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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Jenny Lynn Anderson is encouraging women to speak out and acknowledge violence against women. Her advocacy is supported in her recently published book ‘Room 939: 15 Minutes of Horror, 20 Years of Healing’.
Her story is based on surviving a brutal robbery and sexual assault in a downtown Atlanta hotel 22 years ago. She offers steps leading to healing and restoration for women who have experienced sexual violence.
Every two minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Anderson’s two minutes came when she was sexually assaulted at the age of 28 while attending a convention. In the two decades since that assault, she’s gone through all the emotional stages (shame, denial, anger, avoidance, post-traumatic stress, depression, and forgiveness). It took 20 years for her to seek counseling to start the healing process and to find the courage to help others by sharing her story.
Today, Anderson is encouraging those who have been sexually assaulted not to consider themselves as victims – but rather as survivors. “It’s a matter of choice in how you think about it,” she explains, “and I choose to call myself a survivor. It’s a key to recovery.”
“Women are not empowered on this topic,” Anderson continues. “First of all, going through a sexual assault turns the woman who has been traumatized inward – they are not comfortable talking about it even with close friends.
Understanding what you’re going through is the first step to any kind of recovery. More than anything, sexual assault and rape victims don’t want to be labeled as such – it makes you feel branded for life with something so hideous and nasty no one will talk about it,” she adds.
Opening up and going to a counselor or other professional for help is critical to the healing process. “But there’s a hesitation,” Anderson explains. “You don’t want to re-open wounds, yet if you don’t, you could possibly suffer other mental stresses such as depression.”
Victims of sexual assault are six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.(1) “Post-traumatic stress can keep survivors of sexual assault from recovering,” Anderson says. “It was 20 years before I sought counseling and that was much too long to wait,” Anderson adds.
Entering counseling began the healing process and speaking out publicly is helping to complete it. Since publishing Room 939, she has travelled the state speaking to womens’ groups, rape/sexual assault crisis centers, book clubs, recovery groups, civic organizations and others.
Anderson’s advice to those who are sexually assaulted – three steps to healing:
For more information about Jenny Lynn Anderson and her book, go to www.jennylynnanderson.com
(1) World Health Organization, 2002
Image Courtesy of http://www.jennylynnanderson.com/