Last night was truly remarkable. It was the first fundraiser event for Voice Found and I was more than a little apprehensive. My concern was not that people wouldn’t show up, or that the band would suck or that people would not enjoy themselves. I learned long ago that if you expect the worst – the worst will happen and so I go into any event with a positive attitude and belief that things will work out just fine. And did they ever! The dance floor was packed with amazing swing dancers – people of all ages letting loose. Lindy hop, Balboa, West Coast Swing and Jive were among some of the styles I recognized. A performance by some of the countries top dancers wowed the audience and the jazz band came complete with a washboard player! It was authentic and like we were characters dancing in the movie ‘Swing Kids’.
This is where the apprehension comes in. The vibe was positive and we were ‘shouting and feeling it’. This was a room full of strangers enjoying their Saturday night and I had to go up and say a few words. Prior to the actual event, I was pretty much prepared for this moment. After all – people like to see and hear from the people of an organization. It makes the cause real, tangible…. more than the words on a webpage or poster. As the time grew closer for me to go up on the stage I started to be really concerned. The message of childhood sexual abuse is really not joyful. I did not want to ruin the fun these folks were having!
My turn on the stage – microphone in hand – I looked out to the crowd and saw so many faces staring at me. Feedback on the microphone. Laughter. Pause. Another mic handed to me. It was time to speak. And I did. I spoke of statistics. I asked the crowd to think of 3 girls they knew. I then informed them that one of those three would be sexually abused before her 18th birthday. I then asked them to think of 6 boys. Did they want to guess which of those was sexually abused? We then considered the media attention to the ‘stranger in the white van’. He is the one that sexually abuses children – right? Oh partly, but rarely, I informed them. Over 90% of the time children are sexually abused by people they know, trust and love. I spoke of the damage done, the consequences of abuse and shattered a few myths. The taboo subject of childhood sexual abuse needs a voice. The silence is what allows the epidemic to continue.
I felt awkward. I was scared. I was sure my words were not making any sense but I knew I had to continue. The hardest part came next. In front of a room full of strangers and a handful of friends, I told my story for the first time in public. I did not share gory details but I showed them the face and heart and soul of a woman who is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I felt myself tearing up and starting to choke on words but I knew I HAD to get it out. And I also knew that the message could be positive. It is what I want Voice Found to be. An organization that educates and supports so that we can stop childhood sexual abuse and help adult survivors to live the rich, full and happy lives that they are entitled to live.
I hope that message resonated. Judging from the dancing afterwards I did not ruin a good night. I was no longer a stranger to them but a known face of 1 in 3. I know there were others in that crowd.