Jacqueline’s Story, as Seen on Dateline’s “My Kid Would Never Do That”

Sexual assault survivor Jacqueline behind the scenes of the NBC's Dateline poses with a computer.

RAINN worked closely with NBC’s Dateline for an episode of the series “My Kid Would Never Do That” related to teens and sexual assault. In the episode, survivor Jacqueline Sacco, a member of RAINN's Speakers Bureau, shared her story with real teens, and spoke about the realities of sexual assault.

(June 12, 2015) --- Jacqueline Sacco (pictured at right) had just finished high school and was at a friend’s graduation party when she was drugged and sexually assaulted by two older men. She felt helpless and terrified. “It forever changed who I was,” she says.

When Jacqueline reached out to her friends after the assault, she says they responded with blame and disbelief. Jacqueline began to doubt herself and feel ashamed. She started hiding what happened to her, but continued to suffer in silence.

“I think the best way to respond to someone who is assaulted is to show unyielding support for them and ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’” Jacqueline says. “Assure them that it is not their fault, no matter what they are feeling. Don’t doubt, judge, detach or be removed from the survivor. Do show love, compassion, support and belief.”

Jacqueline believes that a dialogue between parents and children regarding sexual assault and prevention is crucial, and should begin as early as possible in childhood. It’s important for children to know that no matter how afraid or ashamed they may feel, they can talk to their parents, or another adult they trust, and be open. Jacqueline adds, “It is also important that children know there is nothing too small to question if something doesn’t feel right.”

To teens who might witness behavior that doesn’t feel right, Jacqueline wants to say that intervention is critical. “If there is any doubt that a friend or another teen is in jeopardy, they shouldn’t hesitate at all,” she says. To help a friend, acquaintance or stranger who might be in danger, Jacqueline urges teens to enlist the help of a trusted adult, or to approach the victim and bring them to a safe space as soon as possible.

Sexual assault survivor Jacqueline portrait with caption "Jacqueline Sacco's Story - NBC News. Jacqueline speaks to us about her struggles and the lessons she wants others to to learn from her experience" below

Jacqueline would also like to see schools foster honest discussions around sexual assault as part of their education. “Often teens are exposed to minimizing and mocking of rape on social media and that is really their only exposure,” she says.

As for Jacqueline’s personal recovery, she says she has come a long way in the 14 years since the assault, but that healing is an ongoing process. “I hid my trauma for quite awhile, which led to agonizing physical and emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I work hard every day to shed those devastating effects.”

She says that narrative- and cognitive-based work with a therapist has done wonders for her healing process, and that sharing her experience with others has helped her to heal even more. In addition to her role as a Speakers Bureau member, Jacqueline aspires to help others through medicine. 

For anyone struggling with a sexual assault, Jacqueline recommends that they open up about their feelings and find a support system. “Even if they feel alone or feel they have no one, RAINN is there for them,” she says. “I was filled with shame, disgust, blame and fear for so long and I really missed out on much of my life. I want my story to prevent anyone from having to go through that again.”

Learn more about Dateline’s “My Kid Would Never Do That” episode, as well as how to talk to teens about sexual assault, here.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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