An invitation to a powerful conversation with adult survivors of childhood sexual violence.
It’s a feeling you’ve surely experienced. You spend any length of time working on a pressing issue, and the list of problems you’ve faced or difficulties you’ve had to overcome is likely long. But next to it is also a list of unexpected victories, memorable moments and points of light, reinforcing what you’ve always known: that certain challenges are well worth the effort.
In my more than twenty years working with women, health, gender issues, and sexual violence against children, there have been no shortage of difficult moments. But there have also been moments that have inspired me, and many more that have stuck with me, whether it’s because they’ve moved me, challenged a preconceived idea, or made me grow. Among those — let’s call them favorite — moments, are conversations I’ve had with survivors.
I am a survivor of sexual violence in childhood, but that’s not only the reason I connect to the sister- and brotherhood of those who share their stories. The reason I hold survivors so close is that I’ve seen the direct impact they can have in empowering, emboldening and catalyzing so many others, including those who are allies, to drive change.
On September 1, and in partnership with Darkness to Light, The Army of Survivors, SNAP Network, and my organization Together for Girls, I will have the great pleasure of moderating a virtual town hall, as part of the broader Survivors’ Agenda, a collective of organizations that believe survivors should be the ones shaping the national conversation on sexual violence. I’ll be joined by five such survivors of sexual violence against children — remarkable activists that are helping change the way we think about an issue that, directly or indirectly, affects all of us:
You will hear from Rachael Denhollander, who made international headlines when she became the first woman to pursue criminal charges and speak publicly against USA Gymnastics’ team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history.
You will connect with Ashley Nicole Davis, who faced much backlash for disclosing her child sexual abuse experiences and naming her abuser, and who today, works to address adults’ willingness and ability to take action to prevent child sexual abuse.
Tabitha Mpamira will also share her story, which includes her founding EDJA, an organization that provides free medical, legal, and mental health services to survivors of sexual assault in East Africa — and has helped bring perpetrators to justice.
And finally, you’ll get to know Brian Toale, who in 2016, wrote a letter he never imagined he would, to the principal of the high school where he had been sexually abused 45 years earlier. Having never reported the abuse before, he was not expecting the shift his life took in a new and meaningful direction after that.
But perhaps as importantly, you will have an opportunity to hear from everyone who chooses to participate in an active audience discussion, to shed light on the solutions needed to address an issue that continues to affect so many…
I invite you to be a part of it, not only because it’s an opportunity to hear directly from adult survivors, but because it’s a chance for you to hear what they care about most. Whether you are a survivor or an ally, join us to explore how we can all contribute to this important dialogue. I am confident it will be a memorable evening. I am most hopeful, though, that it will be a moment that registers for all of us as a point of light, reinforcing that despite the challenges surrounding this issue, facing them is well worth our effort.