Ending the Silence, one supporter at a time
UPDATE: Good news. I just learned from Mary Ellen that the breakfast raised $307,000!! Organizers had what they called ‘an audacious goal’ of $330k, so there’s still some money to go. Gifts are still coming in, but if you want to help — please do by donating at the KCSARC website — www.kcsarc.org. Kids Are Our Business Breakfast. No one ever used to talk about sexual assault. But today, nearly 850 people joined to stand together against sexual abuse. It’s not an easy subject at 7:30 in the morning, but the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center held its annual “Kids Are Our Business” breakfast at the Westin in downtown Seattle. For 21 years, supporters have come together to end the silence, hear stories of recovery, and offer hope to survivors. For eight of those years, I’ve emceed this event. And something new this year. It’s a powerful thing when we asked ‘those who love a survivor, to please stand’ — and nearly half the room stood up. At least 400 people whose lives have been touched in some way by sexual abuse — whether they know a child, mother, aunt, brother, co-worker or other colleague who has been assaulted, or had to deal with the trauma of such a situation.
Andrea, Fernanda, and Alfredo. There are many stories, including two sisters and a father, telling their story of abuse in a video. Imagine not speaking English as your first language. Where to go for help? What to do? And Alfredo, saddened that he couldn’t protect his daughters. KCSARC came through for them with its ‘Dando Voz’ program featuring services in Spanish. This help, all free, in their native language, helped these girls speak out against their attacker, go through the legal system, and find strength in being a family who survived. The father, Alfredo, told how KCSARC helped his family and how he now considered its counselors part of his ‘family.’ We in turn, told Alfredo that we are part of a greater ‘family’ taking a stand against such crimes.
A Perfect Girl — with a dark secret. University of Washington student Mariah, now 19, told us how she had the perfect life, involved in school, a cheerleader, money for clothes, a car, whatever she wanted. But she hid a dark secret. Her stepfather abused her. And her life turned far from perfect. She told an aunt, and got help. But the one person she most needed was her mother, and the mother believed Mariah’s story, but chose to stay with the stepfather. In the end, KCSARC was able to provide a resolution that helped Mariah, provided counseling for the stepfather through a court deal, and brought Mariah back with her mother. Today, Mariah is at the U-dub and studying to become a pediatrician, all because she had a trusted KCSARC counselor in Kaye who helped her through the ordeal.
A Powerful ‘Ask.’ No one knows how important counseling can be after a sexual assault, than KOMO 4 news anchor Molly Shen. Molly shared what happened to her at age 11 in Missouri, when a man came to her house as she was home alone, reached in and grabbed her around the neck, and raped her. There was no KCSARC in Columbia, Missouri. No couneling, no one to help her with her fears, her nightmares and help her mother with her pain. Molly’s rapist has never been caught. She told me later, there was a ‘person of interest’ in her case, who’s now serving time in prison for another rape, but he’s due out in a couple of years. Her story touched hundreds, who realize how lucky we are to have such a valuable and worthwhile resource in our community.
The next 30 years. KCSARC Executive Director Mary Ellen Stone has been at the helm for 30 years. Today — she offered ‘statistics of hope’ — that cases of sexual assault have dropped 38% in the past 13 years. There is progress, but Mary Ellen says she won’t be happy til that number is 100% and we end sexual assault.
Take a stand. Most of all, I saw a community who has heard the plea for help, and turned out to support an agency that changes lives for the better. People who support KCSARC may never know the names of those they are helping, but they are doing their part to make our community a safer place for children, and for that, I say ‘thank you.’