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Since NBC 5 first launched the Survivors Project in April, where former victims of sexual violence shared their stories of survival in an effort to help others, more have come forward with stories they hope will bring about change.
Sharing their journeys out of the darkness as they battled the most difficult moments in their lives has not only brought them healing, it has empowered others and gathered a community, the survivors said.
“As soon as you have the courage to talk about what happened to you, you will then have the ability to heal,” survivor Ken Kaczmarz said.
Kaczmarz had earlier shared the story of his abuse at the hands of an Augustinian Priest, starting when he was 10 years old.
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After the Survivors Project launched, Kaczmarz heard from five other people who had been abused. Those people said they’d never told anyone but were inspired to now share.
“I am glad that I was there as an example for others,” he said.
The latest survivors are no less courageous.
RC Riley was raped by a friend while she was in college. She clearly and very poignantly talks about how she attempted suicide after she was attacked.
“The only thing that I thought about was my mother is going to find my naked body and be embarrassed,” Riley, said. “That’s how detached I was”.
She’s not alone. Rape victims are four times more likely to think about suicide and 13 times more likely to make an attempt, according to a study by the Medical University of South Carolina.
Riley credits therapy for saving her from suicide saying of her therapist, “I never felt like she thought it was my fault… I always thought someone would say it was my fault.”
Riley also began journaling as part of her healing. Those entries led to a one-woman play called, “Wrong Way Journey”, which she continues to stage to this day.
Kelly Sommers was also a college student when she was raped, but her attacker was her then-boyfriend.
“I didn’t think you could be raped if you knew the person,” she said.
In fact, 25 percent of rapes are committed by a current or former intimate partner, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Sommers felt her connection to her attacker also made it difficult for her to get justice. She says she reported her attack but felt dismissed by law enforcement.
“’Oh, you’re the bitter ex-girlfriend, or you’re mentally unstable,’” she said she was told.
“The victim shaming and blaming through the legal system was one of the hardest things,” she said.
Fear of police doing nothing is a factor cited by up to 13 percent of victims as to why they don’t report sexual assault, according to RAINN.
Sommers reached out to us after viewing the Survivors Project online. She said she felt “support” and “connection” to the survivors in the project, even though they had never met, because they had gone through the same things.
“You have a kind of family bond,” she said.