Child Sexual Abuse Survivor Almost Took Her Life After No One Helped Her, Now She Saves Countless Lives

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of sexual assault and suicide attempts that may be upsetting to some.

The Big Question

“When people see me on the streets in uniform with my radio strap over my shoulder, they stop and tell me that it takes a special person to do this job. They tell me they would never be brave enough, and they ask me what made me do it. That’s a hard question to answer because there are many things that lead me to where I’m at today and where I want to be in my future.

You see, I’m an emergency medical technician for the busiest and largest 911 service in Indiana, and I am entering school to become a paramedic. I almost never have enough time to explain each reason why I chose this career. I simply tell people I was born like this. But today I have time, and I would like to start by reflecting back on my childhood.

The Start of Multiple Traumas

I was the second oldest out of four children, and the only girl. My biological father wanted nothing to do with me, and the man my mom married was a monster in disguise. His name is D. He molested me until I was 7 years old. My mom reported it and it was never investigated. After all, D was friends with the officer that took the report. Coincidence?

Afterward, D still hung around. He still slapped my rear end and called me sexy. I developed a fear of men. I was alone. When I was 9, doctors found a tumor in my older brother’s brain. He needed brain surgery. I slept in my mom’s bed while she was gone. I was scared and alone.

little girl smiling with her head in her hands
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

My only grandparent, one of the only positive influences in my life, died when I was 13 of cancer, in our home and in his bed. Distant relatives tried stealing his pain medication for their own personal use. At his funeral, my distant aunt got very angry with me and caused a scene because of a stopwatch I was wearing around my neck that my grandpa had given me right before he died. She felt she deserved it.

grandpa holding his grandchildren
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

At age 14, I developed anorexia and began self-harming. I was alone.

At age 15, I tried to kill myself. When plan A didn’t work, I tried plan B, which also didn’t work. I got sick instead but was more upset I’d have to keep living a life of misery. I was alone.

At age 16, I was raped at a friend’s house. My friends told me they heard. They didn’t even intervene. I was alone.

At age 17, I was raped again, this time in my own driveway. I was alone.

When I was 18 and had just graduated high school, I got a full-time job and started college for nursing. Nursing wasn’t a calling for me, but I knew I always wanted to help people, and my mom had always told me I’d make a great nurse. It made sense. I was never home. I worked, went to school where I slept in my car, attended classes, and went back to work. I preferred to be alone.

woman smiling and taking an oath
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

The Healing Process

I was 19 when I became a single mom to a perfect little boy who changed my entire life. The first time he looked at me, I knew I could never let him go through anything I went through. I knew then that there was still good in the world. My son was innocent and pure, and he was the first good thing in my life to ever happen. I began to take a stand against injustice.

I confronted D for the first time in my life. I moved into a safe place he could never find me, and I began reaching out to others who needed help as I once did. I told myself that as long as I was alive, I’d never let anyone feel alone. I knew I could be the voice for the voiceless and I could lead others to the light that I once didn’t believe existed. I would restore hope for the hopeless.

My childhood is merely part of the reason I decided to become an EMT. Anyone could call three numbers if they needed help and I’d be there in less than 10 minutes to help them. That was something I never had that I so desperately wanted to give everyone else. But the journey wasn’t always easy.

ambulance a woman takes
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

The Reason

One cold morning, as I was on my way home from work, I came across a vehicle with its hazard lights on that was pulled to the side of the road. It was dark, cold, and snowy outside. My drive home was very quiet as I worked the night shift. The roads I’d take home were in the countryside, so there was never really anyone else on the road, until that day. As I slowed my speed and proceeded around the stopped vehicle, my eyes were drawn to the telephone pole just out of arm’s reach above my car. I didn’t see it before and was surprised, so my attention was drawn to where the pole should have been in the ditch. That’s when I saw the truck.

Just before I arrived, a truck had gone off the side of the road, flipped onto its top, and hit the downed telephone pole. The truck was smoking heavily and there was no one standing or walking outside. Because it was dark, I couldn’t see anyone in the truck. I became afraid, and I didn’t even stop. I drove away in a panic. I called 911 of course, but I still left someone behind. Just like I had been left behind my entire life.

I didn’t sleep for days after that. I promised myself I would never leave anyone behind, and that is exactly what I did. Finding out details of that accident became an obsession, but unfortunately, I was never able to find a record of it anywhere. It was almost like it never happened; except I know it did. That was the reason I decided to be an EMT.

woman smiling and happy at her job
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

As an EMT, I had to run to what everyone else feared the most. I had to do something that would force me to act, even if I was terrified. That was the first and last time I ever panicked when someone needed help. Whoever drove that truck that morning helped lead me to where I am today, and indirectly helped me save so many people. To the person in the truck: I’m so sorry I didn’t stop for you. But because of you, I’ve stopped for every single person after you.

After my daughter was born, I was so desperate to become an EMT that I donated plasma twice a week and paid that money directly to my instructor to pay for my class. I passed at the top of my class, and 3 months later I was proud to deploy as a first responder to South Carolina during Hurricane Matthew to help with the disaster. That was the most fulfilling week of my entire life, but I left wishing I could have done more. I needed to become a paramedic, where I could do more.

I tried several times and for several years to get into a paramedic class, never giving up each time it didn’t work out due to circumstances out of my control.  When disease took over my body, I thought my life was over and I would die before I could become a paramedic and help people the way I felt I needed to.

woman in her PPE gear ready to take on the day
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

Cancer Diagnosis

At age 28, with 4 children (my youngest wasn’t even 1 yet), I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I still had so much to do with my life. This couldn’t stop me. I worked as an EMT up until my surgery and returned to work less than 3 months later to continue to dedicate myself to others who needed me. I was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, which is a genetic condition that makes cancer occurrence highly likely in younger people like me.

Because of that, I will require special monitoring every 3, 6, and 12 months for the rest of my life. But still, that’s not going to stop me. I have a mission, I have a purpose, and I have people who need me. After one year, I entered remission and was given a second chance at life. I could finally become a paramedic!

woman smiling in the hospital after surgery
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

After several years, I was finally accepted into a paramedic class. That’s where I’m at today, and that’s why and how I’m here today. I have to pay out of pocket for my class because aspiring paramedics in the state of Indiana do not have the luxury of turning to federal grants and loans for paramedic programs. In the entire state, only four colleges offer paramedic programs that federal grants and loans cover. The class I was accepted into *FINALLY!* is not one of those.

Currently, I am working to support my family and pay for my class. I will continue to do everything it takes to finally become a paramedic and continue to help everyone who calls upon me. As a paramedic, I will have a much higher education so I can confidently make the best decisions for each of my patients. I can administer life-saving medications. Or, I can be there just to listen. I can provide resources. I can tell you my story and you can tell me yours, and we can cry together. As a paramedic, I’d be giving all of me to all of you.

There’s a story I heard once and never forgot: Two twin boys were raised by an alcoholic father. One grew up to be an alcoholic and when asked what happened, he said ‘I watched my father.’ The other grew up and never had a drink in his life. When asked what happened, he said ‘I watched my father.’

My Advice

Two boys, same dad, different perspectives. Your perspective in life will determine your destination. Waiting for anything is a dangerous game because there is no guarantee that we’ll see next year, next month, or even next week. If each of us knew how much time we had allocated, maybe we’d be able to play around with it. But we don’t. Waste time wisely. Time spent in rest, joy, company, and kindness is never wasted.

woman receiving an emt reward
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

As for everything else, just do it. You won’t regret the things you tried, you’ll regret the things you didn’t try. Most of all, you’ll regret a life spent waiting. You have a life to live. After all, most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

husband and wife getting married on a beach with family
Courtesy of Nicole Erb

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Erb. You can support her journey on her GoFundMeSubmit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more powerful stories from survivors here:

‘I knocked on the door. ‘I remember everything you did to me.’ We drove from California to Texas, just so I could look him in the eye and say it.’: Sexual assault survivor fosters 26 children, ‘I want to bring them hope’

‘This is $150 of underwear. My team and I are no longer willing to let our survivors go home without a bra, or decent pair of underwear.’: Sexual assault nurse examiner shares act of kindness for rape survivors

‘Who is this naked girl on the screen? She looks a lot like me. Wait, wait, wait.’ My fingers began trembling.’: Sexual assault survivor speaks out against stepfather’s abuse, ‘I finally have power again’

‘My brother started the ‘naked man’ game when I was 6. I felt so empty I thought I might just float away.’: Woman overcomes sexual trauma, now uses kindness as an ‘act of rebellion’

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