After enduring sexual abuse at the hands of the mental health clinician she turned to while recovering from an abusive relationship, a Boston woman is speaking out to empower and support survivors who are suffering in silence.
Hillary, who asked that her last name be omitted, is one of the hundreds of people pushing to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center by helping organize this Sunday's Walk for Change.
Hillary became involved with BARCC after moving to Boston after college.
"I think just participating in it last year was a really positive experience, but sort of got hooked on the feeling of being around people who care. It felt really good," said Hillary.
The organization estimates that every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.Once acclimated to a community that made her feel safe, Hillary noticed that it was liberating to open up about her experience, and help other survivors of sexual abuse find comfort.
At first it was hard for her to share the harrowing story, which began when she was just a sophomore at a college in New York. Her boyfriend at the time was both emotionally and sexually abusive.
"Abuse just erodes your self esteem. I was in such deep, deep denial," said Hillary. "I reached out for help in an effort to repair things."
She sought solace at the college's mental health center, only to be caused further pain by her mental health counselor.
"I was in a very vulnerable position, and he took a predatory leap and began to sexually abuse me after that," she said. "It took me a very long time. I'm happy to say that my college was amazing, and treated me with dignity and care. [The college] and my family are the two biggest reasons I'm able to talk about this publicly, but not all people are met with help and support."
Hillary said she felt safe after moving to Boston. Having experienced the loneliness of enduring sexual abuse, she now strives to deliver a message of solidarity to fellow survivors.
"When a lot of people think of sexual abuse, they think of strangers - that had been the idea in my mind too, which is why I was in denial. It just didn't compute. But speaking as someone abused by a clinician in a mental health facility, I want survivors of all backgrounds and stories to know that they are not alone. No matter who you are, at the end of the day, you still deserve love and care."
Hillary stressed the importance of BARCC's free and confidential services for helping survivors and their loved ones.
"When survivors feel isolated, having that as an option is sometimes the only way they can seek help. By coming to the Walk for Change, people are supporting the idea that everyone deserves to be cared for and supported while still respecting their safety and dignity," she said.
The Walk for Change kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at DCR’s Artesani Park in Brighton. Registration is $30 for adults, $10 for youth under 12, and $5 for pets. Rates increase by $5 per person on the day of the event.
Those interested in registering may do so at www. barcc.org
More details are also available on the website.