According to Shannon Deitz, survivors of sexual abuse are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to become addicted to alcohol and 26 more times more likely to develop an addiction to drugs. The shame, despair, depression and inability to cope with the painful events lead them to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain.
Deitz believes the annual focusing of public attention on sexual assault and child abuse throughout the month of April can be beneficial in aiding all victims of abuse. “Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected,” she says. “They do not need to be silenced because their situation makes others feel uncomfortable or is too hard to hear. To the contrary, they need people around them who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for them if they choose to go public. During this national month of awareness, the more people will become tuned in to just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone.”
Emphasizing the importance of openness, Deitz tells victims, “If you have suffered abuse at any point in your life and it has debilitated your marriage, your intimate relationships and your friendships, or even caused you to distrust others in general, then I want you to know, as one survivor speaking to another, that you can overcome this. The more you talk about it, the more you will heal. And though the experience will never totally disappear from your past, it will become a chapter in your life that you can eventually close.
For those who know someone who has been abused or assaulted, Deitz encourages them to be good listeners. “Being able to share their story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.”
Deitz should know. It was her willingness to share her stories with others, first through her award-winning book, Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him,and upcoming new release this summer, Redeemed. Today, Deitz continues reaching out to those who are suffering through her speaking engagements, her blog (Just Show Up), ministry website and I Have a Voice.