type speeches. The videos say more here.
But then the most incredible, difficult, and movin prt of the night came a little after the program started, which was when Mariska presented the “Heart of Gold” award to a woman named Sukey Novogratz. When she got up on stage, I recognized her because she was wearing a BRIGHT, hot pink gown. She started her speech with saying she hoped that she could get through it.
What followed was unlike anything I had ever seen. Or heard.
She then proceeded to tell the detailed story of her gang rape at the age of 17.
By the end the three of us – and most of the room – were sobbing. Perhaps the hardest part to hear was when she described the feelings she was left with – being a shell of a human being one of them. That was what did it for me. At the end, she said that that day when she was 17 was when she stopped singing (she was a singer). But that night, wearing her hot pink gown (which at 17 was what she wanted to get married in), she sang a song. To show she had her voice back. She started singing “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson. Ingrid then jumped up on stage to sing with her.
At the end, the entire room gave her a standing ovation. I clapped as hard as I could as teaers were streaming down my face.
Our main course was about to be brought out but I asked if my friends wanted to go to the abthroom with me to freshen up.
We got into the bathroom and I flung the door open and almost hit Julianne Hough and Kelli Giddish in the back. I apologize and try to clean myself up. behind me, my two friends are sobbing in the corner. I’m trying to hold it together but I’m crying too, but I stay in line cuz I legit hafta pee. But the other two are in the corner sobbing and I start crying too even harder.
Then all of a sudden, Kelli motions to the people behind us to close the door to give us more privacy. Then she walks over to us, and wipes the tears off of one of my friends’ shoulers that the other had smudged on there. As she wipes the tears away she says, “It’s gonna be ok. You’re strong,” and she grabs one of their hands (I cant remember who bcc I’m crying too hard) and then she walks out.
That was when I lost it. I completely fell to pieces, and the 3 of us were in a huddle with all these celebs in the bathroom, sobbing.
Then something even more amazing happened.
We were a mess in the bathroom. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Then these two women who were behind us in line come over to us. I don’t even know what was said because we were too hysterical and I was completely in my own head. But the two of them took us under their wing. One of them said, “This is what joyful heart is all about – it’s about helping you guys.” Which of course made me cry even harder.
We went and sat out on the steps near the bathroom and I was hysterical. The two women come out and find us and sit with us. One of them said that her husband was a director on SVU so has been around the cause for a long time and is really passionate about it because a family member was sexually abused. I asked her who her husband was, wondering if id met him in 2010, and she told me, and I knew his name but hadn’t met him. we talked a bit, and she comforted all of us. I told her briefly my story and completely broke down again. They all said some wonderful things.
Then we went to go and sit down and try to compose ourselves, and when we got there Mariska was right in front of our table (what timing!). We were a mess, but our new friend and protector goes up to her. I was right behind. Mariska smiles and reaches out her hand to shake my hand, and I say, “It’s Rachel, Carlos’ friend from 2010.” “Oh hi!” she says, and squeezes m hand very tightly, in recognition. It was obvious we all had been crying. Maile was also with her and I shake her hand and say, “’m the one you emailed a few months ago when Mariska forwarded my email to you.”
She says, “That’s right!” and also squeezes my hand in recognition.
A this was going on, our new svu friend is simultaneously talking to Mariska, about us, probably asking her if we could talk to her, because Mariska says, “Not tonight, but I’ll call Sherisa.” She was way to sqamped, which we understood.
Our SVU protector says that we should come visit her at her table, which was right next to Mariska’s. We said we would (although we weren’t able to because the live auction took up the rest of the night).
A few minutes later Sherisa, who’s a counselor with JHF, came and found us. The three of us went into the ballroom to talk. We had a mini therapy session and talked about triggers, etc. Then we hear Mariska getting up on stage again, so we want to go sit down and watch the rest of the night.
When we went to sit down while things were going on, I see Hugh Jackman walk behind our table and go out the door to leave … and I almost have a heart attack.
Then Ingrid Michaelson performed. While she was perofming, I turned around and could see Peter and Mariska behind us. He was holding her tightly, and you coul see her sobbing and wiping the tears from her eyes.. then they danced for a little bit and then shared a passionate kiss. It was the sweetest thing ive ever seen.
After Ingrid performed, the live auction went on, which for us poor folk was kind of boring. But then, the fun part: the after party! Not in any particular order, because it was insane and fun and I was slightly tispy.
I met Andre Braugher! I went up to him to say that my whole family thinks he’s a great actor. He was very appreciative and when I told him my parents thought he was fantastic, he said, “Give them my regards.” So nice!
During the live auction, I had seen Jemima Kirke from the HBO show “Girls” walk b the table in front of us, and I flipped out.  So during the dance party, I found her and went up to her and just said how much I loved the show and how much I could relate because I’m 23.
“Oh thank you so much” she kept saying in her british accent. I told her I was like obsessed and watched the whole first season in a week. She said that’s better than doing it in a day which she knew someone did. I asked if they were filming season 3 and she said they were. Then I got a really cute picture with her. I think she’s a beautiful girl – very natural. Looks like she’s from seattle with what she wears. It was super cool!
Also got a picture with Danny.
Then we were standing next to our SVU protector and she all of a sudden says, “Watch out!” as I stepp on someone’s dress as they were running by me, and I looked up and it was Mariska. OOOOOPS! “I’m so sorry!” and she just laughs as she runs by e.
I also asked Peter to take a picture with me and we took it on the red arpet. It was super cute. I ojked how tall he is, and he said, “I’m a giant!” Truth.
Then, I found Sukey, in her bright pink dress. I go up to her and thanked her so much for sharing her story, that I feel all of that currently but that I was so inspired that she has overcome everything. She smiled, gave me a huge hug, and said that I WILL get to that point of being whole again. “I promise. You will get there.” I had chills.
Then I found Raul Esparza! And I immediately developed a huge crush on him haha. I went up to him and said that my family think that he’s the best ADA so far on SVU and that we’ve been watching it for years. He thank med. I was slightly tipsy at this point, so I don’t remember everything (and the music was blasting) but I asked him to take a picture with me. My phone was accidentally on video so his riend says that the photo didn’t flash and I realized it was on video. Then Raul goes, “You know we’re gonna look insane in that, standing and smiling forever?” I laughed. We took the picture and the ni talked to him a bit. I said that it was really weird seeing him in “Hannibal” the TV show.
“That character is super creepy. He’s so fun to play.”
“Then I ask him, “So are you really badass like Barba in real life?”
He replies, “You mean, do I walk around saying ‘Fuck you’ all the time to people? Yea-no.” He shakes his head and I laugh. Then he gets swept up in something else.
Then, omg, the threee of us find Warren Leight. One of my friends, Danielle, is extremely drunk haha. We got up to talk to him, and I think he was legit freaked out because we were all crazy haha. We were laughing and joking, and he asks us for our twitter names. I say mine, and that I was the one who had called his mom a hairy Italian by mistake.
“Oh yeah, I remember that,” he says and we laught. I ask him about the live tweet session for the west coast and he says that no one is up at that time to do it haha.
Then Danielle starts going on and on about wanting to be cast in the episode or something. Before he left, I asked him if Mariska was coming back and he said, “I hope so.” Uh oh.
At one point, Mariska was taking pictures with an older man at the photo booth, and I was standing there sipping my wine watching them. The pictures were printing out and the older man picked them up.
“That is so cute!” I say.
He smiles at me, and sticks out his hand to me and says, “My name’s Michael!”
I smile at his sweetness and shake his hand. “I’m Rachel.” I then ask him how he’s affiliated with JHF, and he says:
“I’m the director of photography on SVU.” Michael Green! I knew his name.
So then I tell him that I knew a bunch of people in 2010, and that the cameraman, Carlos Guerra, was a friend of mine and brought me on set.
“I was the one who first hired Carlos!” he says.
“No way!” I also tell him the other guys I know on set, and we chit chat. I tell him I’m getting help with writing, and then he points to a guy next to him and says,
“This is the guy you should talk to!”
This guy, sorta young, sticks out his hand and says, “I’m John.”
I shake his hand and inroduce myself and ask him how he’s affiliated with SVU.
“Oh I’m one of the head writers on the show,” he says, nonchalantly.
I almost have a heart attack.
So then we proceed to talk about writing for about 10 min, giving me all this writing advie in the middle of this crazy party.
He alludes to the fact that I live in the perfect city for writing, and I say, “Oh actually I don’t live in NYC, I live in Seattle.”
“Oh my fiancé is from Seattle!”
“No way!!!!” I couldn’t believe it.
“I actually might be in Seattle this summer. We should get together, maybe for lunch.” I couldn’t believe this – the head SVU writer, another screenwriter, is willing and wanting to help me out. So we exchanged emails and said we’d be in contact. Holy moly!
So then it was getting towards the end of the night. I see Meloni about to leave so I went up to him before he walked out.
“Chris!” I say and he turns around. “Can I have a hug before you leave?”
“Come here, baby,” he says and he gives me a big huge and kind of nestles my head under his chin almost kiss the top of my head.
OH. MY. FREAKING. GOD. I die a little bit inside.
Then I say, “I’m so sad because Dan said he invited you to my bday dinner but you couldn’t come.”
He frowns and says, “What? I never got an invite.”
“Nope, he never called me.”
I’m super sad! So I say, “Well if I ever get dinner with him again, do you wanna come?”
He does his Meloni nod and smile and says, “Yeah~!”
“Promise?” I ask.
“Yeah!” he says and smiles, as he walks away with his wife and I smile goodbye.
After that we wer ancing and “Don’t Stop Believin’” came on. Mariska is right next to us dancing with Krysten (another SVU set person who I had met earlier when I was talking to John Roche). So we were all singing and dancing together BELTING the song out. I got it all on video, and it was amazing.
After that Mariska was next to us and one of m y friends went up to her to thank her. I don’t know what she said to mariska, but mariska started to cry and gave her a huge hug. Then I went up to her and told her that I wasn’t sure if she believd my story when I emailed her and I asked her if she believed me and she nodded, looking teary eyed. Then we embraced or a second. <3 p="">
Then I was walking out near the lobby and found peter. I came up to him  (earlier I had said I was a survivor), and I say that I’m so grateful for all that they do. He gives me a GIANT hug and I say, as he’s hugging me,
“I love you guys so much. That sound sso stupid.”
He squeezes me even tighter.
“It’s not stupid at all,” he says back to me, still squeezing me.
He lets go of me and smiles.
“Stay strong,” he says, almost knowingly … and then he walks away.
I cried inside, so grateful, filled with so much life.
After that there was about one more song, then it was time to go home.
But it didn’t end there.
Saturday, our SVU protector, the director’s wife, met up with us. We ended up sitting down together, and sharing our detailed stories out loud, crying together, healing together. She had no reason to seek us out, to support us, but she did. And I am so grateful for that.

And that was it.
That week was the most incredible week of my entire life. So many emotions, so much crying, so much healing.
I came there with friends. I left with 2 sisters. And a brother. And an SVU momma.
The week has changed my life. I have never been filled with so much hope, joy, and love for these people. Mariska and Peter … they have forever changed my life. All of them have.
SVU has completely changed my life. Not only was it a dream come true in 2010, but since then, I have been completely transformed by the work that Mariska has done. She has entered my life, in one way or another, every time I’ve desperately needed her from 2010 onward.
Then Sukey. Sukey has given a vision of what I want to be in the future. I see what she has overcome, and I know I can too. I have never cried so hard in response to another person’s story. A beautiful, incredible soul.
Thank you, SVU, for making my dreams come true.
For surrounding me in an incredible community of survivors, thrivers, and dreamers.
For giving me a protector, who listens to me, believes me, and will be there for me.
And, most importantly, for planting the seed of joy in my soul, that I know will one day grow into a beautiful fountain of joy, blocking out the darkness.
Thank you, SVU,  Danielle, Kortney, my Special Vixen Unit, Joyful Heart, Chris, Sukey, Mariska, Peter.
Yes. Risk joy.
Xo, R


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

And so the saga continues … SVU Set Visit April 2013

Here is the account of the SVU birthday visit from April!

April 2nd, 2013.
We learned that SVU was gonna be filming in Harlem all day until late at night that day. Since it was my birthday I was dying to see them because I hadn’t seen mariska since 2011. Me, Connor (my friend visiting with me), Danielle and Erica (two svu girls I’d met online and were friends with now) all met up to go. We went in the morning, but when we got there none of the stars were there. We saw Mariska’s hairdresser, Brian, and he was hilarious. He remembered Danielle and then I told him I also follwed him on twitter. “We’re just having a kiki on the corner!” Ha! I got a picture with him.
One of the guys I knew on set said that the stars weren’t gonna be there until later (including Mariska). We were all upset because Danielle had to go back upstate later that day and Erica lived in Jersey. But they weren’t gonna be there early, so we left. Erica went back to Jersey to get her car while the rest of us hang out downtown and then we all met up later again in Harlem.
We get there and see Brian walking back and I shouted to him that I’d tweeted the picture of us and he shouted back “I retweeted it!” We all laughed.
Erica finally shows up and tries to park her giant car right in front of us. As she’s parking, a acrew guy walks by me and his radio crackles: “Dnny’s here.” I tell Danielle that Danny’s here and she says, “How dyou know?” Then I look up and see him getting out of a car. I tich Erica (sorry!!!) and run up to try to catch him. He’s wearing a base ball cap and is SO cute!
“Hey Danny!” I say. “I’m here for my birthday and I was wondering if I could get a picture with you at some point.”
“Oh yeah, sure, happy birthday!”
“Thanks” I say in response. “Can we atch you later?”
“Oh, we can do it now.” So Danielle snapped a shot of me and Danny. Then I say, “I was wondering if you could sign my NO MORE shirt later?”
“Oh sure! We can do it now.”
“Oh but we don’t have a sharpie.”
“Wait, I might have one.” So he reaches into his big bag ad pulls out a sharpie to sign my shirt.
“No más,” he writes. I thank him and ask him if he knows Peter Leto, the director that used to let me come on set. “Oh sure, I know Peter!” he says.
Then I say we were waiting for our other friend and he says, pointing to Connor, “Is this your friend too?”
I say, “That’s my friend Connor.”
“What’s up my man?” and he does a fist to Conor haha! So we make small talk for a bit longer. I told him my name was Rachel and he repeates my name. Then we let him go and thanked him. He was sweet!
I was all giddy after that. There was another group trying to meet Kelli Giddish but they ended up leaving I think without meeting her. We weren’treally trying to meet her (just Mariska) and since Mariska wasn’t there and we were freezing our asses off we decide to go get coffee.
We were standing on the corner about to cross the street when all of a sudden a blue ball bounces out of Kelli’s trailer and rolls towards my feet.I tel my group to wait and I pick up the ball. I walk over to Kelli’s trailer and see that theres a window open in the door. I go over and see her dog standing there. Thinking that no one was in the trailer, I start talking to her dog (typical Rachel): “Did you drop this ball? Is this yours?”
Then out of nowhere Kelli comes to the door and says, “Oh thank you, that’s her.” So embarrassed haha. She comes over and takes the ball and I say “Oh you’re welcome. Is she friendly?” She hesitates (probably because she thinks I’m a crazy fan haha) and then says, “Yes.”
“Can I pet her?” I ask.
“Sure” she says. So she opens the door and I sit down on the steps of her trailer and start petting her. I ask what her name is and she says it’s FRannie. Daneielle and Erica come over too.
Frannie jumps all over me and Kelli says, “Wow she really loves you!”
I tell her I have a ptbul mix and Kelli says, “We’re not sure what she is. Part ridgeback maybe.”
“Is she a resue?” I ask.
“Where’d you get her?”
“Off the side of the road in Texas. Literally off the raod.”
There was a story about that but there was a lot commotion as we all made over Frannie.
Kelli asks me where we’re from and I say I’m from Seattle. “Wow, across the country!”
“Yep, but I’m trying to move here.:
“Well I’m trying to move out of her,” she says.
“I’m here for my birthday,” I say.
“Oh happy birthday! Are you anAries?” she asks.
“Me too!” She says, smiling.
“Oh wow really? When’s yours?”
“April 13th.”
“That’s so funny!”
I then tell her about Lily’s story (my pitbul from Brazil), get interrupted by the other girls, and she asks me again about her story, like really interested in what I was saying. I tell her she was tied to a roof for two years, and she goes, “Some people need to have their faces smashed in.” Go Kelli!
So then Frannie’s jumping all over me, and kissing me in my mouth, and Kelli’s laughing saying how much she loves me, and then she goes, “You should get a picture with her!” like all enthusiastic.
“That would be great! You wanna get in?”
“Sure!” she says, laughing.
So Erica takes this picture of me, her, and Frannie, and it was literally one of the CUTEST photos I’ve ever had done.
Then Connor takes a few group ones of us that are also adorable.
After the photos,she asked me, “Do you have a twitter?”
“Yes!” I respond.
Then she says, “You should tweet it to me, so I can retweet it and know you ya’ll are.”
“Oh for sure! I’m Rachel,” I say.
The rest intrdocue themselves. She says it wa nice to meet us and thanks us for bringing Frannie back her ball. Then we leave to go get coffee.
That was all so funny because it all happened by chance and was genuine and honest. It was weird, because she was kind of rude to us later briefly, but she was genuinely seemed to enjoy that conversation.
After that we got back  and there was still no sign of Mariska.My friend Mike says they were going to another location down the road and that she was gonna be at that location later. So we decide that since there was no sign of her trailer there we should go over to the other location and see what was going on there. So we get down there and it’s probably 10 degrees colder (me and connor don’t have any warm clothes). But there were 2 trailers there – one says “Fin” and the other one is a white one and is Mariska’s. OMG!!!
We have no idea if she’s goonna get hair and makeup done over at the other location, but the hair and makeup trailer is brought over and parked next to us while we were standing there.
Then we wave down Brian and he says that he’s waiting for Mariska right now. Oh. My. God.
A driver that had made a joke w/ us earlier (“you guys knew where we were going before I did!”) was setting up the trailer. After an eternity in the freezing cold we see a black SUV drive up and it’s her.
The guy that had made the joke was pointing and motioning that it’s her but the sun was directly in my eyes and I couldn’t see her when she got out of the car.
But then she comes around towards us. She’s in jeans and a sweatshirt and is on the phone. She walks by us and goes into the trailer.
We turn around and look at Danielle who’s crying. “She’s so perfecttttt” she sobs lol.
We’re all praying that she comes back out relatively soon because the absolute latest Danielle could leave was by 7:30-7:45. By 7:30 she still hadn’t come out yet. We’re all freezing, we have dinner at 8:45 and Danielle has to go. So we stand up to see Daielle off when all of a sudden the hair trailer door opens and Brian comes out.
Mariska follows, still on the phone. She starts walking by us and Danielle pathetically goes, “Mariskaaaaaa.” She’s still on the phone and has a curler in her hair, but she turns around and says, “One second you guys.”
We look at each other – this is really happening. Finally, after a year and a half, I can talk to her again.
She walks over to us, and says hi, and we all say hi back.
Then I say, “Hey Mariska, it’s Rachel, Carlos brought me on set in 2010.” She recognizes me and all enthusticastic says, “Oh yes, hi!”
Then omg, she says, “Were you ever able to get in touch with Joyful Heart?”
I was NOT gonna bring it up because I knew we didn’t have a ton of time but omg she did for me!
I say, “Yes, I did, they were wonderful.”
“Oh good, good.”
I say a few more things to her and she says, “I’m just so sorry that all happened to you.”
“I really appreciate it,” I reply, tearing up.
the rest is kind of a blur because she had like 3 people truing to pull her away and then all of us trying to talk to her. Danielle talked to her about something she mailed her and if it gets to her, and Mariska said yes but asked when she mailed it (like a week and a half ago), and Mariks says, “Oh no, I haven’t it yet then!”
Connor asks me if I’m gonna give her my JHF picture I made and I almost totally forgot. So I told her I made this for her, and she says, “Oh thank you!”
Erica gives her a bracelet. We all get individual pictures: “Don’t put this on twitter beause of my hair!” she says and we laugh. Then she’s about to walk away and I say, “Mariska can I get a hhg?”
Then she hugs me and all of us and says, “Go inside you guys, it’s freezing!” We say goodbye and she says, “God bless!”
Danielle bursts into tears then I start crying because o what she said to me about the lettter I sent her. I knew she had read it, and that’s all that mattered.
The day worked out perfectly. Danielle was able to make her train, and we were able to make our dinner reservations.
It was perfect. <3 p="">

Friday, February 15, 2013

Joyful Noise: Empowering Survivors of Sexual Assault

Hey all,

Please check out my new project for the time being: "Joyful Noise." It's a place where survivors share their stories in order to gain some of their power back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Taking your power back

I have been thinking a lot the past few days. I understand the importance of getting your voice heard. And I know how scary it can be to say something to a total stranger. But I wanted to invite all of you, any of you, to share your stories. Again, I am no Mariska, I am no professional, just a survivor who understands the importance of being heard.

Please, feel free to email me, anything. Their story, whatever. I want to give you all a chance to be heard. Sometimes it's helpful to have someone who's been through it listen invalidate. At least, that's how it was for me.

Anyone who wants to, you have an ear, a confidential year, right here.

Always feel free to email me. I am here to listen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What goes around, comes around

In light of the response from posting my SVU story, I want anyone out there reading this that you are not alone. Mariska has saved me more than once with her words. And I want any survivor out there to know you are not alone.

I will gladly listen if you want your voice to be heard. I am no Mariska, by any means :) but I understand the importance of sharing your story with someone. I am no professional; I am just a fellow survivor who has been in that desperate spot of needing to be validated. So I want to give back what Mariska has given to me.

Please feel free to send me a Facebook message if you want; you will have a trusted listener who will never break your confidence.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The SVU saga

I'm doing a post about this because I get asked this story many times, and it's an amazing one! Proof that dreams do come true, and that memories can sustain and nourish you through your most difficult times. I know that this adventure has sustained me through some difficult times.

In Summer of 2010 I was living in NYC with my boyfriend at the time. I knew about the website "on location vacations" but didn't know they posted daily filming locations so didn't know we could see them every day. One day, we were at the gym working when one of our clients at the front said that they were filming SVU at grand central. i demanded that we leave immediately!

So we run and jump on the subway and get to grand central. i'm flipping out praying that they were still filming (it was a saturday so i didn't know how long they'd be there). so we get there and we see all the trucks outside and ask someone where they were and they said they were inside. so we go in and go around a corner and see all the lights and camera crews set up. this was the premier of season 12 with joan cusack that they were filming. we watch them film and i see them from afar. then they have to change sets so they are walking downstairs and Chris Meloni walks right by me and I have a heart attack.

So then we walk down the stairs following them and I call my dad who's been an SVU fan since it first came on. I'm freaking out on the phone with him when I turn around and see my boyfriend talking to  someone. I ask him who he's talking to, and he said, "Oh this is Carlos, he goes to the gym, he works here." I thought he meant grand central, but then Brian (my boyfriend) said, "No he's the cameraman for SVU." I froze, and Carlos said "oh yeah, do you guys wanna go meet Chris and Mariska and everyone?" I then mumbled something to my dad and hung up on him, having a heart attack.

We go up the stairs and Carlos taps Chris on the shoulder. He turns around (omg his blue eyes) and shakes our hands as Carlos says, "These are my friends, they're weightlifters." Chris made a joke about how buff my boyfriend was, and then proceeded to drop into a weightlfiting move in the middle of of the set. we laughed so hard.

it was kind of a whirlwind because it was grand central and it was insane, but Carlos introduced us to everyone (except Dann Florek who wasn't there). We got a quick pic with Mariska. Then we hung out on set for about 2 hours and watched them film. I met Belzer's dog too haha. Belzer was bizarre, Ice T was cool altough we didn't get to talk to him for too long.

When they called it a night, we were outside near the trailers and a car pulled up and it was Mariska's husband picking her up. She put August in the car and I was standing near her door and my boyfriend said, "Say something!" So I called her name out and she turned around, and then omg I froze and said, "I love you!" She laughed and said thank you and apologized that we hadn't gotten to talk more earlier. I told her that I hoped we could talk again and she said totally! OMG best freakin night of my life.

So then, fast forward a couple more and Carlos emails us and invites us back on set the next day. we get there and meet Peter Leto, who's one of the main directors, and Dan Truly, one of the writers. They joke about how in shape and buff we are haha. Then Chris and Mariska get there, but Mariska has visitors so she's busy with them the whole time. But Chris just chilled with us. He's a total jock so we talked about sports and weightlifting for like 2 hours while they set up the stunt for the day (the big explosion in the second episode of season 12). anyways we hung around with him all day cuz he didn't do anything while they were doing the stunt. It was awesome just hanging out. Joked with the writer and director who both loved us. Mike Doyle was also there, who played Ryan O'Halloren, the CSU tech who was murdered by Dale Stuckey. When we had to go, Chris was sitting down and we said we had to go. He got up and walked over to me, and gave ME a HUGE hug. I almost died.

Then, a few weeks later, my last week in NYC, Carlos invited us back on set again for the last time. Peter was directing the episode and when we got there he was like, "Oh my god, they're here!" like super excited. Then he got a video of me and my boyfriend doing a weightlifting move and sent it to Dan Truly.

This was the episode "Merchandise", and we hung out while they were filming. They also filmed the Emmy promo for Mariska; Dann Florek was there but we didn't get a chance to meet him.  I re-introduced myself to Mariska (so nervous lol) cuz I was n't sure if she remembered us and she did (just not our names). So we watched them film, the camera crew took us out to lunch. Then, towards mid afternoon they were doing an interior shot and they werent sure if they were gonna have room for us. So we had to go say our goodbyes We went in and Mariska was just sitting there. I had a letter I'd been holding on to give to her, and my boyfriend told me it was now or never, and to do it. So I asked her if I could give it to her and she asked what it was and said yes of course! Then she asked if I wanted her to read it right there (i almost died) and I said sure. Then she said, "Let me just finish texting my husband." Then she read my letter which detailed some of the hardships I'd been through and the solace I'd found in her and SVU. she read it very diligently and a huge look of concern spread across her face. I went and sat next to her when she was done reading it, and then she gave me a HUGE hug and said, "I'm so sorry you've been through all that." Then we proceeded to talk for like 15  minutes (she even told one of the set people to leave us alone when they tried to come get her haha) and she tried to solve all my life problems. Like, gave me seriously amazing advice that I didn't know how to use then but ended up filing away and using in the future. It was amazing. Then she had to go film again so I told her I hoped to see her again.

We were supposed to go back on set the next day because Peter wanted us to come see the studio, but he ended up having to cancel because they were only doing interrogation shots so they didn't have space for us. We sadly never were able to go back, because my boyfriend ended up breaking up with me that December, and then when Neal Baer quit the show in the spring, the other crew members were all fired so we couldn't go back.

Then, fast forward to October 2011, over a year since I'd been on set. I had reconnected with Dan Truly that August. In october, I had to take an emergency trip to NYC but had nowhere to stay and was gonna have to stay at a crappy hostel in queens and then go to the bronx. I had posted on facebook that if anyone had a car to help drive me to the bronx from queens I'd appreciate it. The night before I was supposed to fly out, Dan Truly messages me and says that if I needed a place to stay, he'd be happy to put me up in a hotel, by myself. So he ended up paying for a 5 night hotel stay for me at the Parker Meridien, freakin 5 star hotel. I was completely dumbfounded and had the best 5 nights of my life.

I hadn't seen him since 2010 but he ended up taking me out to dinner twice. I had told him about most recent incident (one month before that) and he said he would try to get me in front of Mariska, but she hadn't responded to his texts and calls. The last night I was there, I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in queens (in astoria) but he watned to go to this place near my hotel. so we went there, and ate dinner, then were about to order dessert when he looked at his phone (which had been flashing all night), and he said, "Oh my God." I asked him what, and he said, "My boss (Neal Baer) is having dinner with Mariska right down the street from us." I thought he was shitting me but he swore he wasn't and then said, "Do you want to go?" I almost had a freakin panic attack haha! Dan was like, "Don't corner her, she's not expecting this." Mind you, I was wearing my SVU t-shirt haha! But had another shirt on underneath, thank God.

So we got to the restaurant and walk in and find their table. BUT. It's not just Neal Baer and Mariska. Peter Hermann  and Mike Doyle were also there. I was completely dumbfounded. Dan introdced me to everyone and Mariska was like, "hi, I'm Mariska" (duh!) but then she said, "Wait a second, I know you." And I said, "Yeah Carlos Guerra brought us on set last summer," and she was like, "Oh I knew I remembered you!" She actually REMEMBERED me omg.

so anyways we sat down and I was so beside myself i was texing my mom under the table telling her what was happening and she didn't believe me. So then I had to go to the bathroom and call my dad because I was freakin out so much. once i had my moment i went back and sat down with them.

it was dessert time, and they were all making jokes, making fun of Sharon Stone, inside jokes (Mariska: "Dan is solid!" Mike: "Solid like barackackacka" Me: "Oh that was you!" = awkward) etc, and I was just sitting there dumbfounded. Mariska was so loud it was hilarious. Peter was sitting diagonal from me at the opposite end of the table, but he was the one who engaged me the most. he made it a point to talk to me the entire time, like super amazingly nice. then, mariska randomly announced to the table, "Rachel is a very talented athletE" (died) and I said, "Well I used to be." Then Peter asked me about that (said I was a weightlifter) and was genuinely interested and told Mariska to be quiet when she started laughing hysterically at the fact that one of the weightlifting moves I used to do was called a "snatch" (apparently there was an epsode where Chris had to say "It's a domestic snatch" and he could never get through the line without cracking up). When dessert came I was too nervous to have any so they ate all of it (Peter was reaching across the table). When Mariska looked down at the dessert that was at our end, she said, "What happened to the cheesecake?" Then Peter said, "Rachel ate all of it." Mariska said, "RACHEL ate all of it?!" jokingly but I panicked haha and I was like, "Uh no, I'm a chocolate girl," And Mariska said, "Yeah I understand that."

At the very end they were all about to go, and I took my chance to talk to Mariska. I had made a scrapbook from letters from survivors but didn't have it on me so I asked if I could give it to her another time. She said of course, and asked me how I was doing with everything. I kinda froze, because i had been my most recent incident was a month ago that night (like literally ONE month exactly), and I didn't know what to say. But then I told her, and it was amazing -- her entire demeanor changed, she completely slipped into Olivia Benson mode. Like really. We talked for about 5 min about everything that happened, and she told me things that she always says on tv and everything. It was incredible, even the gentle hand pats on the shoulder, and saying how sorry she was and that she hoped that I got help for myself because I deserved it, etc. So then, they all departed, we said goodbye, and I haven't seen her since then (although my friend who still works on set said hello to her for me and she said hi back=)


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Heart Opening

I only have one short thing to share. I received this email tonight and my heart has been filled with first panic and then awe and joy, from this one simple email.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for reaching out and courageously sharing your story with
me. I am so sorry this happened to you. And this is not your fault.

I would like your permission to share this email with Maile Zambuto,
the CEO of Joyful Heart, so she can help you.

You are not alone.


There are no words. 

Much joy to you all.