I know this is an uncomfortable topic for discussion but one that must be addressed in spite of the subject matter or discomfort as that is how abuse stops…by telling and talking about it.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I have a friend who does ministry for women in prison and one of the main reasons they end up there is abuse of various kinds.
On the first day of April 2011 and in the news for Salt Lake City comes articles that address Warren Jeff’s Prophet/Leader of an FLDS religious group who is currently residing in a Texas prison…being charged with underage marriage of young girls and worse.
Then Keith Brown the Father and Manager of his 5 children who all are classical pianists and were interviewed while I was the producer for a radio talk show. The Judge states Mr. Brown is a pedophile and that children should be safe in their own homes. The daughters reported when it was learned their Father was going to start managing children again. They are now adults and did not show up in court nor did the Mother of the 5 Browns. Mr. Brown has been sentenced as of yesterday which could be 10 years to life from the article I read this morning.
Yet another story today in Salt Lake Tribune is a legal loophole may set a sex offender free and has made the National News. Every night it is someone else who has been placed in a trust position and violates it…teachers, parents, church group leaders, coaches, family members, doctors and the list goes on and on.
Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom during the night at knife point and found 9 months later. She was raped, forced into a polygamist marriage by Brian Mitchell. Elizabeth was a young teen age girl. Her trial ended and she emerged triumphant legally. As a former radio talk show producer…I have met some interesting heroes..female and male. This morning I was having coffee and reading the Salt Lake Tribune. It shows various time line pictures of Elizabeth Smart from kidnapped flier to her emerging triumphant and smiling from a federal court house. The Headline reads “A BEACON FOR OTHER VICTIMS”.
Eight years after Brian David Mitchell kidnapped 14 year old Elizabeth Smart from her home at knife point, forced her into a polygamist marriage and nearly daily rapes…justice was served. Watching the breaking news of Elizabeth beaming and giving her statement to the reporters that she was thrilled to stand before the people of America and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what has happened to them. It brought tears to my eyes to see her strength and courage…standing strong, dignified, triumphant and taking back that what was ripped from her innocence as a 14 year old child. Today Elizabeth is a vibrant, beautiful young woman of 23 years old and will be returning to Paris France to complete her mission.
Shame is one of the stigmas associated with sexual violence as well as being believed. Further advocates from this article in Salt Lake Tribune this morning…from Heather Stringfellow the Executive Director of The Rape Recovery Center and Alana Kindness from the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault… are a few of the advocates that I have met as part of the interview on the radio talk show. According to the article it states 29% of women older than 18 have experienced some type of sexual assault…One in nine incidents of sexual assaults will be reported to the police. Those are the ones we know about. Alana Kindness…states from article “Survivors often fear they won’t be believed or that their own behavior will be questioned.” In Utah of reported sexual assaults of which about 88% are not reported…the numbers are 10% higher for the State of Utah than anywhere else in the nation…one of the reasons is that the population of Utah consists of mostly children.
Since the trial of Elizabeth Smart began her testimony of her experiences, The Rape Recovery Center has seen a spike in and being overwhelmed by calls.
We interviewed Tory Bowen and her attorney Wendy Murphy after I saw an article in the People’s Magazine October 27, 2008 issue. Picture in People Magazine shows Tory standing on the steps of the US Supreme Court to decide whether or not to hear her case.Tory’s rapist was arrested and charged with sexual assault. When the case came to trial in 2006…The Judge Jeffrey Cheuvront in Lancaster County made a decision that Tory Bowen could not use the words “rape” or “sexual assault”, during her testimony nor could Tory say that she thought accused rapist drugged her…neither could the police, witnesses or prosecutor. If Tory did say those words in trial, she could be sanctioned and serve time in jail. Restrictions on language according to Oct. 27th, 2008 People Magazine article on page 84 on Tory Bowen Story “Is a growing concern “…In California and Utah prosecutors are barred from using the word “victim” at trial”…this states, It level’s the playing field for their defendant clients.
The last time I spoke with Tory…she is a survivor and a victims advocate and speaker for RAINN Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network as well as other sexual assault groups. I have the trial transcripts provided to me prior to the interview. During our interview with Tory Bowen and her attorney Wendy Murphy…I asked a question of her attorney…the answer I already knew. I did not ask for me… but for our listeners. My question was…”Can a woman be raped in a marriage?”…Attorney Murphy’s reply was “Yes” and if I needed help to call her. Sexual assault by an intimate partner or husband…is a crime, it is sexual assault…
Speaker and Author Susanna Barlow who has written her Memoir “What Peace There May Be” about being born the middle child 23rd of 46 children into a polygamist family…
I first met Susanna Barlow when I came into to produce for the radio talk show…saw the cover of her book, heard her interview and booked her. We have become friends and I have met about a baker’s dozen of her sisters, some of her brothers, nieces, nephews, her father and some of his wives and her immediate family. It has been an amazing experience to see her courage as well to stand against abuse using her own words and voice…
Elizabeth Smart is a Spokesperson and Victims Advocate. Elizabeth talks about the RADkids program to show children to fight back against those who are intending on harming them.
THANKS! To those who have found their voices and in spite of the shame, fear, being ostracized, being believed and being the voice for those who have not found theirs yet!