Over 45, Sharing My Story

I am 57 and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I rarely divulge details but I will a little more here. Starting from age 14 months (yes MONTHS) until I was 16 I was beaten, burned, drugged, raped and sold. I had a forced illegal abortion when I was 13. Both my parents knew about the abuse; my father participated. I know I am not alone and I am writing this for myself and others like me who are 45 or over.
We suffered before help was available; before rape or childhood abuse was openly discussed except with the most extreme and obvious events. I was raised believing I had worth only for how much work I could do and for how I could satisfy a man. I was raised believing I had no right to say no to anything, to anyone, at anytime. I was raised without a basic belief in the sanctity of human life; even now I have a hard time believing in my worth as a disabled, older, overweight person who cannot work or attract a man. I have tried suicide three time, the earliest at age 3 ( I lit my nightgown on fire) and the last in early 2012 after my (recently brain damaged) husband abandoned myself and my two teen children.
My memories started when I was 32 and I have been in therapy for depression since. Only recently, since the last nonfatal suicide, have I been diagnosed and treated for PTSD.
I have found that I am one of millions, both women and men,in just the US that are under served by the mental health community. We are not recent victims, we can’t claim the flash of emotion that garners the attention of many caregivers. We have had to find ways to survive that caregivers see as successful coping mechanisms needing no attention or get treated for unhealthy coping mechanisms without the medical community realizing the underlying damage. We are outcast for our coping mechanisms: jailed for drug use or alcoholism; judged for lack of parental skills for unplanned, unwanted or even wanted children; we are discriminated against for our weight, judged self reckless and threatened with extra financial burdens for insurance or transportation (esp airlines) and discriminated against in the workplace; we are emotionally disabled and unable to cope with over stressed health, lives, and work. We fill 12 step groups without sometimes even knowing yet ourselves why we are the way we are.
I fell our nation and especially the medical community need to look past our symptoms, past our coping mechanisms and realize that a huge percentage of over 45′s that suffer from what we now know are PTSD symptoms – especially depression, weight problems, substance abuse, relationship problems – that they take as basic causes of our health problems and see them as the PTSD and abuse/rape survivor symptoms that they are.
I finally was diagnosed with PTSD after my last nonlethal suicide. Even then, in long term (1 week) treatment, I was not able to see the PTSD therapists they had on staff because I was not military. One tech broke the rules and introduced me to one PTSD therapist  who I now see weekly. She has introduced me to the concept of Post Traumatic Growth, the first words I have heard that make me hopeful for a future not controlled by depression, out of control thinking and low self esteem.
It’s a shame I had to wait this long for proper treatment, but I feel most treatment is aimed at children, youth and young adults. It’s time to recognize that this is not a 1980′s and on problem but one that has existed forever, and certainly for many of our older and elderly adults. We deserve a healthy today and tomorrow.

Written by: Lori B.

Stronger Than You Know

I was reading the articles that I have posted for PAVE’S blog and noticed a trend. I have been reporting on incidents that take place and the effects that occur due to these acts of malice. However, while reading through them I noticed a trend among the victims. Something that as humans we all have and we should all be very proud of; that is strength and courage. As humans we are both blessed and cursed with an uncanny amount of resilience and the ability to overcome adversity.  Though these victims have endured some of the most horrific experiences that most of us can’t even fathom in our worst nightmares; they are standing strong today. Standing up for those that are still fighting this fight!

Not only do these victims fight for what is right and the ability to get back to having as normal of a life as possible, they also have to deal with the media and the public pointing fingers in all the wrong directions. Every time I hear someone say, “Well look at the way she’s dressed, she’s just asking for it!” It makes me cringe. That is the problem with society in a nutshell. The stereotyping and the unjust ability to blame the innocent for someone else’s actions. As a parent I stress to my children that you can’t blame anyone else for your actions or your reactions and that is something we must all remember.

Throughout history the woman’s body has been portrayed as a beautiful masterpiece and over time it has become looked upon as more of an object and that is something that needs to be addressed.

We are told that there is strength in numbers… to never walk alone, walk in pairs at night and so on. This is not only true in the physical sense it is true in the emotional sense as well. There is strength in numbers, there is more strength than one could ever know they possessed when they have a strong support system. Humans, just like most animals were not meant to travel alone, we were meant to travel in groups of our own kind. Those that we have things in common with, those that need us, those that we need and those that can help us and teach us things.

We are all stronger than we know and with support systems like PAVE out there, together we can get through it! This is a time for reflection and to realize that no matter what you are here today and you are stronger than you know.

Written by: Ashten Meadows

Teen Dating Violence Awareness

This message is in response to Angela Rose’s piece on Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. I would have emailed her directly, but could not locate any other contact information than this one, so please pass it along if possible. I want to first commend her on a wonderful piece—it is important that everyone can identify what is and is not appropriate behavior and how to get/give help—and thank you all at PAVE for the work you do. As a survivor of sexual assault, I truly appreciate everything organizations such as yours do for those who have been abused.

I feel the topic of relationship abuse is so vital for us to talk about as a society. There is a stigma, I believe, when it comes to relationship violence. So many people assume that abuse only occurs in married couples, that it only happens to women, and that it always comes in the vein of physical violence. We know that is not true though.

Our society needs a wakeup call to the very real dangers facing both males and females, of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and sects–dating violence occurs all the time, too often, and it needs to end.

My employer recently allowed me to write a detailed piece on dating violence. I hope that by dispelling many of the myths surrounding relationship violence and explaining what it really is, I can help someone who is in an abusive relationship recognize that they do not deserve nor should they tolerate the treatment they receive from their partner.

I would be honored if you would take a look at what I wrote, and if you like it, please feel free to share it with your readers. I just want to do my small part to make a difference and hopefully help an abuse victim persevere and get help.

Thank you for your time and again for all of the valuable work you do. You are all my heroes. I hope you enjoy my piece.



Written by: Kristin Benzinger

Keara’s Story

Just over a year ago, I went through a traumatic sexual violence experience. What started out as a care-free night out with my best friend turned into a nightmare. We started out bar-hopping in Lincoln Park- hardly a rarity for two girls going to college in the city. Without going into too much detail via email, I went from being buzzed yet coherent to waking up the next morning in a strange apartment not remembering a single thing. There was a man on the floor next to the bed I was on. I recognized him as the bouncer from the bar we were at. I was woken by my friend who was sobbing and terrified. I soon was overcome with terror as well. She told me she had just been raped and that we needed to leave. I was disoriented and couldn’t see straight, but we both managed to leave the apartment and catch a cab home- the price of our ride home was over 30$.
After spending an entire day in the hospital, I learned that the man had attempted to rape me, raped my best friend when she intervened and that we had both been drugged.
My experience with the cops and investigators was one of the most upsetting parts. That was the first time I encountered the traumatizing effects of rape culture and victim blaming. Investigators would not arrest or look for the man, even though we knew where he worked, because we had been drinking with fake IDs. Two college students at a bar underage seemed to be deserving of what happened to us. A female investigator even told me, “You know you’re lucky. I usually deal with cases where people die. You could really have gotten yourself in a bad situation.” I began to believe that I was to blame for everything that happened. That this was how the world worked, and I got in the way.
I now know this to be untrue. I went to counseling, and am currently seeking more outlets to help me cope with what happened. I’ve taken on a project to help coordinate an event on behalf of ALMAA (Advocacy, Living and Mentoring After Assault). I now run their twitter page, @ALMAACares and try and update it as much as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to go through and read articles and statistics and events that are still going on. But I know I want to fight rape culture and create a light for those effected by sexual violence. I have so many amazing people in my life right now who have proved that my fears aren’t true, and that there are amazing souls and good people out there who care. I’ve learned to stand up for myself and others and what is right. I still get scared, I struggle with extreme anxiety, but I wake up everyday wanting to move forward and fight for my happiness. I only hope that all humans are able to experience what they deserve: unconditional respect, compassion, love and acceptance.
Thank you for your time and hearing part of my story. If you are a survivor yourself, please know: you are not to blame. Though the world at times may seem like a dark and terrifying place, there is always a light. First and foremost within yourself, and your will to fight on through trauma, and also within the loving people who are there for you without judgement. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are breathing, you are fighting. You are life.”
Written by: Keara McGraw

It’s Not Just In America

I recently came across a story that made me stop and think about the bigger picture on sexual assault. So many times we think about it being something that someone does to another in secret, or at least in partial seclusion. However, there are places in the world where it is almost done for show; or done to set an example for others. I am proud to live in a country where as a female I hold the same value as a male. This is very important to me, and I do not take this lightly.

An article I came across discussed in Egypt in 2011 during the Nile’s revolutionary chaos was an act of symbolism that took seven women and started off by beating them and electrocuting them and if that wasn’t enough began to perform “virginity tests” on the woman. This was done in front of a crowd and the entire public watched on. One girl in particular was also drugged and stomped on. This is a culture where woman are not valued the way that we are here, however why was this ever acceptable anywhere to begin with?

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called this a “degradation of woman.” This is exactly what it is.

Another example of this degradation of woman, was in 2007 when an Arabic ad where women were depicted as two kinds of lollipops. One, whose wrapper was removed, was covered with flies (male harassment).  The other, wrapper still on, attracted minimal insect attention. Clumsy and factually incorrect, this chauvinistic logic uses the Muslim headscarf as a symbol of patriarchy and control, when in fact, one might choose to wear the veil—or not to—for a multitude of reasons.  It also erroneously equates conservative dress with an absence of harassment.

Showing these acts in public gives people a generalization of woman that we are “used” or not something of value. Though this article shows negativity among other cultures, we have to stop and be grateful that we do are valued here. Though there are many issues that still need to be addressed relating to our rights and sexual assault, it is important to remember we as people are valuable no matter what. Our choice may reflect part of who we are but they are not the entire definition of who we are.

To view the entire article visit; http://prospect.org/article/crowdsourcing-sexual-assault-prevention

Written By : Ashten Meadows

Becoming Closer to the Cause

Over the past few years I worked continually to combat sexual assault, particularly on my own college campus. I led sexual assault awareness workshops where I taught students the truth about sexual abuse, combated stigmas, and provided resources about how to help a friend who survived sexual assault. I knew statistics inside and knew that 1 out of 6 college women survived rape or survived attempted rape in the past year, meaning if I had a group of 6 friends, one of them could have been a survivor of sexual assault. For a long time I felt lucky because as far as I knew, none of my friends had such experiences.

Although I felt connected to the cause, it was not until a few weeks ago that I truly grasped a direct connection to everything. As I visited my friend over winter break, I noticed something was a bit off. She was not her sarcastic funny self, but rather quiet and detached. I calmly inquired to determine what was wrong. With a pale face, she turned to me and told me that one of her friends raped her a few months ago and that her life deteriorated ever since.

On paper I knew what I was supposed to say to a friend who survives sexual assault: “No matter what it’s not your fault”, “I believe you”, “Thank you for sharing your experience with me.” However, when the situation arose right in front of me, with my own best friend, it was hard to produce the right words.

After a few minutes of silence, I managed to comfort her and listen to her story. At one point as she recounted her experience, it occurred to me: Sexual assault really can happen to anyone. While I knew this was true, it became all too real for me as I discovered the emotional turmoil my friend experienced over the past few months. Moreover, the fact that her own friend sexually assaulted her makes it all too apparent that the majority of perpetrators know their victims.

I share this story with the hope that we all remember to support our loved ones who experience sexual assault. Remember, it is not always easy to know who is a survivor of sexual abuse just by looking at them. We need to provide comfort, love, and an open-mind to our survivors. We need to allow them to share their story and truly be heard.

Written by: MK

Mother Indicted for Raping Her Own Children

I recently came across a story that blew my mind! As we all know rapists come in all forms, shapes, sizes, backgrounds and genders. Even though we all know this we oftentimes do not stop and think about it. I came across the story of a 50 year old mother who raped and sexually assaulted her two children. It took the children 10 years to come forward and when they finally did authorities took quick and drastic action. The woman was indicted on 38 charges of sexual abuse and incest.

Once the children came forward, two other individuals came forward as well. This woman took her right as a mother and threw it out the window. Parents and adults in general have a certain level of protection towards children whether it be our own or just a child passing by. To sexually abuse any child is a horrible crime but for someone to do it to their own children is a travesty.

Though this story is detrimental to anyone who reads it, there is a positive light. Not only does it show the strength and courage that these children have to come through this and do what is right even though it is their mother, it is also a reflection on the authorities taking charge. The DA that indicted this woman and the police investigating this case left no stone unturned. This is the type of action that needs to be taken with all cases; man, woman or child.

By: Ashten Meadows


Help in the Fight

This story comes from a personal level. This is the story of a young girl who was sexually assaulted by a man more than ten years her senior! He threatened her and told her not to tell. She didn’t. She became pregnant and had the baby and all the while never revealing who the father was. When she finally turned 18 she told her family what had happened and who the child’s father was. The family began to fight to have this man prosecuted but everywhere the family turns in this small town doors as being slammed in their face. This is a tragedy in itself. What is the world coming too that this can simply be brushed aside? There is a petition circulating in hopes to make enough noise that this city takes charge and gives this man what he deserves. Please help in the fight.





By Ashten Meadows

Taylor’s Story

For my 17th birthday, I celebrated I am alive and wanted to make a difference. I raised $1,724 from my friends and family for PAVE.

December 2012

Dear Mom, dad, aunt, uncle, brother or sister,

The silence was shattered for me September 4, 2009. Just like the Sandusky survivors I, too, cried in silence and lived in fear of someone twice my size and a foot taller would come into my bedroom again during the middle of the night after drinking and molest me. I was just thirteen years of age when he started molesting me. My mother ignored me then abandoned me. Safely, I have been living with my dad ever since I shattered the silence.

I hope you never have to see someone in the bed of an emergency room because they tried to commit suicide. My dad, who protects me, experienced this May 26, 2010 when I tried to commit suicide. My grades had dropped and I was behind in school. My abuser continued to taunt me and my family had to move to protect me.

I am not writing you for pity. Right now, someone cries in silence and lives in fear from an abuser. I am writing you to join me and help others shatter the silence. Today, I am asking you to do something I already did for PAVE.

I met Angela Rose who founded PAVE the spring of 2012 when my friend Robin Sax, board member of PAVE, introduced us. I realized bad things happen to good people. It is what we do with this that matters. I realized we can do nothing or stand up and help others shatter the silence. Angela, a fellow victim, survivor, and advocate; needed more of us victims to join her and help others shatter the silence.
I am standing up to those who abuse, neglect and bully. To do this we need money for PAVE.

For my 17th birthday in July 2012 I celebrated I am alive and wanted to make a difference. I raised $1,724 from my friends and family for PAVE.

I am asking you to join me and donate now and help others shatter the silence.

By the way, I graduated high school more than six months early on November 5, 2012 with a grade point
average over 3.2. Your donation today will help someone like me shatter the silence.

Yours in shattering the silence,
Taylor Simpfenderfer
Bellflower California

PS: PAVE is a 501c3 nonprofit and donations can be sent to PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment - PO Box 26354, Alexandria, VA 22313 or CLICK HERE to donate online

When everyone else gives up, find your strength

I went to a very small liberal arts college in Maryland. When I say small, I’m talking under 2,000 students small.  It is the type of school where everybody knows everybody else and you would be hard-pressed to find someone you had never seen before. I can honestly say that during my four years there, I never once didn’t feel safe. It was the type of place where everyone just took care of each other.

I’m not saying that bad things didn’t happen at my school, but when they did it felt like everyone came together. I really believe that every member of my collegiate family, whether students, faculty or staff, cared by each other.

So when I read articles of college students being sexually assaulted by fellow students it always seemed so unfathomable to me.  “That must have happened at a big school,” we would always say. So, when I read a recent article in the New York Times about a sexual assault that happened at another small school, Amhurst College, I couldn’t believe it. Now listen, I’m not naïve enough to think that sexual assault doesn’t happen at every college, even my own alma mater. But what really shocked me to my core was the reaction of the college’s staff and administration.

When the student was ready to seek counseling for her assault, the staff victimized her again. She lived in the same dorm as her attacker, and when she asked to be relocated, she was told she couldn’t move because all of the buildings were full. They also told her that pressing charges would be “useless” as the student was about to graduate. They even asked her if she was “sure she had been raped.”

She could have given up. She could have accepted this as the end of her fight. Instead, this student wrote an article for her school newspaper, telling the story of not only her rape, but her encounter with the school’s staff as well. Her story gave others strength. As the New York Times’ article explains that her article “prompted other Amherst students, past and present, to step forward publicly and say that they, too, had been sexually assaulted here, treated poorly afterward, and in many cases had left campus rather than be around assailants who were allowed to remain.”

While the school’s staff may not have stood behind this victim, the student body did. This small college was outraged at the actions of its staff, and banded together to instill change. With the support of the school’s new president, real change is being made at Amhurst College. While the student no longer attends the school, I can hope that she is proud of the impact she has had there.

This article really hit home with me. It made me proud to go to a school with a staff that was always there for its students, but it also reminded of the power you need to find within yourself. This student could have so easily given up on herself when the staff turned her away. But she didn’t. She found the strength within herself to tell her story. And it changed an entire institution. When everyone else gives up on you, never give up on yourself.

I’m a big fan of quotes, and I think this one really sums up this article:

“My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results… but it’s the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lost, I admire those who fight the good fight.”  – George R. R. Martin


Written by:  Alexandra L.     November 2012