Breaking The Silence
By Genia Geddings
Sumter Herald Writer
“Growing up means different things to each of us,”
Sumter resident, Patty Hopson shares, “for some
there are wonderfully fond memories, for others
there are ugly bad memories. For me, growing up
included being the 'shameful, guilty, worthless little
girl' always trying to please everyone in order to be
accepted and that made me an easy target. My vulnerability
and low self-esteem and the need to feel
loved, made me a delightful target for an evil molester.
Looking back, I have learned to consider the
tough times as part of what has made me who I am.
And I have credited God for letting me go through
even the most difficult times, because I know who I
am, and I have seen what others have become.”
Patty shares her story because she believes in
speaking out against any type of abuse women and
children sometimes endure. Of course her passion is
to speak out about childhood sexual abuse and
encourage other victims to speak also. “Unless victims
break the silence the child molesters will continue
to get away with their crimes,” Patty explains.
As a victim of childhood molestation, Patty
remained silent. She did not want to cause any problems
and she was told by her molester that her family
would not believe her if she told them. The
molester was right. Patty was thirty-six years old
before she finally came to grips with the truth and
told her immediate family that she had been
molested by another related family member.
When Patty contacted officials in Ohio, which
is the state she lived in with her parents as a
child, she was told the Statute of Limitations had expired.
Patty found she had three years past
her eighteenth birthday to press charges.
“I do not feel crimes committed against children
should have a Statute of Limitations. Most children
will not talk about the past and what happened to
them until it is too late. I was embarrassed, ashamed
and scared of my family and abuser when I was
younger and it was not until I started having problems
as an adult that I had the courage to even admit
that I had been sexually abused.”
Encouraged to speak out, Patty wrote a letter to the
editor of numerous papers entitled “Breaking the
Silence is Crucial to Protecting our Children.” This
letter encouraged Ohio citizens to contact their lawmakers
and request the Statute of Limitations laws
for Child Sexual abuse be changed. "When I wrote
those letters everything fell apart. I was blamed for
what had happened to me as a child, rejected by my
family and even threatened. But others came forward
and I found I was not alone," says Patty.
“After my letter was published I was contacted by
Marci Hamilton, a Professor in Public Law,” Patty
states, “Prof. Hamilton told me about a bill that was
going before the Senate which was requesting the
Statute of Limitations be changed to at least twenty
years. Also, a request was being made that victims
during the 1970 era have a one year window to come
forward and file charges regarding sexual abuse they
suffered during those years. I was invited to speak
before the Judiciary Committee in the House of
Representatives about why the statute needed to be
In 2006, the bill was voted on and the House of
Representative took out the window regarding the
1970 era, but they did allow a Registry that would
allow victims to file a judgment against their sexual
predator. Victims would have to produce enough
evidence to support the abuse charges and if the
Attorney General felt the evidence was sufficient,
charges would be presented.
Statistics of sexual abuse are deplorable. National
statistics show that one in four girls and one in six
boys will become victims of sexual abuse before the
age of eighteen. One in five children will be solicited
sexually while on the internet. And nearly seventy
percent of all sexual assaults occur to children
seventeen and under. In South Carolina, victims of
childhood sexual assault have six years from their
twenty-first birthday to bring charges against their
In June of 2006, Patty co-founded LavenderPower.org.
The purpose of Lavender Power is to let others
know they are not alone and they do have support
without being judged.
The website offers lavender bracelets to symbolize
unity and E-magazines for survivors to view.
The magazine offers encouragement but also
celebrates with those who use their talents through
arts, poetry and other ways to heal by allowing
them the opportunity to share on line.
A child’s safety is the job of an adult. We need to learn the facts. Know
where our children are going to be and who they are
going to be with. Know the realities. Eliminate the
one adult/one child situation. By minimizing opportunity
you will dramatically lower the risk. Talk with your children. Barriers can be broken and they will share if they know you are truly concerned.
Don’t expect the signs of sexual abuse to be obvious.
Be alert. If you learn your child has been abused, know how
to react, where to go and who to call. Act on your
suspicions; your child’s future depends on it. Get
involved. Even the adults we trust to protect our
children can not always be trusted.
Patty will continue to work diligently by hosting support
groups over the internet and speaking at events sponsored
by various organizations in Sumter and Columbia. She
has been invited to speak on a talk show in Orlando this
month and attend a walk in Washington, DC with Stop
the Silence. But unless victims are willing to speak out
against their perpetrators the abuse will not stop. Statistics
show nearly 70% of all child sex offenders have between one
and nine victims. An average serial molester has as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. An abuser wants control and by silencing his victim
he has achieved that control. It is important that
each of us Break the Silence and speak out against
Child Sexual Abuse.
Patty will continue her fight to
be heard. She does not want other children to suffer
the pain, embarrassment and shame she felt growing
up. She will continue to speak out and Break the
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