1) Hannah’s poster: I told.
“When I was eleven, I was sexually abused. I told my mom as soon as it happened, and we pressed charges against my abuser. My mom took me to speak to police detectives, and she testified for me in court. After being sexually abused I went through a period of time where I was uncomfortable with my body, and wore baggy clothes. There were times where it has been hard for me to be intimate with another person, but because the abuse had not been repressed, I was able to start healing from it soon after it happened. Having been sexually abused, -while unfortunate and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone- has made me part of who I am today. But I know that I would not have been able to move on from there if I had not told.”
Vivian’s poster: I didn’t know I could tell.
Vivian was sexually abused as a child, but didn’t realize she had the right or ability to tell, and she actually blanked it out so she didnt even remember the abuse. It was 10 years before she remembered and disclosed that she had been molested repeatedly over 2 or 3 years. She suffered a lot during those years, without knowing what made her act out. Finally when she was 25, it all came back to her and her healing journey could begin. Vivian became a social worker who worked with kids who were sexually abused for many years. She also teaches new social workers to work with sexual abuse issues.
She had her daughter, Hannah. Hannah was sexually abused at age eleven.
2) Because of the differences, we started JustTell.
Inspired by her daughter’s strength and by how Hannah was able to let go of any sense of responsibility or blame for what happened to her, Vivian had the idea for JustTell. When she saw the difference between how she suffered over those ten years before she remembered and disclosed her abuse history, and how Hannah was able to let go of what happened to her once she let go of the burden of and told her mom, Vivian realized other kids needed to know that if they have been sexually abused, they need to choose an adult they trust and …just tell.
With the advice of many other professionals and teen focus groups online and in Hannah’s school, they started JustTell in 2007.
From the website JustTell.org: The mission of Just Tell is to reach out to youth aged 8 to 17 who are being sexually abused in order to convey, in age-appropriate language, that: they are not alone, they are not to blame for the abuse and should feel no guilt or shame, and that they need to choose a trustworthy adult in their life and tell them about the sexual abuse. The secondary mission of JustTell is to educate and empower all youth around the issue of childhood sexual abuse.
3) You have every choice to use your voice.
Hannah, shortly after her abuse, wrote a poem about her journey, which featured this line.
“Although I told my family and police detectives that I had been sexually abused, it wasn’t until I was sixteen that I decided to tell someone my age. I realized after I told that I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and it felt good to tell. I found out that though being sexually abused is my secret, it is also my choice who to tell it to. I wrote a poem after telling the first person my age, titled ‘A Secret You Don’t Have To Keep’ about deciding not to keep this secret, and wrote the words ‘Don’t ever say, you don’t have a choice/For you have every choice to use your voice’ as a message of encouragement for myself and others to speak up. Because unlike what abusers say, you do not have to keep their secret, and I know that in my experience I feel a sense of relief every time I tell.”
Photographed in Brooklyn, NY on June 6th.
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