I had the chance to interview Jenna Quinn recently. Jenna is a triumphant survivor of sexual abuse, author, speaker, and the survivor behind Jenna’s Law. She has become a valiant warrior against sexual abuse of children and adolescents.
Jenna went to the same school as my own children. Sexual abuse can happen anytime, anywhere…to anyone.
I asked Jenna to answer some questions….
What would you say was the most important factor in you overcoming the trauma of sexual abuse?
I’ve learned that the road from trauma to growth is hardly a straight line and it’s not a simple process, but the onset, the beginning of that journey, can be simple. I found it ironic, that what was used as a weapon against me, was also what healed me—relationship and connection to others including a restored connection with my faith. When I was too weak to fight for myself I had an army of support to both rally around me and fight for me. My parents, my two sisters, and the unwavering support of the Children’s Advocacy Center consistently and compassionately answered those questions for me that so many survivors struggle with “Who am I? What is my value? What is my worth? Am I really worth all this effort?” That support is what made me believe my life was actually worthy of support.
Why are advocacy centers important for children?
I had counselors who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. As I slowly started to believe in the work they put into me, to believe that I was deserving of the support they gave me, I started to appreciate my own life again.
Through counseling, I began to find my voice and I discovered a new love for self-expression. Talking and writing about my feelings helped me understand myself and create meaning out of the trauma I had experienced.
You have said in talks before that sexual abuse is two times more common than cancer. But that number only reflects the known cases, right?
It’s estimated that there are 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America alone. To give a comparison, this means the prevalence is about 2 x more common than the amount of Americans living with cancer.
Jenna's Law was passed in May 2009. It is the first child sexual abuse prevention law in the US and named after Jenna Quinn. It mandates training for kindergarten through twelfth grade for both students and school staff.
What does this training consist of?
The school districts have the power to decide how they want to implement the training and must answer to the state education agency. Many schools have chosen to use the program Nationally known as, Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe, for students Pre-K-12th grade. This program is research- based and helps children and teens learn the skills to prevent or interrupt cycles of neglect, bullying, and child abuse—physical, emotional, and sexual (including on-line safety). Each session is only 45 minutes and can be given by a volunteer. More information can be found here: https://www.childhelp.org/subs/childhelp-speak-up-be-safe/
Can any of this really have an impact?
My hope lies within the research that demonstrates this crime is preventable. My favorite statistic of all is that 95% of child sexual abuse is preventable through education. This is where Jenna’s Law education has helped students in TX and all across the country recognize and report.
How can parents make it easier to have their children talk about this subject?
Going back to the day I first made my outcry I know one thing for certain. If my sister had not asked me those five simple words, “Has anyone ever hurt you?” I can’t say for sure if I would ever have another opportunity to tell. Although it was difficult to tell her, I was relieved that she believed me. It only takes moments to empower a child’s voice, but it can take years, or even a lifetime for them to get their voice back. From my own experience I know how crucial it is for schools and families to teach children prevention and that it’s OK to tell. Since 90% of the time a child is sexually abused by someone they know and trust it’s also important for parents to talk openly to their kids about boundaries and instill trust that if their child does disclose, they will be believed and supported-regardless of who the perpetrator is.
Jenna’s book- “Pure in Heart: A Memoir of Overcoming Abuse and Passing Jenna’s Law can be found on Amazon”.