RAINN Supporter on the Importance of Talking with Kids About Sexual Abuse

Each month, RAINN highlights a member of its National Leadership Council (NLC). The NLC is a group of dedicated individuals who have shown their commitment to RAINN’s mission of supporting survivors and ending sexual violence. This month we checked in with survivor, advocate, and philanthropist Marci Matthews.

Why are you passionate about ending sexual violence and why should everyone be?

As a victim and later survivor with no help or resources, I know what it’s like to live without help, support, advocacy, and without organizations like RAINN. I do not want anyone to experience what I did, especially another child. No one deserves it. I think many people think things are bad when they read the news. But when I talk with people, I find it’s still worse than most people think. We can ALL do more. I will fight my best fight against sexual violence and I will never give in. I will also help others who want to join in fighting sexual violence. I believe in and try to live daily with service, purpose, and gratitude, and RAINN is something I am grateful for every day.

What inspired you to become a volunteer on RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline?

In November of 2011, I saw a PSA from RAINN by KaDee Strickland after a particularly powerful performance from her as Charlotte in Private Practice. As a survivor of childhood rape and a target of many child sexual abusers throughout my youth, and after surviving years of domestic violence, seeing this character portrayed on the show was both moving and validating. I felt unbelievably relieved when I saw the PSA—I mean I know it’s television, but I was really worried for Charlotte. I saw the PSA with KaDee then stayed up all night researching RAINN. The more I read, the more excited I got about what RAINN does and how the organization operates (I need a whole new interview to explain just how amazing RAINN is). I particularly appreciated their acceptance of grassroots efforts on their behalf – it’s super empowering to all of us out here who want to take action. After the all-nighter of research, I called Chelsea [Bowers, a development director at RAINN] around 10 in the morning and discussed my questions, knowing I would try supporting them in any and every way I could.

In advocating and fundraising for RAINN, I wanted to learn every single thing I could. I signed up for the online hotline training because I thought it would help me to explain even more to others when I asked them to donate. Instead of just learning more about RAINN to promote this wonderful cause, I found a deep calling and compatibility with working on the hotline. Each time I’ve “met” someone who told me their story and asked for my help, I’ve felt honored and a profound responsibility to earn and deserve this trust. The connections we make, though anonymous, are some of the most important moments in a hotline visitor’s life, but they are also some of the greatest gifts in our lives as volunteers. I remember and reflect often on many of the visitors and wonder how they are doing now. I feel it is really important to me for visitors to the hotline to know that, though it is anonymous, it is not just one visitor after another being forgotten when they hit “end chat.” Each of them is now a part of the fabric of my life and holds an important place for me and will never be forgotten.

How can we all be better supporters and advocates for survivors in our lives?

My best piece of advice is actually to go find out more at RAINN’s website or go right to the online hotline. There are so many ways to help, but I think I would like to focus on just one—help our children be better and safer. RAINN has resources and there are resources elsewhere to help us talk to our children at any age, to create open communication and trust with our children, to prevent more sexual violence, and to help them should they, sadly, experience it. If you don’t know where to begin, begin with the online hotline! Providing you with resources and tools is one of the greatest things we can do.

In a Seussian adaptation, I would say, “an effort’s an effort, no matter how small.” Whether it is a donation, a social media share, a click on an article, a talk with your children, or a chat with a friend—anything you can do to fight sexual violence or help survivors is welcome.

What is your message to survivors? One thing I feel is really important is to keep trying and seeking help. Not all methods of help will necessarily be suited to each of us as individuals. Just like movies we like, friends we choose, or food we eat, we can find many differences in what we like and what works for us in our healing journeys. Maybe what works at first doesn’t work later and you have to change your path. Please keep looking for your right road to healing, because it isn’t always the first one you take, though I hope it is.

How do you wish Americans would change sexual violence prevention?

If I had just one minute where I could say something, it would be, “Believe. Believe in the hope and healing of survivors. Believe in victims you know or those you find in the news. Believe in bringing perpetrators to justice. Believe in yourself that you can help stop sexual violence and support survivors. You can create the change you want to see in the world.”

Why did you want to be a part of RAINN’s National Leadership Council?

As a person who has myriad diverse things going on in my life and also has many different areas in which I am involved with RAINN, I feel the National Leadership Council links me with a smaller and closer group of people with similar beliefs, values, motivations, and abilities that help us create awareness for RAINN and connect us in our fight against sexual violence. We each have unique ways to lead the cause and pave paths to hope. I look forward to finding ways to work together as a whole or in groups to make us more than the sum of our parts.

How has your passion for ending sexual violence influenced other areas of your life?

I had previously found a lot of nonprofits to be disappointing in organizational operation/structure, particularly when it came to how far a donation goes and who benefits. This is definitely not the case with RAINN, where 90 cents of every dollar goes toward helping survivors or preventing sexual violence. I feel a kindred spirit in both the advocacy and the business operation sides. RAINN was so welcoming to me and so transparent with its organizational operation, they gave me a base for evaluating other organizations in the same way. I have a lot of “irons in the fire,” but I am able to coordinate my work with RAINN and others into a larger vision of hope for our future, especially for our children. I can do this because RAINN gave me the first example of exactly what I wanted to see in a nonprofit. My RAINN family means a lot to me, both as a part of my fight against sexual violence and as a part of how I have been able to grow with them.

Think you can’t change a law? Think again.

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