We live on a quiet, suburban street in Lebanon County. We work in the business world; have lunch with friends, volunteer in the community, treasure time with family. We are Dianne and Craig Stott, ordinary people whose lives were forever changed by sexual assault. Twice. Involving both of our daughters. We hope that our story of horror, healing and hope will lead you to support an organization near and dear to our hearts – The Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center of Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties (SARCC).
In 1984, our daughter Manda was 7 when the (nice) grandfatherly man down the street invited her into his home for a visit. He lived next door to Manda’s friend, and seemed like a nice man. But the nice man touched Manda in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. He told her not to tell anyone, because he would get into trouble. Kind-hearted Manda didn’t want that to happen, but she told her mom anyway. Something just wasn’t right.
We were horrified when Manda shared what had happened. While our daughter did not seem traumatized we knew we had to do something. But what? None of our friends had been through this, and we were unaware of any resource in the community that could guide us through the unfamiliar territory of child sexual assault. So we followed our instincts, contacted law enforcement and a family therapist, and embarked on a learn-as-you-go pathway to healing.
Manda’s sister, Tami, was 15 when all of this happened. Little did she know that six years later, she would experience her own sexual assault nightmare.
Tami was 21 and living on her own in Pittsburgh. She worked as a waitress and often walked home alone from work at night. One evening, someone followed her home, climbed in her window and forcibly raped her in her own bed. Tami’s boyfriend took her to a hospital, where staff performed a physical exam and collected evidence with a rape kit. A Victim Advocate made initial contact with Tami, but there was little follow-up.
Tami came home to Lebanon for a while. We were supportive and tried to help, but as an adult, Tami was making her own decisions about how to deal with her trauma. She did not seek counseling, insisting that “she was fine.” Because Tami did not get a good look at her attacker, law enforcement had little to go on, and no one was charged with her rape.
SARCC enters the picture
Throughout our ordeal, we were acutely aware of our lack of direction in advocating for our daughters. We needed someone who knew the legal processes, the medical protocols and the support systems connected with a sexual assault experience.
Years later we were introduced to SARCC. Here was an organization in our own community, protecting children and adults from sexual assault and providing immediate sexual assault and providing immediate trauma informed care for victims, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. SARCC’s specially-trained counselors help victims and their families navigate the legal and medical systems and access other services that might be helpful to them.
They LISTEN. They listen to the traumatized 14 year-old, embarrassed by what has happened to them. They listen to the guilt-ridden parent who had no idea that a trusted relative was victimizing their child. SARCC staff and volunteers listen and they help.
SARCC educates as well. Their award-wining programs of education and outreach seek to prevent sexual assault and bullying before victimization occurs.
The statistics are scary. We have learned that anyone of any age might experience sexual assault. Victims assisted by SARCC range from four weeks old to a woman in her 90’s. Did you know that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse? It’s frightening.
How we wish that SARCC had been available to our family when we were in crisis! To ensure that this community gem will continue to serve families like ours, we have enthusiastically supported their fundraising efforts, especially Monte Carlo night, which Dianne has chaired since 2005.
Now we are asking you, our neighbors, to lend a hand.
Perhaps our story has touched your heart. Perhaps your family has experienced sexual assault, and you have never come forward to share your story.
Please consider making a donation so that SARCC’s work can continue.
In doing so, you may be empowering, protecting and advocating for a neighbor, a co-worker, even a family member. You never know.
Today our daughters do not feel like victims. They are strong women, refusing to allow sexual assault to define who they are. There is always HOPE. Twenty+ years after her assault, Tami’s attacker was identified and prosecuted. SARCC plays a major role in bringing closure and healing.
Lend your voice and support to the survivors of sexual assault. Your donation can help so many others reach this point of healing.
Dianne and Craig Stott
SARCC 2016 Annual Appeal Chairpersons