Aware of the importance of letting more people know how to prevent sexual abuse and to expose people who are willing to harm children and young people, Mike Spano, Mayor of Yonkers (New York)
Although he kept silent for many years, his work as a government official has allowed him to positively impact people who, like him, have suffered sexual violence firsthand. In this regard, he recalls the first time he spoke about his “incident” when he was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1992, as part of the movement that led to the passage of “Megan’s Law”.
At the time, Mike Spano was 27 years old, the youngest member of the Assembly, and worked to advance the movement that made it possible to pass the bill requiring the registration of sex offenders and the dissemination of information regarding the description and location of sexual predators to the community when they pose a risk.
This process became an opportunity for him to speak, for the first time, about his childhood experience of sexual abuse, because, with the exception of the conversation he had with the police detectives who handled his case, Mike Spano never had the opportunity to talk about what happened to him. His family decided to never bring up the subject and he had to bear his pain in silence.
Near his home, a man stole his innocence.
While walking through a wooded area near his home on the way to buy a gallon of milk, he was approached by a man who asked him if he had any cigarettes, to which he replied that he did not. However, the man grabbed him by the arm and dragged him towards some stairs where he would be out of sight.
Despite the situation he was facing, Mike felt calm and summoned the courage to try to convince this man to let him go. He told him that if he did not allow him to return home, his father would come looking for him and that would create serious problems for him. With this action, he not only succeeded in getting him to let him go, but also arranged a new meeting with the police. He was convinced that he would see to it that people knew about what this man had done.
When Mike got home, he called the police and told them everything that had happened to him. He also told the detectives that he had convinced his attacker to be at the same place the next day, to which the police officers were skeptical.
Against all odds, the next day, they found the man at the scene and, although they managed to catch him, he was later released for lack of physical evidence, adding this case to the thousands that remain unpunished.
The importance of telling your story
Although he is aware that the right thing to do was to have had the space to talk to his parents about what happened to him and to ask for professional help to correctly process the trauma he suffered, Mike Spano feels that having gone through this situation helped him become the person he is today.
His message to people who may be living a similar situation to the one he lived, is that it is important that they are encouraged to share their story because, this way, it is possible to prevent others from becoming victims. It is possible to save lives.
He is also emphatic in mentioning that there are always people around each of the survivors of abuse, who love them and who can provide them with the support they need. In addition, despite how difficult this experience is, it can provide a learning experience and help to prevent others from having to suffer sexual abuse, which can be fundamental to feeling able to overcome this trauma.
Find the full episode here