The following post shares the experience of Lori, a volunteer with BARCC’s Survivor Speakers Bureau. *Content note: childhood sexual violence.
Lori is a loving mother of three, a successful attorney, and a lifelong athlete. She’s also a survivor of two years of sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor she used to babysit for. Today, Lori describes herself as a strong, brave fighter. But that hasn’t always been the case.
At age 12, Lori got a summer job looking after four kids who lived a few houses down the street from her family. The father was an accountant who worked from home. What began as comments from him about her body turned into ongoing sexual abuse.
“I tried wearing baggy clothes and avoiding him, but he always found a way for us to be alone in the pool and would corner me,” said Lori. “He threatened to kill me if I screamed, and would hold me under water if I made too much noise. He said no one would ever believe me, and it was my fault.”
Lori did what many children do: they believe what they are told. And they protect the people they love.
“He also threatened to kill my brother and my parents if I told anyone,” she said. “I felt a great sense of needing to hide what was happening, to put on a brave face, and to keep my family safe. I was petrified of anyone knowing.”
At age 16, Lori broke her silence for the first time. After having a nightmare, she told her boyfriend about the abuse.
“I made him promise not to tell anyone, but he told his parents. . . . They convinced me to speak with a psychologist. I saw her for six months before I got up the nerve to tell my parents. I remember my heart pounding, my mom crying. . . . Both my parents felt terrible.”
Lori continued counseling off and on during high school and college but never found anyone she clicked with.
“What happened completely impacted my ability to trust people. My confidence just plummeted. I felt like no one would ever love me. The thing that was the biggest help for me in college was the women’s group that ran Take Back the Night. I attended every year and got up the courage to speak both my junior and senior years.”
At age 24, at an extremely low point in her life, Lori found a new therapist. This time, they clicked. Over five years of counseling, at last, Lori began to heal.
But, despite going to college locally and seeing counselors in the area, it wasn’t until 2011 that Lori learned about BARCC—from a coworker. Their company had a table at the Champions for Change Gala each year, and Lori was invited to attend.
“It was an amazing and super emotional experience for me,” Lori said. “I was so in awe of the speakers and yet wished I could be one. It was tough because none of my coworkers knew my history, so I felt a bit like I was hiding my emotions. I was very inspired and eager to help in any way I could.”
A couple of years after her first Gala, Lori decided to volunteer with BARCC’s Survivor Speakers Bureau. This is a group of survivors who are trained as community educators and speak publicly about their personal experiences with sexual violence. Lori went through training to join the group in 2014.
“It is cathartic for me to share my story and makes me feel believed all over again. Without BARCC, I think I would still feel like there wasn’t a place that I belonged. And knowing you are helping people like me every day for free—it means the world to me. No one should have to worry about how they are going to pay for services while taking the brave step to even seek help for such a traumatic event in their lives.”
BARCC offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. Learn more about our services or call our 24-hour hotline at 800-841-8371.