November 29, 2011 Written By Jenna Jorde

I am so blessed and grateful to have this opportunity to raise awareness about violence against women and children. Also to have the experience of discussing and acknowledging why Elizabeth Fry Society is such an important charity and how it has helped me.

Any time Elizabeth Fry has offered me a chance to speak up about violence against women and children, and sexual abuse I am so honored for the opportunity. Unfortunately, this violence has been happening for centuries and generation and after generation. Although we do have resources and research to fall back on as a society and as a community, we need to still be more aware and speak up for justice.

I understand how violence and sexual abuse is a very harsh and difficult subject to discuss, but we need to open our eyes, mind and hearts so we can be more aware and accepting for the future. We need to accept that abuse and sexual abuse will continue in the next generations and centuries. If we can learn and understand, maybe victims will be heard more and receive compassion instead of judgment, and help victims seek justice and work hard towards the journey of healing themselves from the violence and lead an healthier, brighter future.

Often even as women we hear about a woman that is going through domestic abuse, sometimes women (not just women, anyone of any sex), will say “why doesn’t she just leave him?”  I know it sounds simpler and easier, but unfortunately this is not the case. What if the woman has no support from friends or family? Or feels she has no support from anyone? What if she has no friends or family? What if she has children? Does she have the income to leave? Has she done her research about leaving? Maybe she’s already tried leaving and the result brought her back to where she is. Is her self esteem strong enough to go through this?

Chances are maybe she has experienced previous violent relationships, or as a child was witnessed to violence, and in her mind she may think she deserves this. Maybe she believes this is all she’s worth and this is what love is because of what she’s been through and what she has seen.

Research shows in Canada one out of eight women who live with a man has been abused by him.

Instead of questioning and judging these women we need to show support by listening, comforting, and maybe requesting some counseling such as Elizabeth Fry services. Bit by bit compliment and encourage these women and help guide them through the process of rebuilding her self esteem while she’s finding resources and options. If she decides not to leave try not to feel such disappointment and judge although it is hard when she is a loved one or friend. It is simply not her time and she is not ready, we cannot force someone to leave what she has been so used to, it is in her hands and all we can do is hope, pray, support and encourage.

Unless the situation worsens there may be a time when you will have to let her loved ones know or call the authorities and report the abuse. There is always a chance you may lose a relationship or friendship by doing this. I myself have spoken up to a friend’s family about her abuse and we are no longer friends. It is a chance a person has to take and hopefully you will feel some satisfaction or relief. If not, don’t be so hard on yourself, you did the best you could and that’s what friends and family do.

 

Another disturbing and deeply emotional topic is sexual abuse. Research has shown in Canada that one out of three women have experienced some form of sexual violence. There is a 97.5 chance the sexual abusers will get away with it. What a horrifying percentage, and it is not that women don’t try and reach out for justice, but often the frustrating truth is not many victims receive legal justice. It is a frustrating topic for me and I know for a lot of people.

It’s hard to believe and listen to women who have tried seeking justice and the justice system has failed them. From lack of evidence or whatever reason may be, more often from women I’ve spoken to they were disappointed by the justice system instead of being empowered. I really do hope there will be improvement in the future for legal justice for victims and I strongly recommend the programs available at the Elizabeth Fry Society. They offer support, knowledge and information during the process which I myself and others have found very helpful.

Sexual abuse is such a horrifying subject people would rather look away than recognize and acknowledge the problem. As painful as it is we have to acknowledge it and support victims. Too often the victims are the ones that carry the shame and pain sometimes too often in silence. The abusers are not the ones that carry this pain as they should be. The violation and trauma is carried within the victim and they believe often that they are to blame for the abuse or somehow caused the abuse.

We need to reassure victims and offer support immediately so these children and women do not need to suffer more than they do. The impact of any violence and especially sexual abuse can be shattering to one’s life.

From research I’ve received from professionals working at Elizabeth Fry 80 percent of sexual abuse is by someone we know, trust, love, or have some power over the victim. Often in family cases of sexual abuse, the family members will choose sides between the victim and abuser. I myself have gone through this and lost family members instead of gaining their support. There’s nothing worse than having something terrible happening to you when it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and then you lose your loved ones for it as they stand behind the person who did this to you. It’s such a bad experience for all family members when this happens, but we must remember in the end who is the victim in the situation and to stand beside them not the abuser no matter how hard it may be to do. It is what’s right and if we do more for what’s right we have a chance for a better future for the next generations of sexually abused victims.

Often I have noticed from men and women who have heard of someone who has been sexually abused common statements I’ve noticed are “Get over it, it was such a long time ago”, or “It wasn’t that bad”. These accusations and statements need to stop immediately, unless one has experienced the abuse how can we question it? Sexual abuse cannot be erased with time. “Time heals all” does not work if we not get support, help and services in order to heal ourselves from the abuse.

For some, it may take a short amount of time in therapy, for some may be longer. It all depends on the person, the path to healing from abuse does not have a time line or limit. If we do not get help we may never be healed. As time goes on the pain still lingers even if we try to block it out and avoid it. We need to encourage victims to get help and not let them be discouraged or afraid and ashamed to get help. When accomplishing the healing process we can begin our paths to a brighter, healthier and better future.

Another topic I’d like to bring up is “Stranger Danger”. Growing up I remember learning about private parts and sexual abuse in elementary school. But I never remember them saying that someone you love, know and trust could abuse you. I’ve talked to others about this subject and they felt the same way, I don’t know if this has changed much since I was in school but I sure hope it has, and hope it continues to bring more realistic knowledge of sexual abuse. I remember the examples of if a stranger pulls up in his van and offers you candy or want you to see his kittens he has in a box in the backseat you’re supposed to say no and run away. If a stranger was to touch you your supposed to say “stop I don’t want to be touched there , I don’t like that and run away.”

 As I said earlier, 80 percent of sexual abuse is by someone we know, trust, love and has power over us. Instead of preparing children of this percentage there is much emphasis on the 20 percent possibility of a stranger doing this? We need to teach our children that anyone can sexually abuse, it could be a family member or friend, coach, teacher, priest or stranger, anyone! We need to explain that if this is happens, to speak up to someone for help regardless who has done this to them.

Many times victims are threatened to not tell anyone, but maybe if we provide the correct knowledge to them before anything were to happen, maybe they would speak up sooner rather than later. We need to educate our children. Although we can’t stop violence from occurring in the next generations, if we provide the right knowledge, information and research perhaps the next generations will have more of an understanding and wisdom of what to do if this happens to themselves or others.

Hopefully with this knowledge this will bring more compassion for abused victims in the next generations. I can’t help but think back then in elementary school learning about sexual abuse and being warned about the dangers of a stranger doing this, I wonder how many children in the class were abused by someone they knew and trusted, loved or happened from a stranger. I wonder what was going through their minds listening to this information; just the thought of it is so heartbreaking and unfortunately so true.

I want to thank and acknowledge Elizabeth Fry Society for all their hard work and support they’ve given to me and so many women over the years. Thank you for all the help and support I’ve received over the last five years. Last year, 2035 people received help and service at the Elizabeth Fry Society. Out of these numbers 1188 were women, 90 were men and 757 were children and youth. Elizabeth Fry is a wonderful, caring, trusted and loyal charity that is dedicated to advancing safety, legal rights, and economic security of women and children.

Their mission is to empower women and children to achieve dignity, security and equality in the community. Their goals are to stop violence against women and children, move low income women and children out of poverty. Promote legal right and justice, and services for women and children. There are also many different group programs and one on one program available and offered at Elizabeth Fry.

I have been a client for over five years now; I started in my late teens and am now in my early 20’s. In different times in my life I have come on regular basis or less often depending of my stages in the last years. I don’t know where I’d be without the help of Elizabeth Fry. Actually I guess I do know where: I’d be in the land of denial, stuck in my depression and doing nothing about it, confused of who I am and confused about life (even though life can be confusing with or without counseling) at least I can handle the confusion better.

There have been times where I thought I was done with counseling and that I didn’t need it anymore that I was cured from everything or whatever reason may be.  I’ve realized I’ve still got issues to work on as does everyone, and I still need to let go of things and events I thought I had let go but realized I really haven’t. I also realized I still need to work on my self-esteem and while doing that I am lucky I still have the chance to work on my issues with my fantastic counselor who I’ve had for the last five years. Bless her for all the help she’s given me and still does and the faith she brings me.

Thank you my wonderful counselor!, although she doesn’t feel like a counselor she feels more like an extended family member or long time family friend. Thank you to all the ladies at Elizabeth Fry Society! Who have given me support and encouragement over the years and have given me wonderful opportunities to give back to them and bring awareness of violence to the community. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and experiences given to me.

Thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and thank you for believing in many other women and children who cannot yet believe in themselves.

I like to call Elizabeth Fry my safe place. I think it will always be known to me as that, I’m sure many other women feel the same way. Years ago my safe place was taken from me and I am thankful I found one again and that is at Elizabeth Fry. I remember my first session, waiting in the waiting room all anxious and impatient not sure what to expect, and a little girl next to me probably ten years younger than me looked over and smiled at me. I thought if this little girl can do this I got to be able to do it.

To all you victims out there of any sort of abuse, keep your head up! We are all survivors! Don’t be ashamed of asking for help when needed, when we get help our lives will be brighter, may be not right away because we have to face the pain but let’s face it and be proud of how far we have come. Let’s look ahead and up instead of down and back.

Think of the greatness you will bring to your future and what we victims can pass down to others with our wisdom, strength and experience. With the right work we can become positive, strong, healthy and unbreakable individuals. Let’s be excited of what we can bring and pass down to the next generations with our knowledge, and what we can and will teach our children, and what they will pass down to their children. Let us have passion for ourselves, life and what we believe in. But most importantly and above all let us find love for ourselves, because if we can truly love ourselves and especially women we can do and accomplish anything.

Would you like to support a survivor to heal? Please consider making a donation to our Sexual Assault Counseling Fund