Sexual abuse is one of those topics no one wants to hear about, talk about or read about. All forms of abuse are ugly and no one wants to see or hear it, but we need to talk about abuse of all forms to create public awareness and give the public the tools to protect themselves and their children.
On average 237,868 are individuals over the age 12 are victims of sexual assault each year. Statistics show that every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted, approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, 60% of sexual assaults go unreported and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail for their crimes. Sadly, this number is dramatically increasing.
Several years ago, I learned one of my closest childhood friends was sexually abused by someone she knew and trusted. I will call her "Becky" throughout this article. Becky endured the abuse from age 11 to 14. She feared how her family would react so she decided to pretend the abuse never occurred but behind closed doors she secretly had to deal with the life changing effects of guilt and shame. Becky's shame and guilt nearly ate her alive until the age of 40 when she shared her secret with me just four years ago.
Becky once told me "The abuse I endured changed me from a strong, confident teenager to an angry, self-destructive teenager and adult. I wasn't happy and the last thing I wanted was for anyone around me to be happy. I wanted them to feel what I was feeling."
Working within the Dreamcatchers for Abused Children organization for the last nine years I recommended Becky speak with someone about the abuse she endured so that she could get the help she needed to move forward in her life. She had lived in pain for 30 years. She suffered a lifetime of pain. It was time she freed herself.
I recommended she contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network). RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the Nation. Each year RAINN helps thousands of survivors recover through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, Online Hotline and DoD Safe Helpline. For too many years Becky didn't believe she deserved to be happy. She thought she deserved to live a lifetime of pain and suffering. With time and through this amazing organization Becky was given the confidence she needed to confront her abuser, received the help she needed to live the life she had always deserved. Today she is happy and she is helping others on their journey to recovery.
There are many ways that you can help a friend or family member who has been a victim of sexual abuse or rape but the best way is to listen, be patient and try to encourage them to seek medical attention or report the assault. I know my encouragement for Becky to contact the RAINN hotline helped her on her journey to recovery and they can help you, a friend or loved one.
RAINN provides live, secure, anonymous crisis support for victims of sexual violence, their friends, and families over RAINN's website. The online hotline is free of charge and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. All trained volunteers have successfully completed state-mandated training and have extensive training in providing online support.
For more information on RAINN, visit: https://www.rainn.org/