Survivor Spotlight: Home Safety Month

After experiencing sexual violence in a place that was previously considered protected, some survivors can have trouble regaining a sense of safety at home. In June, as part of National Home Safety Month, RAINN is focusing on survivors whose experiences with assault occurred in their homes, violating their sense of security. Julianna and Jody, members of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, share how they create safe spaces for themselves and the ones they love.

Sexual assault survivor Julianna portrait
Julianna Araujo

Julianna Araujo

Julianna was about 9 years old when her stepfather began sexually abusing her. From a young age, she viewed “home” as an unhappy and painful place. “I was about 13 or 14 years old when I made the decision I was going to run away from home,” said Julianna. “While most people visualized their house as a safe place, I saw mine as a jail. I felt like I was a prisoner in my own home. My mother was so happy and in love with her new husband, I didn’t want to ruin it for her. I thought I could solve things if I just left.” Julianna later told her mother about the abuse, but she says her mother did not want to believe her. Julianna was sent to live with her father after she says her mother “gave up on her.”

“I had terrible nightmares about the abuse for years, to the point where I would start shaking or crying in my sleep,” said Julianna. “Then, my nightmares got worse and I saw it happening to my little sister.” Concern for her younger sister prompted her to press charges against her stepfather. He was convicted and is now a registered sex offender.

Today, Julianna says that she is focused on valuing good relationships in her life and creating a loving home environment for herself and her children. “I will remind my kids every day that I love them and I will never give up on them,” she said. “When I hear my kids say they want to go home, it brings the biggest smile to my face, because I know they feel safe there.” As part of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, she also inspires others by telling her story. “RAINN has helped me to not feel alone, and has given me the courage and strength to stand up for what is right.”

Sexual assault survivor Jody portrait
Jody Cerrone

Jody Cerrone

Just six weeks before her wedding, Jody was in her kitchen making a sandwich when a stranger walked through the front door of her apartment. He proceeded to cut off her clothes and rape her at knifepoint. Jody was able to call 9-1-1 after the attack, and went to the emergency room, where a rape kit was performed. The perpetrator, a serial rapist, was arrested 21 years later, due to a match with the DNA evidence collected from Jody’s case. He is now serving life in prison without possibility of parole. Jody went ahead with her wedding as planned, but the experience greatly affected the way she views the idea of “home.”

“The home invasion took away my sense of safety and trust for all unknown people I would encounter throughout the day, such as a repair man who would come to my home,” said Jody. She also suffers from an exaggerated startle reflex. When someone approaches her unexpectedly, she is often very startled and reacts by screaming. Jody has taken steps to create safe spaces, such as maintaining an alarm system in her home, being aware of her surroundings, and always locking her car, doors, and windows. She and her husband also got a German shepherd, which Jody says makes her feel the safest and most protected in her home.

Jody believes that solidarity is important for survivors of sexual assault. “RAINN brings assaults into the light, where the crimes lose their power. Together, we make each other stronger by sharing our stories and aiming to create safer environments.”

For more information on safety planning, click here.

In honor of Home Safety Month, SABRE, Inc. is donating $1 for every use of #SafeIsSmart on social media. How do you take steps to stay safe? Share on social media and support survivors.

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