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I’m so pleased to be here tonight representing RAINN and spreading their message along with Heartfelt Voices United. It’s my personal mission to help change the way we respond to abuse in our society by focusing on positive changes we can make in perceptions and behaviors. I am an incest survivor. I feel compelled to reach out to survivors, tell my story, and find community in others, who, like me are searching for answers. I’m especially proud to be here, not only because this is my very first speaking engagement, but because I’m an actor, writer, and stand-up comic. I truly would not be here today without the arts. They saved my life and help me heal a little more every day. I grew up in a culture of abuse. My mother and her sister’s were molested by their father, my grandfather. So was my sister. So, when at sixteen I finally told everyone it happened to me too, when I was five, there was an odd wave of solemnity which washed over the family as if it were some dreaded rite of passage. I didn’t understand how this could happen. How could so many of us over so many decades have been abused by him? There must have been some implicit acceptance of his behavior by us. Explicitly, we were angry and demoralized. A clan of “damaged goods” is what it felt like growing up in my family. Denial and fear morphed the women in my family into powerless victims who then became mothers and taught their children to be victims, certainly not because they wanted to, but because they knew nothing else. I’ve often thought if we had a family crest it would probably be the symbol for denial drowning in alcohol. Needless to say, I struggled with many issues over the years, all of them alone. I didn’t trust my own family, my own mother. Of course I hated my grandfather, but it was her I was really angry with. How could she ever put me in a position to be alone with him? So, I kept everything inside and tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, which just added to my feelings of shame. Also, abuse was commonplace in my family. No one “got help.” We talked about it with each other. We were our own therapists and advocates. The thing is—if there had been an online hotline like RAINN’S back when I was sixteen, my life might have been a little different. I know I would have reached out. I would have felt safe enough, alone in my own room, to write to someone. I wouldn’t have even had to say it out loud. Now that I’m finally able to talk about my experience I want everyone to know this hotline exists. There’s no reason to go through anything alone anymore. RAINN is a life-saving and life-changing organization. They are dedicated to helping victims, educating the public on issues related to sexual violence, and improving public policies on
sexual abuse. They run the largest sexual abuse hotline in the nation. I didn’t know where to turn for help. I don’t want anyone to ever say that again. Through the years, I’ve gone through many different stages—self abuse, rage, depression, and illnesses I’m sure are related, slowly moving toward acceptance, then learning, understanding, and healing. I will always struggle with questions I can’t answer. Who would I be if this hadn’t happened to me? How much of my personality was created by this? How many stupid things did I do because of what happened to me? Who am I without my past? You can really drive yourself crazy with the minutiae of questionable behaviors. Is my sex drive normal? Am I bi-sexual because of this? Is my irritable bowel syndrome related? Is my utter disdain of hot dogs really caused by incest? Then you get on the internet and find out it is. Here’s the one question that really, really bothered me. How much is my wife suffering the consequences of my past? Because at the time these questions really started bothering me my now ex-wife and I were still together, but having problems. She suggested at one point my abuse issues may be playing a part. And I had to admit, she might be right. That’s when I began searching for information and found RAINN.org. Their website was like a gift from the gods. Immediately, I felt comforted in the simple solidarity of finding an organization dedicated to victims like me. It’s filled with all the information and resources you could possibly need. It was like at the age of 35, someone had finally handed me a manual for myself. If you’ve not checked it out, I urge you to. Again, it’s RAINN.org. It’s worth a few minutes of your time. Information types include getting help, getting involved, donating, upcoming events, and an extensive information section including statistics, reducing risk, defining different types of abuse, Effects of Abuse, Aftermath of Abuse, and Recovery. It’s a simple, user-friendly place to start if you’re interested in finding out more about RAINN, or possibly getting involved. I won’t spend a lot of time giving you statistics, as these are easily obtained on the website and just as easily forgotten when you bombard people with too much at once, but here are a few that really stand out to me. • Rape is the most under-reported crime. For every 100 rapes, 46 get reported, which leads to 12 arrests, 9 trials, 5 convictions, and 3 actual prisoners of one day or more. • 1 out of every 6 American women and 1 in 33 men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. • Approximately 2/3 of all rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. If you are like me when someone says rapist I immediately get a visual image of a news reporter talking
about the artist’s rendering of the suspect they are showing on screen. It’s a myth. An urban version of an evil, scary monster perpetuated by the fact that those are the only rapes being talked about on the news. Most of the time, it’s someone you know. I’ve brought a handout tonight about RAINN which includes the website and hotline information, along with a brief breakdown of what they do. In addition, I’ve brought some handouts from the local Rape Crisis Center. It is run by the Center for Community Solutions which has a host of different services and local locations for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including shelter, counseling, advocacy, and legal services. These handouts are available to anyone who wants them. I just prefer not to hand them out while I’m speaking. A portion of tonight’s ticket sales are being donated to RAINN and part of the reason I’m here tonight is to personally thank you for supporting their efforts. Every dollar is appreciated and goes a very long way in funding the myriad of support, education, outreach, and policy-shaping work done by RAINN. Specifically, operating the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and rainn.org and which publicizes the hotlines' free, confidential services; educating the public about sexual assault; leading national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improving services to victims and ensuring rapists are brought to justice. RAINN is a frequent resource for television, radio and print news outlets - as well as local, state and national policymakers, law enforcement and rape treatment professionals - on the issues related to rape and sexual assault. Your donation will support all of these important activities. I’m also here to tell my story; because I believe in many ways my family is a microcosm of our society. We each contribute to this culture of abuse in subtle ways. If my talk tonight does anything, I hope it urges you to consider what you can do personally to create a tiny ripple in your community, so it can start a wave of change in this pattern. Simple things, like asking if your son or daughter’s school offers courses on defining abuse, and defining consent, along with their “how to avoid being raped” seminar. By asking if your neighborhood has any plan in place in case a sexual assault is being witnessed. I’m asking you to be proactive in the way you think about sexual abuse instead of reactive. We all want to build a future intolerant of this culture of abuse. Let’s start with ourselves. Let’s demand a future where domestic violence and sexual assault don’t happen because they are impossible to get away with.