By: Danielle Leukam
“It is important that everyone knows that I am so much more than the bad things that happened to me.” – Jane Marczewski, American singer-songwriter.
It shouldn’t take staring down the barrel of a 9 mm two-toned handgun for a person to pursue their dreams. Unfortunately for me, it did. The reality and complacency I was living was what I thought I was supposed to do. It was how I thought I was supposed to live. It was safe.
But then on November 18, 2018, I woke up to a noise at the end of my bed. I was tied up by an unknown masked man with zip ties and a gun. I was terrorized and mentally tortured. I was raped three times over five hours while praying my little boy sleeping in his room next door would stay sleeping and stay unharmed. During these five hours, the things I wished I had experienced in life and the things I still wanted to do flashed before my eyes. What a long list of passions I could have missed out on. I had never made a bucket list, let alone started checking things off that list. I was blessed to have survived, so I took my second chance at life and ran.
November 18, 2018 was my new beginning. It was the day I let go of complacency and started running towards my dreams. And on July 11, I’ll have accomplished one of the biggest dreams I’ve ever had: publishing a novel.
I began writing my story within the first week of surviving it. I wrote to remember details, process, and perhaps find an easier way to tell my family what happened rather than verbalizing it. I continued writing more regularly because it became therapeutic. Shortly thereafter, I questioned why I had never written before. I questioned why I never pursued writing the novel I had wanted to write since I was eighteen years old. I was taken back to my six year old self when I was first learning to write and realizing my love for it. My mom recently found a letter from my older sister written to me in 1994 when I was six years old that said, “I have one sister. She likes to write.” Out of all the things she could have said to describe me, she knew I liked to write.
In the midst of writing my story, I became an advocate against sexual assault. I am on the Survivor Advisory Group to the Governor of Minnesota, and I take any opportunity I am given to advocate, network, and tell my story. I love to empower women and survivors to take back their voice and take back their power. I have learned that it is incredibly healing to help others heal, and I am able to do this through writing. My memoir and blogs have helped to normalize what survivors go through. It also gives outsiders insight as to what survivors may go through.
Since starting my memoir, I’ve written a children’s book, a compilation of stories of twelve other sexual assault survivors, and I am working on a thriller. My advice to others is to not let it take thirty years and staring down the barrel of a 9 mm handgun to make you realize the importance of following your heart and your dreams, taking chances, and loving yourself.
Purchase Danielle’s newly released memoir, Four Pounds of Pressure, here.
Read Our Galaxy’s official review of Danielle’s memoir here.