Sexual Assault Victims Find Voice in “Take Back The Night” - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Sexual Assault Victims Find Voice in “Take Back The Night”

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Aiken, SC -

Ashley Bridges reporting:

It may be difficult to understand how a t-shirt can help a victim of sexual abuse heal, but at Take Back The Night the shirts help victims find a voice and supporters show support.

Georgia Regents University, formerly Augusta State University, has sponored a campus-wide Take Back The Night Event for years.  Hudnreds of t-shirts line the school's front law with messages like "I said no," "no means no," "I didn't deserve this," and "don't be ashamed."

One in three women experiences abuse or sexual assault during her lifetime; half of those women never speak up.

Take Back The Night works to shatter the silence. 

Erin Merryn is a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  She is also the force behind Erin's Law, a law that would require schools to do at least one hour of education about sexual abuse.  A bill supporting Erin's Law was introduced in South Carolina Wednesday.

Merryn says it is painful to speak out, but well worth it.

"What hat makes it worth it is the people I reach who break their silence," she says. "Instead of carrying that secret untilt they're 40 or 50 years old, I'm having these 17 and 14 year olds coming to me and saying this happened to me because they read my childhood diary and it helped break their silence. It's really putting an end to the shame and stigma around this issue."

She says victims need to feel comfortable speaking up, as hard as it is.

"Don't stay silent," Merryn says. " Don't let your perpetrator keep you silenced.  Tell somebody, it's not your fault.  And in the end, you'll save other children from being sexually abused.  Keep talking until someone puts an end to that abuse."

Because this issues are so difficult to talk about, parents must be aware and start those conversations.

"Parents talk to your kids tonight," she says. "Don't wait until it's too late.  Talk to your kids about safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets, unsafe secrets.  Don't just focus on stranger danger.  90 percent of the time your kids are being abused by people they know and trust."

And to be sure all children get that talk, Merryn says legislators need to step up and the public needs to put pressure by calling and writing them.

"They need to step up and do something.  As they say, you all know somebody.  Don't put a price tag on a child's life.  Schools can make time for this.  We're asking for an hour out of your school year."

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