— The brutal attack remains etched in Bridget Kelly's mind, but she won't be haunted by it.
The 24-year-old first grade teacher in Killeen, Texas, was alone in her apartment, getting ready for bed just before midnight last June when an attacker kicked down her locked door, wielding a gun.
She pleaded for her life and prayed aloud as her assailant forced her out of the apartment, into her own car at gunpoint and demanded that she drive to an ATM to withdraw $200.
Prayer and Peter Rabbit
"Immediately I began praying out loud," Kelly said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. Instinctively, she also tried to make a human connection with her attacker.
"I asked if I could help him — I said 'take my money, take my car.' " Kelly said. She also told him that she was a first-grade teacher who loved teaching children and asked him if he remembered any of the stories he read when he was little.
"I even rattled off part of 'Peter Rabbit,' it was surreal, but it was in my head right then" she said. "I wanted him to see me as a human being."
Her assailant told her to shut up. He drove her to an abandoned field where he raped and shot her.
"He told me to walk away, to walk in front of him with my back to him," Kelly recalled. "He shot me once and I fell and just tried to play dead. I just wanted him to believe that I was already dead."
In her mind she told him to "please go away, please leave me here."
But he didn't leave. Instead, he stood over her motionless body and fired two more shots into her back. Her assailant left her for dead.
Finally he left Kelly to die — or so he thought. Kelly's determination and remarkable will to live took over.
"God lifted me up, gave me a shove, pushed me toward those houses," Kelly said. "And that's where I found humanity again," she said.
She first crawled and then was able to get herself up and ran to a nearby house for help. After knocking on one door, her cries went unanswered. At a second house, homeowner Frank James came to her rescue.
A Father's Desperate Question
Kelly's father, a newspaper columnist in Omaha, Neb., was at his desk when the police called him.
"The first question I asked them was 'is she alive?' The second question was 'is she going to live?' The answers were 'yes' and 'I think so,' " Mike Kelly recalled
Doctors operated for 6½ hours to remove the bullets which were meant to kill his daughter. She survived. But two months into her recovery, there was a setback.
Kelly was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a condition doctors believe was brought on by the trauma of her attack.
One year later, Kelly, wrapped in the embrace of friends and family, has reclaimed her life, raising funds for diabetes research and speaking out about violent crimes like her own attack.
Kelly says it only empowered her, because she had the strength to survive it.
Attacker Serving Life Term
Her attacker, whom she did not want to name, is now serving a life sentence. He was captured not long after the crime.
After he left Kelly, her attacker later came back to the scene with friends to gloat and show them what he thought would be the young woman's dead body. The police were already there, and when he and his friends spotted them, they started running.
One of his friends gave his name, and police staked out his house, which was nearby. His house was surrounded, and he was arrested and pleaded guilty.
Out Front About Rape
But that wasn't the end of Kelly's ordeal. She had to cope with the feelings of having been raped.
"In the weeks and months after this, I've learned that being a rape victim is like being a member of a secret club," Kelly said. "There is so much shame and secrecy about rape which ultimately keeps rape victims from seeking the help they need so much. We can support one another. So many family friends came forward to tell us they had been raped and until this happened, we had no idea."
Though newspapers do not normally publish rape victims' names, Kelly insisted that hers be printed in her hometown newspaper, which had given an account of the shooting. Why should it be more shameful to be a rape victim as opposed to a shooting victim, she asked.
In addition to speaking about her rape, Kelly did a public service announcement about rape, encouraging victims to seek help and speak to others about what happened to them. She went back to the scene of where it happened to tell her story to the cameras.
'My name is Bridget," she says. "Seven months ago, I was raped and shot in this field. When I was in the hospital, a long time friend of the family who I'd known for my whole life came and stood at my bedside and told me about her story, about how she'd been raped. I said, do you think about it every day? She said, no. And I knew at that moment that I would get there, too."
For more information on surviving rape, go to Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. (Taasa.org)