It seems like every day there is another horrific story about domestic abuse and sex crimes against countless men, women and children, and as more light shines on the dark epidemic of abuse and the echo of its repercussions, more survivors are speaking up.
According to rape survivor-turned-activist Stephanie Henry, victims need support in order to become survivors.
"The fear you have and [the abusers'] control has everything to do with not having any self worth whatsoever," said Henry, who resides in Texas.
A family member began molesting Henry around the age of five, setting the tone for a turbulent, abuse-riddled childhood in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Henry was raped at the age of 13 by her step-brother, pushed through the educational system with no fundamentals, had abortions, battled bulimia, drugs, and alcohol, and was a stripper part-time to make custody payments for her toddler daughter. She even managed to narrowlyescape an unspeakable life of sex slavery, and now,decades out of the darkness, Metro spoke to Henry about how those caught in the cycle of violence can seek help.
On being abused as a young child:
"Most of the time it's a continuous phase, especially when you're living in the home with predators. My mother married a pedophile, and it was an ongoing situation that lasted clear into my twenties."
On how abuse contributed to drug and alcohol use as well as bulimia and anorexia:
"I watch a lot of people that are in the midst of their abuse, and like them, I was interested in the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol so I could find an out-of-body answer. Bulimia is one of the things that people do not usually ask me about, but it's actually one of the most self-abusive activity that people do if they are sexually abused. For me it was very simple - I did not want to feel connected to my body, but I also wanted to be in control. All I could control was the food going into my body. "
On sex slavery in America, and her brush with that world:
"This is a horrific and animalistic thing that people don't understand. You have to literally look up and look out into the community and have awareness about the possibility of a neighbor or a friend being forced into sexual slavery. It makes me take a breath because I always think of this one girl I worked with [as a stripper], Michelle. I get so sad because I have no idea where she went. The thing that's so incredibly mystical to me is how it wasn't me. Literally, why did I have this occupation and choose not to walk out with that group of girls."
On the advice she gives to victims who think they have no way out:
"Don't have secrets. Secrets keep you very sick. And never think there is nobody. Right now there could be someone who knows you; one safe person. Just find one person and ask for help."
On how she saved herself from a life of domestic abuse and drug use:
"I had just had enough. I was determined to heal myself, though it hasn't been easy. I started to recognize my own dangerous patterns and speak out about everything. I really, really challenge anybody in any bad situation to look at their patterns and ask, 'Why is this a pattern?' and then break it."
On why it's worth it to speak out:
"I've been shunned by family members and almost sued by one of them. But speaking up does a lot of good, and the good outweighs the bad."
On victims vs. survivors:
"Speaking for myself, if I were a victim, it'd still be happening to me. I would not be in my safe zone. This is very, very close to a person's heart and they have to come up with their own definition of who they are. But to be a survivor, you should be able to say, 'I'm not being victimized anymore.' I believe what made me a survivor was having awareness about it and speaking up."
Henry's memoir, “If Only I Could Sleep," is on sale at Stephanieannhenry.com.