Survivors of sexual assault reclaim power, offer ways others can do the same

This week, StarMed announced a DNA lab to assuage the backlog of sexual assault test kits.
If you're a survivor of sexual assault, you don't have to do life alone.
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 8:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As Sexual Assault Awareness Month wraps up, WBTV put a spotlight on how our community is supporting survivors of sexual assault.

This week, StarMed HealthCare announced a DNA lab to help with the mountain of untested sexual assault kits in North Carolina.

As of 2019, according to the North Carolina Department of Justice, there are at least 16,000 survivors in the state still waiting to have their kits tested.

StarMed said its forensic lab, aimed at solving cases faster, will provide DNA results within weeks.

While it’s an encouraging step forward, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

WBTV also sat down with four women who got real about their journeys with sexual assault.

“You can’t go over the pain, you can’t go under the pain, you have to go through the pain,” explained one of the women, Janet Ganoung.

She said if you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you don’t have to do it alone, especially when across the state, so many are experiencing the same thing.

State numbers show that as of 2019, over 940,000 adults in North Carolina have experienced sexual violence.

“I was on a destructive path because of my sexual abuse,” recalled another survivor, Sharon Jordan.

“I felt that the core of me was evil,” Ganoung said. “I got help and I realize now that it’s a sign of strength.”

While you can feel the lowest of lows after this kind of crime, these women say finding a strong support system, like with Brave Step, a Concord-based nonprofit that provides a safe place for survivors, gave them their life back.

“We’re going to die with this in our lives, but it just be a part of it that we manage, as opposed to a part that controls us,” Crystal Emerick, the founder of Brave Step, said.

She explained progress comes from not only acknowledging survivors’ stories but being okay talking about an issue that’s at times uncomfortable, awkward and silenced.

“As a loved one of a cancer survivor, you’re showing up for their chemo. You’re patting them on the back, you’re giving them warm blankets,” she said. “How do we teach a loved one of a survivor of sexual violence how to give them a warm blanket?”

“We can choose to believe and protect, or we can choose to be silent,” added another survivor and therapist, Bentley Ball.

“You deserve to reclaim your are not your trauma,” Jordan said.

Emerick also noted that sexual assault is not just a survivor problem, it’s a ‘we’ problem.

She said even if you’re not a survivor yourself, you still have a responsibility to educate yourself, be an ally, and be active in listening and speaking out about sexual assault.

To learn more about Brave Step, click here.

Also Read: Sexual assault survivors often don’t press charges against their perpetrators. Here’s why.