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Abuse Survivor Becomes Voice for the Voiceless

Author and speaker Jenna Quinn shares her story of surviving sexual abuse and how to protect others. Read Transcript


Jenna Quinn is a child abuse prevention advocate, speaker,

and author.

She helped implement Jenna's Law, which requires

sex abuse education in Texas.

Today, similar legislation has been mandated in over half

of America's schools.

And while she knows all the statistics about child sex

abuse, her fight against this epidemic

comes from her own personal experience.

Jenna was 13 when her best friend's

father sexually assaulted her for the first time.

Intense shame, fear, and withdrawal followed.

Then after three years of suffering in silence,

she finally broke free from the abuse

and brought her tormentor to justice.

In her book, "Pure In Heart," Jenna

shares her journey through sexual assault,

from fear to forgiveness.

She gives warning signs to look for

and offers hope to survivors.

Well, joining me now is Jenna Quinn.

Jenna, great to have you with us.

Thank you for having me.

You know, most people hear the statistic

one in three girls, one in six boys,

are going to experience this in their lifetime,

but most of us--

it's so-- I guess it's such anathema to us that we think,

not my child, not my grandchildren.

How did this begin for you?

So this really began--

and my story is not an uncommon story.

Over 90% of the time, a child is sexually abused by someone

that they know.

But it's not just someone that they know,

it's also someone that they trust.

And so perpetrators use this relationship

as a deposit for the child's silence.

It's much easier to tell on a stranger

than it is a family member or a friend.

You say that you were groomed by the person that

did this to you.

What do you mean by that?

How did he do that?

So children are groomed and families are groomed as well.

And so he groomed my family to trust him.

Establishing relationship with them and--

Yes, establishing relationship and oftentimes

these perpetrators, they will groom.

They look for isolated, one on one situations

where they can be with these children alone.

Once this happened to you, how did it affect you?

How did it change your personality,

change the way you thought and felt?

So we do know that the enemy comes

to steal, kill, and destroy.

And what I experienced is that, with this crime,

all three are accomplished in one moment,

because innocence is stolen and your spirit is crushed.

I felt part of my spirit was killed.

And then it destroyed my relationship with myself,

the way I viewed myself, my relationship with God,

and especially my relationships with other people.

Just the trust factor alone would be broken.

You know, building those walls.


In your situation, this was a very close family friend.

Actually, his family and your family were very close.

How could it have been different?

I mean, how-- when someone is approaching a child like that--

let me start even before you ask that with,

how did he get you not to tell?

Because that's the first thing people think-- they think,

well if someone's doing something wrong,

and it makes you feel bad, that every child is

going to go tell?

But 2/3 of them don't.

It is, that's right.

2/3 will not.

And this is largely the most under-reported crime

that we see.

And many times there are threats and that 90% factor

really plays into why children don't tell.

Oftentimes, they are threatened.

I was threatened.

And when you're a child and an adult threatens you,

especially if you feel like you did something wrong,

you did something to bring that on-- which is what I thought--

the child will not say anything.

And then there's also consequences for loved ones.

You know, there's the primary child that's been offended,

but then there are secondary victims as well.

The perpetrators have families of their own oftentimes.

And my parents, the betrayal, you know,

kids don't want to disappoint their parents.

Well, there's a shame factor involved too.

Were you afraid ever that you wouldn't

be believed if you told people?

I did fear that.

And many children fear--

not this guy.

This person would never do something like that.

And that's what we hear all the time with this type of crime.

I mean, these perpetrators are likable people.

They know how to groom.

They're very strategic.

And when they strike--

Even in the way he talked to you, about what we are doing

and our problem, sort of brings you into it

as though somehow you have fault in the whole process.


For a child to work through all of that

is almost impossible.

What were some of the ways that you exhibited

that something was wrong?

So the emotional component was there,

but behaviorally, I changed in almost every way possible.

I went from being outgoing and social to withdrawn, depressed.

I had insomnia and night terrors, awful night terrors.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, halfway

down the stair landing, with my hand on the rail

and my heart's beating out of my chest.

And I would wake up that way.

And I didn't know how I got there.

So these night terrors would come upon me.

And the depression and the suicide, because children

feel there's no way out.

And when you're a child, especially when you're

a teenager, kids can't wait.

You know, they can't wait for freedom.

So I have two questions for you.

What would you say to someone who might be watching us right

now who was abused as a child or even is being abused,

but hasn't told anyone yet?

I would say it's so important for you to tell,

but don't just tell anyone.

Tell someone who is going to help you.

Silence and shame are the enemy's weapon

of choice with this crime.

The American Medical Association has

said that this is a silent epidemic, because it is truly

the silence that kills.

You know, Psalms 32:3, David said, when I was silent,

my bones wasted away.

So tell.

Start that process.

And for parents--

they need to talk to their kids about this.

They do.

Absolutely talk to your parents.

And talk to your kids about this,

because my parents didn't know what the signs were.

They didn't know what to look for.

And so education-- 95% of this crime

is preventable through education.

Want you to know, if you or someone you know needs help,

you can call the child abuse hotline.

It's toll-free.

It's 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

And if you want to know more about Jenna's story--

because there's lots of wisdom in her book

as well-- it's called "Pure At Heart."

It's available nationwide.

You know, we need to get on top of this

and change that statistic.

It's far too great.

Thank you--

Thank you

--for what you do, for being with us today,

and for sharing your story.


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