EDITORIAL-IN MY VIEW-Submitted to The Cape Cod Times, November 2010
“In My View”
Lisa Allen, the survivor of a documented “illegal strip search” in 1991 showed tremendous courage and strength by coming forward recently to share her experience from 19 years ago. Survivors of sexualized assault live their lives, work, and raise families, yet their experiences of victimization forever change them, sometimes in ways revealed only to those closest to them. Even 19 years later, the humiliation of losing control over what belongs only to you – your body, and your choice about what happens to that body is an insult of the worst kind. Sexualized assault at any age is horrific, but sexualized assault at the age of 14 is devastating. Ms. Allen was completely without power to change the situation she was placed in, yet she showed amazing presence of mind to “request a female officer” be present. Unfortunately, her request was denied. We must all place ourselves in Ms. Allen’s situation and give her our support. This could happen to anyone…..female or male. When we accept this possibility, then we understand why Ms. Allen’s story is relevant. The passing of the years does not negate the impact on victims lives. Lisa Allen is a survivor and I applaud her courageous voice.
Ms. Allen’s experience is all too common, yet many survivors’ stories are untold. Speaking out, generally means opening up old wounds, surfacing feelings of shame and/or being judged or labeled. For these reasons sexualized assault remains hidden, and is visible only to those who commit the acts, the victims, and agencies like Independence House where survivors know they are not judged or blamed for “dragging up old stuff”. Although Ms. Allen’s coming forward occurred during the middle of a political season, with the campaigns being “the story” – the “real and more important story” is Ms. Allen, and the courage it took for her to bare her soul. Speaking up is empowering, yet quite risky and requires courage. Ms. Allen has provided an enormous service to other survivors and educated her community while claiming her rightful place as a survivor!
Lysetta Hurge-Putnam, MSW, LICSW