The woman on my right had been a victim of sexual assault. The woman on my left had been a victim of sexual assault. Both were victims of sexual assault before the age of 15.
There I sat, listening to these women talk about this commonality and I wondered how many women I come in contact with who have been victimized in this way. According to a Survey done by the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1 in every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That is approximately 17.7 American women. Likewise, a Survey done by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families in 1995 cited that local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children (noting, 75% were girls) who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse. Thinking about the number of cases that go unreported, I would not be surprised if these numbers are in fact significantly higher. After all, there I sat in between two women. One admitted to never telling anyone about this experience until then.
We need to do more to protect girls. They are being placed in situations that are literally designed to kill their essence. Trust, innocence, and safety are being stolen from them, leaving them wounded and angry. Adults who are supposed to protect them, do not. The shame and guilt, the pain and hurt, the shock leave girls who turn into women silent. The crime, when unaddressed, leaves her spirit broken and creates a societal setup in which these women who were once girls are now mothers of girls—girls who are at risk of history repeating itself.
NOTE: National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673.