So many lives are affected by sexual abuse. The statistics are staggering. The National Statistics on Sexual Violence states that One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Among developmentally disabled adults, up to 83% of females and 32% of males are victims of sexual violence. One in every seven victims of sexual assault is under the age of six. One in four victims of sexual assault under the age of twelve is a boy. Nearly six out of ten sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home or the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor. Sexual assault is the violent crime that is least often reported to law enforcement officials. A 2000 study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that only 28% of victims report their sexual assault to the police. Victims of rape and attempted rape who did not report to the police did not report for a number of reasons. 43% of victims did not report because they thought that nothing could be done, 27% thought it was a private matter, 12% were afraid of the police response, and 12% felt it was not important enough to report.
My own assault lasted for years before I finally got the courage to tell a family member. That person told me she ‘would tell them to lay off me for awhile’. That day, an 8 year old me who had suffered rape at the hands of three adult males on an almost daily basis since the age of six, lost faith, lost the will to even live. That day I attempted suicide for the first of several times, unable to fathom spending the rest of my days being used, abused and discarded. Finally one day my grandfather packed up his care and we DID leave that place, and although my body eventually healed, my soul and my young mind was forever fractured. They stripped me of my innocence and the little girl I had been before these men came in my life died the day I reached out for help and was denied. I spent the next 20+ years trying to feel whole, to put those pieces somehow back together.
I carried the memory of my life ‘before’, mourning the loss of the joy I had felt just being alive, carrying the sadness with me everywhere I went. I didn’t trust, I didn’t believe, I didn’t hope, I didn’t care if I lived or died. I still carry the events of those years and the shroud of my murdered childhood everywhere I went. Then one day my son opened up to his therapist about his own sexual abuse. They told me together. I was stunned and ashamed and so incredibly angry with myself that I didn’t KNOW. How could I not know?!? After everything I had been thru, all of the ways I tried to educate my children about the dangers of the world and as close as we are- I DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS IN MY OWN CHILD. I had been in his shoes In my eyes, I had failed him and my other children. I was the worst mother in the world not to have seen exactly what was happening under my own roof. I had LIVED those lies, that fear of my abusers, the fear of telling and yet- I was blind to the suffering of my sweet boy. My horror quickly turned to anger and I became determined that my child would NEVER feel like his assault didn’t matter. Unlike my own guardians, with the help of my sons therapist, we contacted the police immediately. The therapist by law had to contact social services, and after an intense investigation they determined that there had been substantial sexual abuse of both my son AND my baby daughter. Regardless of the evidence, the very brave testimony of my son, his abuser still to this day has not been charged. The police felt there wasn’t enough to charge that evil man. So, like myself, my children did not get Justice in the legal sense. In the 6 years since, thanks to amazing therapists, a move across the country (far away from that sicko) and lots of love from my husband and I, both my son and daughter are thriving. My son will soon be 17, and he is one of the bravest, strongest young men Ive ever met. He is his sisters hero. He told to save HER, and although she was abused, she was only one at the time and doesn’t remember that monster or what happened. She too has thrived in therapy and is an incredible joy to all who know her. My son DID save her, himself and ME.
Thru therapy I learned the cathartic effect of speaking up for others that have been abused, and how to embrace the fact that I’m a survivor and not a victim any longer. Beside my children I learned how to let go of the baggage I had carried thru my life and turn those horrific experiences into something that matters. What matters (to me) is speaking up for those who cant, spreading awareness and hope and hopefully making a change. My story is no different from the millions of other #metoo survivors out there who are brave enough to step forward. It is not east to talk about something so raw and horrific. But SILENCE is what our abusers want, what they rely on so they can continue their sick cycles. For the brave ones that DO speak up, the justice system typically gives the absconders a slap on the hand, maybe some jail time or their names even added to a list. The Survivor meanwhile gets a life sentence.
Actor Terry Crews recently testified in front of congress to advocate for the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which would preserve rape kits, subsidize examinations across the country and protect sexual assault survivors under. Crews said that “I know how hard it is to come forward. I know the shame associated with the assault. I wanted these survivors to know that I believed them, I supported them, and that this happened to me too… I chose to tell my story and share my experience to stand in solidarity with millions of other survivors around the world.” He added: “This bill gives survivors the right to have time to distance themselves from the immediate trauma before making the difficult decision to report the assault to law enforcement.” I applaud Mr. Crews for having the courage to discuss his own assault, his emotion at times visibly simmering beneath the surface while he bravely continued his advocacy.
Growing up sexual abuse was not openly discussed. In recent years however more and more celebrities and advocates are making their voices heard. People are writing books, making movies and shining light on the things that have been happening behind closed doors for much too long. The effectiveness of the #MeToo movement p The bravery of Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Olivia Munn, Kesha, and others to go on the record accusing Weinstein, director James Toback, Executive Roy Price, director Brett Ratner, actor Andy Dick, Bill Cosby, NPR’s senior vice president of news Michael Oreskes, political commentator Mark Halperin, Twiggy Ramirez… proves- in regard to sexual abuse, sexism and exploitation, that it’s necessary for survivors to pool their strength if they want to make a change. In fact, The #MeToo movement started with activist Tarana Burke.”It’s not about a viral campaign for me,” she told CNN “It’s about a movement that began in the deepest, darkest place in my soul.”
On The Justbeinc website Burke say in 1996, when she was a youth camp director “a young girl, Heaven, struggled to tell me about her “stepdaddy” or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body… I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore…which turned out to be less than 5 minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could ‘help her better’. I will never forget the look on her face… The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again – it was all on her face. And as much as I love children, as much as I cared about that child, I could not find the courage that she had found. I could not muster the energy to tell her that I understood, that I connected, that I could feel her pain. I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that nothing that happened to her was her fault. I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured… I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper…me too.”
The Survivors Bill of Rights Act of 2016 was signed and made into law by President Barack Obama on 10/07/2016. Regardless of the bill being passed, there is still a huge push for it to be recognized nationwide. On February 27, 2018 Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, during a hearing examining the implementation of the bill said “This law was created because survivors’ advocacy groups worked diligently to bring this issue to the attention of Congress and to guide introduction of a bill that quickly became law. These advocacy groups, such as RISE, started by Amanda Ngyuen, are responsible for enlightening us as to how the treatment of the victims of rape and other sexual offenses varies from state-to-state. In some cases, victims feel their voices go unheard in a system that they are initially told is there to help them through the arduous and sometimes traumatic process that comes after being sexually assaulted. Victims of sexual assault are victimized again when they find themselves alone and without help to navigate policies and procedures that block their access to the justice system and, thus, their ability to obtain actual justice. That is why passage of the ‘Survivors’ Bill of Rights’ was critical. This law should help guarantee that these rights are enforced uniformly throughout the United States. Geographic location should not dictate the quality of attention or degree of information provided to victims. In addition, the ‘Survivors’ Bill of Rights’ was enacted with the goal of ensuring that victims are included in the investigation of their cases; that their input will be required and respected; and that they will remain informed and involved. When we extended these rights under federal law, we hoped that it would serve as a catalyst for state legislatures to adopt similar laws to ensure uniform treatment of sexual assault victims in state courts, as well.”
It appears that the more we listen to survivors, spread awareness and advocate for one another that we CAN make a difference.
If you need help there are many ways you can reach out. Ive included some of them. Please reach out. You may think you are alone- but you AREN’T. You have a network of people who have been thru similar things and can stand with you as you heal. Go to a place that makes you feel safe. Contact someone you can trust, like a friend or family member. If you call a statewide hotline, you will be connected to the sexual assault crisis center nearest you. All direct services are free and confidential.Try to preserve evidence. If you think you might want to have an exam done or report the crime to the police, do not shower, douche, eat, brush your teeth, smoke, urinate, or wash your clothes.Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
You have the right to request that someone you are comfortable with stay with you in the examination room. You have the right to have a sexual assault counselor or advocate accompany you to medical, law enforcement and legal proceedings. You have the right to have your conversations with a sexual assault counselor or advocate remain confidential. You have the right to decide whether or not you want to report the assault to the police. You have the right to ask questions and get answers regarding any tests, exams, medications, treatments or police reports.
Remember, You are NOT to blame for what happened. You have the Right to be Safe and to Heal. You may feel anger, fear, guilt, embarrassment, depression, isolation, denial, shame, or emotional shock. It is normal to experience these feelings and more. Your emotions are valid. You are not alone.
You can also access 24/7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.