Survivor of Willowbrook attack: ‘Ultimately I won and I get to live my life”

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WILLOWBROOK, Ill. -- Seven months ago, Melissa Schuster was lying in the hospital bed beaten, stabbed and sexually assaulted. She needed surgery. But in that dark moment Melissa said she felt optimistic.

Melissa thought to herself “I’m alive. I’m here. Okay. What’s next?”

What’s next is a whole lot of family time and time spent trying to help young women.

A survivor of a horrific attack, Melissa is sharing her story to self-defense classes and high school students.

“My life was flipped upside down in a blink of an eye,” she says. “It’s just making people realize that this violence is out there and it can happen anywhere at any time day or night.”

It happened to Melissa last August. She was at her Willowbrook home when a man forced his way inside and brutally assaulted her. She was stabbed 17 times, beaten, and sexually assaulted.

“Seeing blood around me and thinking that was it, I’m going to die. And then something went on in my brain and I’m thinking “No, this is not – no.’ I’m going to make it.”

Melissa fought back and escaped. With blood everywhere, she raced across the street to a neighbor’s house.

But that’s just the beginning of her remarkable survival story.

“I could have sat down and shut down and not smiled and not done anything,” she said.

But that’s not who Melissa is. Seven months later, she says she thinks about the attack every day, but she’s trying to move on.

“If I let myself fall backwards, then I’m letting somebody win that did this to me and I don’t want to let that happen because ultimately I won and I get to live my life.”

Melissa has endured surgery and facial reconstruction. Some scars are permanent but she’s doesn’t want to hide them. They’re now part of who she is and a reminder of what she’s overcome.

“This is a part of my life now. This is a part of my story. And they do, they tell a story of what I’ve lived through, of what I’ve survived from,” she says.

31-year-old Londale Madison has been charged in the attack. As he heads to court, Melissa is not closely following the legal proceedings.

Instead, she’s trying to heal, and she took a big step by returning to the house where the attack happened.

“There was a lot of emotions,” she sayd. “I cried a little bit and I just sat there quiet and figure I’ve come this far I’m going to go inside. … I left with a smile on my face because I did something I didn’t think I could do. And I told myself if I could do that. I could do anything.”