Megan had what she thought was a normal childhood in a nice home with parents and siblings who cared for her.
However, as a young girl she harbored a secret that would greatly impact her as she grew up — she was sexually abused by someone she trusted when she was 7 years old.
At first she didn’t understand what was happening to her. But by the time she reached middle school the effects of the abuse began to take their toll.
“The abuse became harder and harder to deal with as I grew up and entered high school,” she said. “My life felt like a huge secret. I also felt guilty and ashamed about the abuse.”
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Megan — a pseudonym given by the Herald in order to protect her identity — finally told her mother about the abuse during her junior year of high school.
With the help of counseling and advocates at the Support Advocacy & Resource Center in Kennewick, Megan reported the abuse to police and begin to work through the emotional issues she suffers from.
Now, 18 and a senior in high school, Megan is going to tell her story publicly Saturday as part of SARC’s Strides of Strength Walk, which follows Crime Victims Right Week, April 6-10.
April also happens to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Megan told the Herald the support from SARC, which helps victims of sexual assaults, has helped turn her life around as she battled through depression and an eating disorder.
She is telling her story to reach out to not only survivors of sexual abuse, but anybody who is struggling in life and needs encouragement.
“I know that being a victim can be scary, but reaching out and talking about it is the first step toward recovery,” she wrote in the speech she will deliver Saturday.
Heightening awareness of sexual assault and providing support to crime victims is vital due to the number of survivors who are in the community, said JoDee Garretson, SARC executive director.
Sharing stories of abuse publicly, Garretson said, empowers survivors greatly and inspires those who are afraid of talking about their own experiences with sexual assault.
“It’s tough to understand the impact sexual violence can have if you haven’t been (affected) by it,” Garretson said. “Talking about it makes it much more real and it’s so important that people understand that.”
Garretson encourages the public to come to the event Saturday.
Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 11 a.m. at Lord of Life Church, 640 N. Columbia Center Blvd. in Kennewick.
Cash prizes will be handed out to the the largest and second-largest groups in attendance.
“We hear often from our clients that they feel alone and isolated,” Garretson said. “When they see other people show support it makes them feel stronger and not isolated.”