“I became mean and vindictive and I was habitually drunk or high. Every day, I felt crazy or attacked; I didn’t feel safe anywhere,” she says. Still, she didn’t let those closest to her know what was going on, partly because when she’d told a friend about her assault back in high school, that person questioned her motives. “Instead of talking about it, I kept drinking, kept taking drugs and basically had no control over myself or my feelings. I was self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. I didn’t know how to go to someone to say, ‘Look, this isn’t me. I’m an honors student.’ I didn’t know where to go to start that conversation.”
Then, one day in August 2013, the memory of her assaults came flooding back. She collapsed, then called her mother and told her everything. By that fall, she was on a plane to a 30-day inpatient therapy program for trauma survivors in Florida. After that, she began two years of intensive therapy while living with her dad outside of Washington, D.C., then moved back to New York City, near her mother, ready to start fresh. She took a job as a nanny, and enrolled in a master’s program at Columbia University. “I really started my life again,” she says.
Except the healing wasn’t over.
“When trauma happens, victims often switch into survival mode,” says Salvi. “Sometimes, they push the events out of their head, because they’re not ready to talk about them. But it inevitably comes out in other areas of their life.”
For Margaret, now 27, that moment happened in 2015 while listening to a lecture by trauma survivors.
“I thought I was doing so well,” she recalls. “But after class, I went home and cried the entire weekend.”
A few days later, she confided in one of her professors, which eventually led her to the DOVE program and to Salvi.