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.
You will meet Sarah Cooper, who was both physically and sexually abused in foster care and as an adult became an advocate after being groomed online and trafficked.
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.
Chief Executive Officer & President, Together for Girls
Together for Girls, in partnership with The Equality Institute and the Oak Foundation, undertook a systematic review of proven solutions and best practices to prevent and respond to sexual violence against children and young people.
Building on growing evidence that violence against children is preventable, these evidence-based strategies support countries and communities to intensify their focus on prevention programmes and services in order to reduce violence against children.
While school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is prevalent, it is also preventable, and there are evidence-based solutions that show that teachers and school personnel can be significant changemakers when they take active roles in preventing, addressing, and responding to violence.
Survivors and allies demand change
Next week, on March 29-30, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hear the groundbreaking case of Brisa De Angulo Losada v. Bolivia.
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Together for Girls, Darkness to Light, Child USA, and the National Children’s Alliance join forces with a diverse coalition of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, advocates, and leading organizations to launch #KeepKidsSafe.
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Athlete A reminds us how regularly survivors are ignored and how often they are chastised for reporting an abuser. It reveals how self-interested institutions can themselves turn into cloaks of protection for the most heinous crimes.
Friends can play a powerful role in helping survivors access and receive critical care to help them seek justice and start their journey to heal.
Survivors of sexual violence, particularly those of color, should be leading the conversations about their needs and the needs of their communities, informing policy, and catalyzing prevention.
On September 21, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) launched an historic global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) – the Spotlight Initiative.
"My life is what I can use to help others, so I have to be a champion. I have to be strong for others.”
The United Nations declares November 18 “World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence”