SPECIAL REPORT: Spreading awareness about sexual assault - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

SPECIAL REPORT: Spreading awareness about sexual assault

(Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC) (Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC)
CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. 

KPLC/KVHP has agreed to keep our victim's identity hidden, but she wants to share her experience with sexual assault. She will share her story under the name Jane. 

Jane was only a toddler when a family member began touching her inappropriately. The abuse Jane experienced lasted for years, and for awhile, she was able to block out what happened. But when she became a teenager, something triggered and brought up all those memories again, reminding her of the pain she was trying so hard to forget.

"I come from a higher middle-class family; I have two very loving parents, siblings; I went to a good school. I had a normal upbringing, but sexual abuse doesn't really discriminate," she said.  

But Jane became a victim of sexual assault when she was less than  4 years old 

"I was asked about it whenever I was about 4, so it had been happening before I was 4," said Jane.  

And she said the person assaulting her was her grandfather.

"It was something that he wanted to do and he did, because I was so young," explained Jane.  

The abuse continued until Jane was in the 4th grade. Her mother began to suspect something was wrong--- so Jane told her.

"She basically told me that it was inappropriate and that I wasn't supposed to let it happen again, and that is how it was handled," said Jane.  

Jane said her mother confronted her grandfather and tried to keep her away from him, but it wasn't enough.  

"He denied it and I don't know how often she confronted him, but I do know that she did a few times," said Jane.   

And as the abuse continued Jane felt like nothing would change.

"I was like 'why are we even doing this? He's not going to admit to it and it won't even do anything; it's not going to change anything if he does admit to it. I mean, in my head, we didn't do anything about it before when you first found out so, what's the point in confronting him now," she said.

Jane eventually got to a point where she blocked out all the vivid details of her abuse. Then, when she was 15 all those memories returned.

"It was in the middle of the night. I was on the phone with a friend - a very close friend - and I think that I just couldn't mentally take it anymore," she said.

"We see several people who were molested or raped as children or young adults and they don't deal with it for several years and then, when they get into their teenage years or their adulthood, then those things come back to them," said Kathy Williams, Oasis Women's Shelter executive director.

 Williams said has met a lot of women like Jane who usually know their abusers.

"We warn our kids about the strange man in the park and it's not always that - it's the nice guy next door; it's the uncle you've been going to baseball games with; it's the female teacher that you really trusted in your life," said Williams."There's not a face to it; it can be anybody." 

The number of victims in Lake Charles is rising. Last year, Oasis served 802 victims of sexual assault - 700 of those were adults and 102 were children. 

"Calcasieu, of course, had the most; Beauregard had 55; Jeff Davis had 10 and then the rest was kind of Calcasieu," said Kelli Barnes., Oasis Women's Shelter community educator. 

For Barnes, it shocks her to see this numbers rising each year in our area. 

"It kind of threatens everyone in the community their sense of safety," said Barnes. "This is going on everywhere." 

But sexual assault is continuing to increase in our area year after year.

In 2014 the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's office worked 310 sexual assault cases.

In 2015 that number increased to 359 and by 2016 it had jumped to 423. Last year 212 victims were between the age of ten to 17 while 148 victims were from birth all the way up to nine-years-old. 

Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Stitch Guillory said the hardest cases for his detectives to work are the ones that involve children. 

"I can say every time, you don't just leave that at work - it comes home with you. When you lay in the bed at night and go to sleep, you think about your victims."

For many victims of sexual abuse, therapy is necessary so they can move forward with their lives.

"It's a lot of times go to sit with your peers who have experienced the same things that you have and kind of help each other get through it," said Barnes. 

For over 10 years, Jane has been going to therapy to work through her trauma.

Jane's mother never reported her grandfather and he died without ever being held accountable for the abuse they say he inflicted on Jane.  

"It's such a, like a deep-seated kind of damage that not being around the person isn't enough to where you say, 'OK, I'm not around him; it's done," said Jane. "It's more you have to find the closure within yourself." 

Jane has worked to move on with her life, graduating college, becoming a wife and even a mother. But even though the physical abuse is over for Jane and other victims of sexual assault - it never really ends.

"It will always be a part of me, but I think what I am working towards is making it a positive part of me   

Those who have become victims of sexual assault or know someone who has experienced sexual assault can reach out to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office or Lake Charles Police Department to report a case.

You can also reach out to Oasis, where they provide free and confidential help. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Copyright KPLC 2017.  All rights reserved.

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