CLINTON — Marcia Lathrop and Kris Ayala have witnessed and experienced sexual abuse and domestic violence.
According to Clinton YWCA Executive Director Shannon Sander-Welzien, someone is raped in this country every 1.3 seconds. On average, a child will have to disclose the sexual abuse he or she is facing seven times before someone believes him or her. One in six women is sexually assaulted.
For Lathrop and Ayala, these figures are more than just statistics. Both survivors spoke during the Take Back the Night event Wednesday night at Ashford University. Dozens of people walked to end rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence.
Lathrop was 4 when she was first sexually assaulted by an elderly man who babysat her. It began with playing games and progressed to where he was buying her nice dresses, which she could not wear before he helped her take a bath. The one time she ran away from him, she was beaten at home for leaving his house.
“There is not a thing at 4 years of age I could have done to keep that guy away from me,” Lathrop said.
However, this did not prevent her from feeling guilty for what happened at that man’s house. She continued that this guilt silences many victims of sexual abuse.
“Because sexual abuse makes the victim feel like it’s all her fault,” Lathrop said.
This first instance of abuse was not the only one in her life. Now an instructor at Clinton Community College and serving at the First Brethren Church in Lanark, Ill., Lathrop still is affected by what happened to her as a child.
“My outward scars are healing and many of them have begun to fade,” Lathrop said. “But I can never erase the fact that I was raped at 4 years of age.”
Ayala was assaulted several years ago while serving in the military. However, she told the crowd Wednesday night that she has actually been affected by sexual abuse all of her life: when she was a child watching her father raping her mother; when at age 9, a boy wanted to “play tag” and touched her inappropriately; when her former fiance told her that if she loved him, she would service his friends to pay off his debts. She just thought these things were normal.