April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Local Non Profit Helps Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “I am almost 60 years old, and this is the first time that I have been around women that suffered like I suffered,” says Sharon Jordan of east Charlotte. “The damage is lifelong,” says Judith Sutton of South End. And,”It all stemmed from me story as a childhood sexual abuse survivor and then raped also in college,” explains Concord resident Crystal Emerick.

Emerick is the founder of a local non profit called Brave Step. The non-profit helps adults impacted by sexual abuse, including the ripple effect sexual abuse has on a survivor’s life. Emerick says, “Our parents, our siblings if we have siblings, were impacted, our friends, our families, our spouses, my child.”

Jordan didn’t tell anyone for years that she had been repeatedly sexually abused as a child, because of what her abuser told her he would do if she spoke out. “My abuser threatened to harm my family if I brought it forth,” she says.

Sutton was physically, emotionally and sexually abused from the age of two by multiple family members. The now 71-year-old finally told her story in the form of a book. Sutton says survivors have to insulate themselves from people who refuse to believe them. “You have to find a way, as a survivor, to deal with that. To understand some people are never going to change their minds,” she says.

Sexual violence statistics are startling:more than 1 in three women and nearly 1 in four men will experience sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. And nearly one in five women and 1 in 38 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Many survivors are left with post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other mental health issues. The three women who talked with WCCB say it feels good to talk with other people who have similar stories. They are speaking out to break the silence surrounding sex abuse – and encourage other survivors to do the same. Jordan says, “Use your voice. Talk about your abuse. Get help. Because it’s very important…when the healing starts, it’s the most beautiful journey anyone can ever travel.”

To learn more about Brave Step, click here.