Starting a new beginning: Local women aim to raise awareness for survivors of childhood sexual assault

For 12 years, something was eating at Shenna Younger to do something about her childhood experiences with molestation and rape.

When she finally found the courage to take the first step, her bravery triggered a chain reaction.

Younger is a Sequim resident, mother of two daughters and survivor of childhood molestation and rape. In April, she posted a photo on Facebook that reached 60,000 online users.

The photo on the right shows her holding a Polaroid picture of her at age 7 — the day she was removed from her home by Child Protective Services after being sexually abused for over three months. The Polaroid she holds on the left shows a present day Younger with “#brave” written in thick black ink on the bottom of the photo taken a few months ago during a retreat for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

She started posting on her personal Facebook page in March about her survivor story before she attended a retreat with The Younique Foundation — an organization that provides a variety of services to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse reclaim what was taken from them.

In her April post she wrote, “This was the day I truly felt brave for the first time in my life … I am beginning. I want to use this page to hopefully help break the silence and make it abnormal to not talk about this.”

Younger said posting online was, “so freeing, it feels like a weight is gone and I want others to experience that.”

Sharing her story online attracted the attention of Bertha Cooper, another Sequim resident and survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Cooper met Younger in public after reading her survivor story online and said, “We are sisters,” and Younger knew exactly what she meant.

Cooper wrote about her own experiences with childhood sexual abuse in April through her column and titled the piece “Frozen Voices.”

In her column, she included an excerpt from a poem she wrote a few years ago that illustrated the feelings and emotions of a person who has experienced childhood sexual assault and abuse.

She said it has been more than 70 years later but she also felt something nagging at her to write the poem.

She wrote, “Anyone who has experienced sexual abuse and assault as a child will recognize the moment and the terrible feelings.’ “

Taking action

For these two survivors of childhood sexual abuse, starting a new beginning means raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence in the Sequim community.

In April, Younger and Cooper decided to make a Facebook page called The Beginning — a page designed to bring awareness, create community and help survivors find resources to reclaim hope. This is where Younger posted the photo of her holding the two Polaroid pictures that she said reached 60,000 Facebook users.

Younger and Cooper decided to take their call to action further by setting up a meeting with Healthy Families’ Executive Director Becca Korby to discuss how to increase awareness and education about domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse in the community.

Younger said in the Sequim community, “we don’t have anything and we need to,” when it comes to raising awareness and creating a support group for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“There is no gender boundary, no ethnic boundary,” Korby said when it comes to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It’s normalized not to tell — and abnormal to tell,” of these experiences in local communities, she added.

To address this issue, Younger and Cooper hope to create a future event to increase education and awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We want to see this as a kick-off for our community,” Younger stated.

Younger said she got the idea for a kick-off event after attending a Mad Hatter Tea luncheon that raised awareness for breast cancer and breast cancer survivors.

“It’s so important to surround everyone with that kind of love and support,” Cooper said.

Korby, Younger and Cooper brainstormed ways to make this event happen. Korby agreed that Healthy Families would be a sponsor of the event and provide materials and resources for the two women to get their support group and kick-off off the ground.

The women’s goals for The Beginning and the event are to increase education and awareness on the part of the public, provide an environment of support and opportunity to share for those who are living with the recall and damage of the experience and increase/bring forth the voice, power and self-acceptance of those who are living with the recall and damage of the experience.

A tentative goal for an event has been set for the fall of 2017 or the spring of 2018.

To learn more about The Beginning, visit https://www.facebook.com/thebeginningpage/ or thebeginningpage@gmail.com.

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