Christy's Story

“There’s power in your story. That’s become my mantra.”

Christy Hinnant is an activist, veteran, and the current Mrs. Universal, the all-around winner of a national pageant competition.

Christy joined the Army at age 18. “After I completed my basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I was attacked and sexually assaulted after leaving a mall and accepting a ride from a stranger while off-duty.” Christy had a sexual assault forensic exam to collect DNA evidence of the assault and reported it to law enforcement.

Before her first assignment to Germany, she flew home to visit her family, but did not feel ready to talk about it yet. “I was only going to be home for two weeks. I couldn’t bear to tell my mom that I’d been raped and then leave.”

When she reached her assignment in Germany, she reported the assault to her commanding officer, who offered to fly her back to Fort Jackson to proceed with the investigation process. Not wanting to go back to the place where the assault had happened or to interrupt her service, she chose to stay in Germany. “I was 18 and away from home for the first time, I had no one to turn to.”

Christy started to experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia, and relied on unhealthy coping mechanisms. “I wanted to numb the pain, I didn’t want to allow my mind to go there and think about what happened.”

The experience of the assault also impacted Christy’s ability to trust others, especially in the context of romantic and intimate relationships. “For me, trust was the first thing impacted after the assault. I used to be a very trusting person, but that was taken away from me.”

 

 

“I felt vulnerable that this thing had happened to me and I didn’t want it to show through to anyone. I didn’t want pity; I didn’t want them to think I was lesser. I tried never to ask for help and to show a strong exterior.” Her identity as a Latina survivor also affected how she approached her healing. “I was raised to be independent, never to ask for help, to be strong.”

Christy disclosed to a few close friends about what had happened, but was not able to tell her family, especially her mom. “I’m an only child and my mom is my best friend, so I wanted to tell her, but couldn’t stand the thought of breaking her heart. As the years went on, I never found the right time to talk about it.” Years later, before Christy’s wedding, she felt that it was the right time to tell her mom. It wasn’t until this year when she felt it was time to tell the rest of her family, and was met with a supportive response. “It was a weight lifted off my shoulders to tell them this big secret I’d been holding back. I felt like after that, I was ready to share it with the rest of the world.”

Christy has followed up with law enforcement throughout the years, but her case has never been assigned to a special victim’s unit detective. The DNA collected from the sexual assault forensic exam, also known as rape kit, has still not been analyzed, 14 years after the assault. “Unfortunately, I’m not the only one. In my state, there are thousands of survivors just like me whose rape kits haven’t been tested, either.” Meanwhile, the person who attacked her could have sexually assaulted countless others.

Christy has found therapy helpful in her healing process, though she saw several counselors before finding the one who was right for her. She has found counseling to be so essential in her healing process that it has inspired her to want to learn how to help other survivors in a trauma-informed way, prompting her to pursue a master’s degree in counseling.

“My anxiety would control every second of every day of my life. Now I can say that I control my life. Yes, it still does happen, but I’m the one who’s in control of it now—and counseling has been a big part of that.”

Another important part of Christy’s healing has been participating in pageants. “I never pictured myself competing in a pageant, but after I left the military, something drew me to it and I decided to give it a try.” For Christy, pageants have also provided her with a platform for her activism to help ensure that other survivors are heard and get the support they deserve. As part of her activism, Christy has also started the nonprofit organization, V.O.I.C.E.S. Against Sexual Assault to support and guide other survivors through their healing journeys.

“I was quiet about it for 14 years and I’m not going to be quiet anymore. I hope one day, this will be something we can openly talk about free of shame, and full of support.”

 

Subscribe to Policy News


 
 

95¢ of every $1 goes to helping survivors and preventing sexual violence.

Donate Now