In fact, finding the courage to come forward can take years, or possibly decades. And even then, feelings of shame, fear, anger, and isolation often resurface for survivors of abuse. Speaking up requires returning to a dark place, which is why reporting it to authorities can be so difficult.
Child sexual abuse knows no social or economic boundaries, and it is most often perpetrated by someone the child knows. Abusers can be manipulative, convincing their victims to stay quiet, or that the abuse is normal. They might isolate their victims and make them feel alone.
But the reality is that victims of child sex abuse are not alone. Every eight minutes, a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. And for some, decades may pass before they are able to find the strength to speak out about the abuse.
Studies have shown that when childhood trauma occurs, long-lasting effects linger. Survivors of sexual abuse confront challenges throughout their lives, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, and depression. So even decades after the original abuse, speaking out about sexual assault can be extremely painful.
This process is often made even more difficult by unreasonable laws dictating the statute of limitations regarding child sex abuse crimes. In each state, the laws are different, but for many survivors, by the time they feel ready to speak out about the abuse they suffered, they find themselves unable to prosecute due to the length of time that has passed.
In March 2015, Utah’s legislature approved HB277, a bill that eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against perpetrators of child sexual abuse. This was a huge milestone for survivors in our state, enabling them to take civil action when they are ready. However, there is still much work to be done. Utah ranks among the worst in the nation for its rate of sexual abuse.
Local Utah residents and critically acclaimed pianists Desirae and Deondra Brown are well-known advocates for change and were instrumental in the passage of HB277. As members of The 5 Browns, they became famous before realizing both were survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of their father. Each had kept the abuse secret for over 10 years. This revelation changed the trajectory of their future as they embarked on a public battle to seek justice and eventually see their father put behind bars.
Today, Desirae and Deondra are working on behalf of survivors across the country with their organization, The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. Using their voices to speak up for change, the sisters have offered hope, encouragement, and empowerment to survivors everywhere.
This spring, our community will have the opportunity to hear Desirae and Deondra Brown perform and tell their courageous story at DOVE Center’s annual gala, “Speak up for change: Ending sexual and domestic violence one voice at a time.” During this unforgettable evening, guests will learn how each of us can speak out against abuse and offer support to survivors.
For more information about the annual gala or to find out how you can help survivors of sexual and domestic violence, visit dovecenter.org. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call DOVE Center’s 24/7 helpline at (435) 628-0458.