In November of 2011, the world was rocked by allegations that Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys known to him through his charity the Second Mile; that other adults knew about this abuse and no one did anything about it.
In November of 2015, the movie Spotlight hit theatres nationwide, revealing the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe reporting team, called Spotlight, who investigated and unearthed a decades-long cover up of childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The actual events of uncovering this story took place in 2001.
It is the year 2017, and when I ask people about their reactions to the events at Penn State or to the movie Spotlight, I often hear comments including, “I was shocked. I was horrified. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Yet, here is the most unbelievable thing about both examples: While they reveal important aspects of the childhood sexual abuse problem, when combined, they still only constitute “the tip of the iceberg.”
The disconnect between the mainstream public’s reactions to these high profile cases of childhood sexual abuse and the actual statistics about this public health problem reveal two important realities:
- As a culture, we have not been appropriately recognizing childhood sexual abuse as the public health pandemic it is for children; and
- We have not been properly recognizing the public health pandemic that childhood sexual abuse trauma is for adults.
WINGS’ mission is to break the cycle and heal the wounds of childhood sexual abuse by providing education, advocacy and support to adult survivors, loved ones, providers and the community.
Experience we have gained through our 34 year history, coupled with emerging research on the neurobiology of trauma, including the Adverse Childhood Experiences or (ACE) Study, leads us to recognize that adult survivors are experiencing a myriad of mental and physical health problems that stem from being sexually abused in their childhoods. We also recognize that there may be significant barriers preventing adult survivors from understanding the root cause of their health symptoms and getting the help they need and deserve.
We believe our culture can do better on this issue. We also believe—it is time.
Announcing the One Voice Project – with the CU School of Public Health
WINGS is excited to launch the One Voice Project, a community needs assessment with the CU School of Public Health and a wide array of stakeholders to examine access to care issues for adults who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood. We want to know what it has been like for adult survivors in trying to get support for their needs here in Colorado – as adults. *We are not asking questions specific about the abuse they experienced in childhood.
The information gained from the One Voice Project will help us improve the overall response provided to adult survivors. It will also help us establish the public health concerns for this population.
How Organizations Can Help – Reaching Diverse & Rural Populations:
As childhood sexual abuse happens to people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender identity, disability, religion or sexual orientation, WINGS seeks to hear from survivors from *all populations, including those who are traditionally marginalized. Thus, we are especially hoping to hear from survivors in rural communities.
We know there are many tremendous organizations who care deeply about this population of adult survivors. If you are a provider who would like to help promote this assessment to survivors in your community, please email Erin.Henry@wingsfound.org.
*Please note: at this time, we can only offer the assessment to English speakers; however we are exploring steps to be able to do a similar assessment for non-English speakers.
How Survivors Can Participate
If you are an adult survivor, please know that YOUR VOICE and YOUR EXPERIENCE matter greatly. We want to hear from you through the following ways:
1) a brief questionnaire that takes approximately 15 minutes; and
2) an interview with the research team (with several options for participation, including the option to bring a friend)
The One Voice Project has been shaped with input from adult survivors and professionals who serve this population. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. You can choose not to answer any questions and to stop the interview at any time.
We tremendously appreciate every survivor who is offering their input, and we are committed to amplifying your Voice, along with the Voices of your fellow survivors, to bring greater solutions to the difficult process of healing.
To learn more, please visit our website at https://www.wingsfound.org/onevoiceproject/
Survivors who are ready to participate can email SurvivorInterviews@gmail.com or call Yvonne Keller-Guenther at (303)724-7347.
Timeline for survivor input is NOW through Feb 11, 2017, and our goal is to interview 80 survivors from diverse populations and rural communities.
Please Consider: This is Colorado’s “Spotlight Moment”
Did you know there are twice as many women suffering from childhood sexual abuse trauma (1 in 4) as women who have breast cancer (1 in 8)? And there are more men who have been impacted by childhood sexual abuse (1 in 6), than women who are fighting breast cancer (1 in 8)?
Together, as One Voice, survivors and the professionals who serve them here in Colorado have a chance to uncover, once and for all, the public health pandemic that is childhood sexual abuse: specifically, as it pertains to the needs of adult survivors.
Will you help us shine this light?
Blogger Bio: Jennifer Stith is Executive Director of WINGS Foundation Inc., which works to break the cycle and heal the wounds of childhood sexual abuse by providing education, advocacy and support to adult survivors, loved ones, providers and communities. She is an Expert Victim/Survivor Impact Consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice.