My name is Kynli Smith and I am writing you this letter because I am a victim of sexual assault. My abuser was just sentenced on March 10, 2014. I wanted to write this letter and share my story with you because the sad fact is I am not alone. There are so many other victims of sexual assault out there. I hope that by sharing my story with you, hopefully more victims of sexual assault will come forward like I have and break the suffocating silence. I’m going to try my best to explain my story to you, but normally the most important things are often the hardest things to say. So I am going to do my best.
I was molested by a man that I trusted and loved, a man who was supposed to go to my ball games, take me fishing and support me. Instead my abuser took my trust and innocence away when I was eight-years-old. The abuse stopped when I was around 12 when I moved away from Beardstown. I have carried the abuse, the burden and the shame with me over the years.
At first I did not realize that what was happening to me was wrong because he was supposed to love and take care of me. But, as I got older I soon realized that I am a victim of child molestation, and my abuser is a pedophile. Once I realized this I was too afraid and somewhat ashamed to tell anyone. I knew this would break my close-knit family apart, and I was also nervous about the abuse being seen as a personal weakness.
So, I dove into books, school, sports and success to try to mask the sexual abuse that happened to me. However, in the spring of 2013 after talking with my cousin, another one of my abuser’s victims, and discovering the same thing happened to her, I knew this secret could no longer weigh us down. So, we spoke up. We could no longer sweep what happened to us under the rug. Talking about what happened to me has taken this weight off my chest. I could finally breathe and begin to heal.
After giving a statement to the Illinois State Police in May of 2013, they turned their findings to the Cass County State’s Attorney who then prosecuted my abuser. At first he was charged with class X felonies, but those chargers were lessened and a plea deal was put into place. I know what you may be asking. Why? And the answer is simple. I was ready to move on with my life. I am currently a senior at a university and didn’t have time to go and testify and have the case drag on for months. My main concern is that my abuser be labeled for what he is, a sex offender.
On March 10 my abuser was sentenced to 30 days in jail and four years probation. I unfortunately was unable to attend the sentencing hearing, but my mother read a statement on my behalf. And a statement from my dad and her were submitted to the judge. I know reading his sentence may seem like he got off easy, but it is the way the judicial system works. I think Cass County did an excellent job with this case. I am also happy that he is serving some jail time and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
I know that the abuse stopped almost 10 years ago, but it will always be with me. It has made me who I am today, strong. I will not be a life victim of the sexual abuse that happened to me as a child. By talking about it and confronting it, I have become a stronger woman. I hold on to the hope that since my cousin and I came forward about the sexual abuse that happened to us, maybe more will. What I learned most through all of this is that I am not so alone. Look around, one in six women are sexually abused in the United States. I hope that girls and women will no longer see sexual abuse as a weakness. And that if they lift up the rugs and talk about the abuse and the shame, that one day thousands of girls and women will no longer feel weak, but strong. And maybe one day that one in six statistic will no longer exist.
I have turned my weakness into strength. And this new strength I found in myself inspired me to speak up and finally seek justice for the eight-year-old redheaded freckled faced girl I was. I have always believed that there is more good in the world than the bad. I strive to find the hope and the light, even when it is dark. I hope that by writing this letter to you that more girls and even boys will come forward about sexual assault. If you have been sexual assaulted in your life I want you to know you are not alone. Find someone, a friend, a family member, anyone, and talk about it. It will be hard; I’m not going to lie. But it will be worth it. You will finally be able to breathe, and heal. You are not a life victim of your assault.
When my abuser molested me as a child I felt like I had no voice. I have a voice now. So, I am asking you to find your own voice and speak up about sexual assault. Even if you haven’t been sexually assaulted, the odds are you know someone who has, speak up for them. Speak up for the one in six who have been sexually assaulted. Maybe one day if we all find our voice, we can finally end the shame, the stigma, and the silence of sexual assault.