Jacksonville — April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month as one of many tools used to educate and stimulate dialogue to eradicate sexual violence. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse happens everywhere. But before I report statistics from reliable sources, I share the disclaimer that not a single statistic is completely correct; numbers change daily; assaults go unreported and studies take years. Also, the numbers considered the most recent data stem back to 2018.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center indicates that one in five women in the United States has been sexually assaulted. Almost 25 percent of all men have experienced sexual violence. One in three female victims of both sexual violence and attempted sexual violence range between the ages of 11 and 17; males one in four between the same ages.
Sexual violence is complicated to report. A false accusation includes a lifetime stigma; one that can to ruin reputations. But the mirror works both ways. Victims - particularly women - are sometimes re-shamed into bearing the guilt of having deserved or desired the assault. And while some perpetrators get caught, punished or simply exposed, others remain in the shadows to re-offend.
When writing about sexual violence, the art of professionalism, courtesy and care must be woven into the tapestry of details. And while that sounds journalistic, the reality of reporting sexual violence is extremely heart wrenching. How does one respect one’s privacy - and very often - shame? What words provide comfort to a subject shaking with tears? What narrative scripts an incident that forever changed the trajectory of a life? As a journalist I remain mired in the muddle of hypothetical’s with no answers. But in accepting the story I’m about to disclose, I share the victim’s voice while affording the silent victim, the one huddled in shame on the sidelines, the courage to voice theirs.
My story begins with Rebecca, an elegant and eloquent wife and mother who buried a haunting secret for decades until a social media post rocked her world. Memories, surging through a tsunami of awful, incited not only an anger, but a sense of responsibility to the two people who mattered the most, her husband and her daughter.
The post ignited Rebecca to contact the Jacksonville authorities to report an assault that occurred almost three decades ago. That report then landed on my station desk through a Jacksonville City Special Victims advocate. Within minutes of cordial greetings, I knew I would accept the assignment. And in doing so, I met brave as brave could be.
My questions were simple and straightforward.
Rebecca shyly admitted that she her heart had been nudging her to go public even before the social media outreach. “I just didn’t know if I could speak out,” she said. “Or how. How does one purge one’s soul? I couldn’t choose the time, only to learn that the time would eventually choose me.”
That timing began with social media post to Backseat Becky, a name used to bully a 16-year old, dark-haired beauty. Rebecca was labeled Backseat Becky by a girl from a St. Johns County High School. Oddly enough, it wasn’t even the school Rebecca attended. The budding entertainer attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a school that required an audition for acceptance. Her crime for the punishment scrawled on bathroom walls and floors of the other school? She had unknowingly kissed the boy of another.
Click on the link below to hear the complete podcast with Rebecca
If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted, please note the following:
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center maintains a directory of organizations that lists state and territory sexual assault coalitions, victim/survivor support organizations, and local communities of color sexual assault organizations. If you are anyone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact your state or territory’s coalition to find local resources that provide services to survivors. You can also find a rape crisis center or sexual assault program near you by searching RALIANCE’s directory of local programs.
The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.
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