Aly Raisman leads Speaking of Women’s stand against domestic, sexual abuse

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Debra A. Greenwood, president and CEO of the Center for Family Justice, speaks at the annual Speaking of Women luncheon at The Waterview in Monroe Tuesday.

Radio personality Anna Zap interviewed gymnastics star and gold medal winner Aly Raisman Tuesday, while the two women sat in comfy chairs onstage at The Waterview for the Center for Family Justice’s 22nd annual Speaking of Women luncheon.

The interview was also displayed on TV monitors for the packed audience, which included local business professionals, politicians, police officers and volunteers.

Aly Raisman, an Olympic gold medal winning gymnast, was the keynote speaker at The Speaking of Women luncheon at The Waterview in Monroe Tuesday. Contributed

Raisman was not the keynote speaker for her Olympic achievements. Rather it was for her bravery in speaking out publicly, after being one of the many victims sexually abused by former Olympic team physician Larry Nassar.

“It is so important to support a survivor when they come forward, because if they’re not supported it feels like they’re being abused all over again,” Raisman said.

She said education and open discussions about the problem of sexual, domestic and child abuse is important.

Proceeds from Tuesday’s fundraiser benefit the Center for Family Justice, which provides support and services to all victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and child abuse. The nonprofit serves the towns of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.

The center, located at 753 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport, also educates the community on how to break the cycle of violence by building relationships, empowering communities and mobilizing bystanders to speak out about abuse and violence.

“The numbers are rising, and people may think there is more abuse going on in Monroe,” said Debra A. Greenwood, president and CEO of CFJ. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. More people are educated at what abuse looks like. We’re hearing about it more. We’re reading about it more. We’re raising awareness.”

Greenwood also praised the men and women in law enforcement, who respond to 911 calls for domestic disturbances when emotions run high and weapons are sometimes involved.

‘Our clients matter’

Kathy Maiolo, board chair of CFJ, said the organization increased programs for Monroe by 230 percent, as well as providing a 26 percent overall increase in services for clients affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Our clients matter,” she said. “We’re transforming lives and that matters. You’re here today because you know it matters. We want our clients to know they matter. Our clients are always at the forefront of the decisions we make. We won’t stop letting them know that hope starts here.”

Joyce Fenterstock, who has a long history of supporting victims of intimate partner violence and abuse as a volunteer and an advocate, was honored with the 2019 Speaking of Women Distinguished Service Award.

She said “despite the amazing work the center does” the problem still persists. As Domestic Violence Month approaches this October, Fenterstock asked everyone to commit themselves to play an even bigger role in raising awareness.

Camp HOPE

A video on Camp HOPE was shown. Children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse enjoy summer recreational activities, including hiking, swimming, sailing, jet-skiing, obstacle courses, arts and crafts and evening campfires at Camp Hi-Rock, on a tranquil private lake in the Massachusetts’ Berkshires.

Camp HOPE is run by The Center for Family Justice in partnership with the Coastal Connecticut YMCA.

Ethan, 17, a Fairfield Prep senior, was among the campers featured in the video. He spoke about his experience at the luncheon.

He said victims of abuse often lose their sense of self worth and feel shame and guilt. “Camp HOPE inspired us to be more than we thought we could be,” Ethan said. “Our futures are bright.”

White Ribbon Campaign

Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg was among the men who participated in the Speaking of Women luncheon at The Waterview Tuesday.

Gary MacNamara, executive director for public safety and government affairs at Sacred Heart University, and the former Fairfield police chief, is chairman of CFJ’s White Ribbon Task Force.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a male effort to combat domestic violence, sexual abuse and child abuse.

“Most offenders are men, but most men aren’t offenders,” MacNamara said. “Women are not going to solve this problem alone. We all have to work together.”

“In the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault, the presence of men matters,” he said, before looking around the dining room and adding, “it’s important that there are men here. We need to be there to be present, supportive and to speak out.”

Aly Raisman

Anna Zap, co-host of “The Anna and Raven Show” on Star 99.9, was master of ceremonies at the Speaking of Women luncheon at The Waterview in Monroe Tuesday.

Raisman called for more education about abuse for everyone who works with children at youth organizations and schools, as well as parents and children.

“You don’t want to scare them, but you want children to understand it,” she said. “Even if you don’t tell mom or dad, it’s important to tell somebody.”

As in the case of Nassar, Raisman said abusers sometimes have many victims, so coming forward and reporting the abuse can help others by putting a stop to it.

“Abusers are very good at making you feel like they love you,” Raisman said. “Just because somebody says they love you, it doesn’t make the bad things they do to you okay.”

Raisman warned against adults trying to get alone time with a child, taking an excessive number of photos of a child and giving gifts, all behaviors that can be red flags.

Victim shaming

When the Olympic sex abuse scandal was in the news, Raisman said a lot of people wondered aloud, “why are the athletes just speaking out now?” But she said those people were not listening because some spoke out as early as 1997.

However, in cases where a victim comes forward 20 years later, Raisman asks people to understand how difficult it can be for victims to speak out, adding that person may have told someone in the past only to be shot down.

Unfortunately, Raisman said victim shaming is part of our culture. She used the example of a young woman sexually assaulted on a college campus being judged for wearing a short miniskirt and having too much to drink.

“It’s 100-percent not her fault,” Raisman said. “Women should be able to wear whatever they want anytime of night and not worry about being assaulted. They are not asking for it.”

Of her own abuse, Raisman said some people say, “what do you expect? You were wearing a leotard.”

She said a “family friend and a nice guy” brought up the news of a sexual assault and, without knowing the accused, said, “I know he didn’t do it.”

Raisman asked the friend if he was in the room and when he said no, she said, “so don’t say anything. You’re victim shaming.”

“I’m not saying I’m right all the time,” Raisman added. “I’m not right all the time. But I still want to have conversations and learn.”

Still healing

Raisman read an impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing last year, and filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics and the USOC claiming both organizations “knew or should have known” about the ongoing abuse.

She also talks about surviving sexual abuse in her New York Times bestselling memoir, “Fierce.”

But even though she has spoken out publicly, Raisman said she is only 25-years-old and it is not easy. She said triggers often bring back the trauma.

Raisman said she meditates, has a good support system and tries not to talk about the abuse every day and to live in the moment. On bad days, when she feels very tired and doesn’t want to leave the house, her therapist encourages Raisman to rest and watch a funny movie.

Raisman said she tries to take care of herself and to be comfortable with where she is in the healing process.

When people tell her stories of their own abuse, Raisman said she listens and tries to be supportive, while encouraging them to get help.

“There’s no maps,” she said. “What works for me, might not work for somebody else.”

One thought on “Aly Raisman leads Speaking of Women’s stand against domestic, sexual abuse

  1. Women Against Registry advocates for the families who have loved ones required to register as sexual offenders.
    More about the issue:
    According to the NCMEC map there are over 912,000 men, women and children (as young as 8 and 10 in some states) required to register and the “crimes” range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, incest, mooning, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive OR suggestive images of anyone 18 years old or younger, playing doctor, prostitution, solicitation, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, rape, endangering the welfare of a child, the old bait-n-switch internet stings (taking sometimes 12 months before a person steps over the line) guys on the autism spectrum or with intellectual disabilities and many others.

    If you multiply the number on the registry by 2 or 3 family members you can clearly see there are well over 3 million wives, children, moms, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers and other family members who experience the collateral damage of being murdered, harassed, threatened, children beaten, have signs placed in their yards, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, asked to leave their churches and other organizations, children passed over for educational opportunities, have flyers distributed around their neighborhood, wives lose their jobs when someone learns they are married to a registrant….all these things occur when these people try to hold their family together and provide the three things that professionals indicate are needed for successful reintegration; a job, a place to live and a “positive” support system.

    The Supreme Court’s Crucial Mistake About Sex Crime Statistics – ‘Frightening and High’ (Debunks the 80% recidivism rate cited by now SCOTUS Justice Kennedy)

    It is very important that you read the abstract below and then the full 12 page essay by Ira Mark and Tara Ellman.
    ABSTRACT This brief essay reveals that the sources relied upon by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, a heavily cited constitutional decision on sex offender registries, in fact provide no support at all for the facts about sex offender re-offense rates that the Court treats as central to its constitutional conclusions. This misreading of the social science was abetted in part by the Solicitor General’s misrepresentations in the amicus brief it filed in this case. The false “facts” stated in the opinion have since been relied upon repeatedly by other courts in their own constitutional decisions, thus infecting an entire field of law as well as policy making by legislative bodies. Recent decisions by the Pennsylvania and California supreme courts establish principles that would support major judicial reforms of sex offender registries, if they were applied to the facts. This paper appeared in Constitutional Commentary Fall, 2015. Google: Frightening and High

    A study reviewing sex crimes as reported to police revealed that:
    a) 93% of child sexual abuse victims knew their abuser;
    b) 34.2% were family members;
    c) 58.7% were acquaintances;
    d) Only 7% of the perpetrators of child victims were strangers;
    e) 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s own home;
    f) 20% take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative (Jill Levenson, PhD, Lynn University)

    There is a tremendous need to fund programs like “Stop It Now” that teaches parents how to begin and maintain a dialog with their children to intervene before harm occurs and about grooming behaviors as well as other things at age-appropriate levels in their Circles of Safety.
    Our question to the public is one of, when does redemption begin?
    We support the principles of Restorative/Transformative Justice; restore the victim, restore the offender AND restore the community.

    Lastly, our country is proud to be ‘the incarceration nation’ with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated.

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