Today I spoke to a crowd of nearly 600 people in Vancouver, Washington for the YWCA annual event. Article in paper already on it. http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/sep/07/sex-abuse-survivor-speaks-out-against-keeping-secr/
Like ever event I tell my story, mission, and speak on Erin’s law. I always meet new faces, hear from survivors, and am reminded why I followed my purpose into speaking out. I closed the event in a way I have never done before. I have done events were everyone takes a hand out of the center made by a child but this time we used candles and incorporated the message of darkness to the light and living for today. The entire event was video taped by a video company that will be posting it next week. However I had someone get the closing remarks on camera. I decided last night to bring the anniversary of the first time my cousin ever abused me into my closing remarks.
While in a few days the entire country will be recognizing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with media coverage everywhere survivors of sexual abuse are often the only ones that carry the anniversary of their abuse. 15 years ago today I went to bed in my grandparents hotel condo only to wake up in the middle of the night to being sexually abused for the first time by my cousin. I went on to read in the beginning of the journal entry I wrote to the audience of how scared and confused I was. My cousin was someone I loved, looked up to, had fun with, until Sept. 7, 1996 when he made a very poor choice and changed that relationship forever. Not only did I lose my innocence that night with my cousin 15 years ago, I lost him the person I once knew him for the first 11 years of my life. Suddenly the cousin I looked up to I now could not even look in the eyes after Sept 7, 1996.
15 years ago I went to bed in a hotel condo and my life changed forever. Never would I imagine 15 years later I would be sitting in another hotel room on this night having just spoken to nearly 600 people about the secret that was suppose to be “our little secret” and sharing with hundreds of people about being a light for children who have or will be sexually abused who are living in the dark. I woke up 15 years ago in the dark to sexual abuse. 15 years later I am holding a candle on a stage lighting the way for others to find their way out of darkness and remembering the children, like the 11 year old I was 15 years ago who was in darkness. I found the light and so can you. Today is not about remembering the horrors of what happened 15 years ago. Today is about Living for Today. It will never be forgotten but you do move on in time as you heal and learn to embrace your pain and grow from your experiences. As I told my audience today while we often think we are alone as survivors the truth is there are millions of us, 42 million in the U.S. to be exact. There are far more sexual abuse survivors among you every day then there are 9/11 survivors. However there is no stigma and shame attached to being a 9/11 survivor like there is with sexual abuse. One day that will all change. I am going to live to see it happen.
I am off to another event here in Vancouver with the rest from the YWCA. It will be a night of celebration in my eyes. As I like to look at it. “Look how far I have come.”
Mayor of Vancouver, Washington heard me speak.