Talking About What Happened: A Critical Step in Processing the Trauma of Sexual Abuse and Saving Lives

Talking About What Happened: A Critical Step in Processing the Trauma of Sexual Abuse and Saving Lives

A sexual abuse experience is one of the most powerful and painful experiences a person can face and, in many cases, it is an episode that is not talked about within the family, either because of shame or fear of stigmatization, or due to the false belief that silence will avoid further problems.

The fourth season of the Talk Show #YoDigoNoMas began with the story of Mike Spano, mayor of Yonkers, New York. As a 12-year-old boy, Spano was sexually abused while walking home from a shopping trip at his mother’s request.

Except for the conversation he had that day with the police detectives who handled his case, Spano kept silent for decades about what happened to him. Even when these events that marked his life forever occurred, he did not receive a hug or words of validation from his family. His experience of sexual abuse became a topic that no one ever wanted to talk about.

While Spano managed to overcome this trauma, despite not having psychological care or being able to verbalize the emotional burden he lived with for years, many survivors of sexual abuse are not as fortunate. Psychological support is essential to adequately process the trauma generated by sexual abuse.

Emotional launch to say No More to sexual abuse

This Wednesday, January 18th at 8:00 p.m., the first episode of the fourth season of the Talk Show #YoDigoNoMas premiered, starring Mike Spano, mayor of Yonkers, New York, and survivor of child sexual abuse. Through his actions, he has sought to prevent other children from suffering the painful experience he lived through at an early age.

During the minutes leading up to the launch, emotions were running high, not only because of the fact that a man dared to reveal his story of abuse, which is not easy; but also because, for the first time in the history of the Talk Show, a government official dared to share such a painful and private story.

“I think it’s a little more difficult for men to share these kinds of stories. His courage is admirable.” Juan Murillo

When he began his story, there were times when Spano seemed to be transported to that wooded place where someone else took advantage of his vulnerability and fears, but at the same time managed to remain calm in an extraordinary way, which helped him manage to get out of that adverse situation.

“It is shocking. While he was talking, I could see that 12-year-old boy in his eyes”. Natalie Cañas

However, his words and the conviction with which he told his story, evidenced the character that, from an early age, was being forged in that little 12-year-old boy who had the courage to denounce what had happened to him. And he was later motivated to talk about his “incident” when he was a young government official in the New York State Assembly, with the aim of pushing for the approval of “Megan’s Law” to protect minors from sex offenders.

“It’s hard to believe that a strong man who works every day for the welfare of his community, was that helpless child whose innocence was stolen by someone.” Carolina Baena

On April 30th, 2022, Mayor Spano joined the First March Yo Digo No más a la Violencia Sexual, here he shared his story. Now, with the full conviction that speaking out can save many lives, he decided to share his story on the #ISayNoMore Talk Show.

“I was deeply moved to see his bravery and to think of all the years he carried all this pain alone.” Paola Cruz

His courage and resilience were tangible as he unveiled that story he kept for years in his heart. Despite not having received therapy when the events took place, this experience, he said, made him stronger and turned him into the person he is today.

Breaking the Silence to Stop Sexual Abuse and Save Lives

Those who have survived an experience of sexual abuse agree that only when they talk about their experience of abuse do they manage to get rid of heavy emotional burdens that have a strong impact on their lives.
In addition, despite the high prevalence of abuse, it is perhaps the most underreported crime to the authorities. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 63% of sexual assaults go unreported, which is why many sexual predators feel free to continue destroying the lives of many children and adolescents.
This is why Mike Spano is emphatic in calling on those who have gone through this painful experience to have the courage to tell their story: “your story can save lives,” he said. 

Although in his case it was not possible to get the perpetrator imprisoned, reporting should always be the first option, in order to prevent more people from becoming victims of sexual abuse.

 Why is it important to talk about a sexual abuse experience?

Many of the problems that people face on a daily basis in their interpersonal relationships are related to emotional wounds and traumas from past experiences that have not been healed. 

According to Dr. Kimberly Alba, a trauma specialist, the consequences of trauma that has not been correctly processed can be many, and the impact on the life of the person who suffered the painful experience and the people close to them can have serious repercussions.

Among the most frequent consequences of untreated trauma are the following:

– Psychic trauma increases over time.

– It can affect other generations of the same family nucleus.

– In some cases, victims may become sexual offenders.

– Some victims of sexual abuse make attempts on their lives.

Likewise, mental problems such as depression, derived from an experience such as sexual abuse, can become a cause of disability and suicide. A good part of the 700,000 suicides that are registered each year has their origin in this mental illness.
In traumas such as those generated by sexual abuse, the accompaniment of a mental health professional is essential, and organizations such as the #YoDigoNoMas Movement can provide tools to know how to act in the face of a case of sexual abuse, as well as a safe space for survivors of abuse to share their story and begin a healing process.