Josh’s Story

Josh Lamont is a writer, a former Obama White House spokesperson, the founder of consulting firm JRL Strategies, and a survivor of sexual violence.

Josh first disclosed the abuse he experienced when he was a freshman at Cornell University to another student.

“Dominique was my best friend and, eventually, my first ever girlfriend. I had never told anyone about the years of sexual abuse I’d experienced as a child. I lived in silence for years and now away from home for the first time, my repressed memories began to taunt me and became increasingly vivid, violent and intense nightmares.”

After weeks of sleepless nights, by November Josh was nearing a breaking point and struggling to focus on anything other than his pain and shame. Dominique was his only comfort and soon would be the first person Josh disclosed his story of childhood abuse. It happened to be on his 18th birthday.

“What I thought was going to be frightening was instead cathartic and relieving. I felt loved, safe and free of pain with Dominique and soon afterward she guided me to a campus therapist, which led to me disclosing to my parents over the holidays. Dominique was incredible. When I was consumed by darkness, she helped me find my way back into the light.”

Over the next few years, Josh continued his healing journey, which included therapy and hard work. His relationship with Dominique ended eventually, and, not coincidentally, Josh would later come out as gay. By graduation he had interned in the Clinton White House and went on to early professional success in New York’s competitive PR world. Pivoting to nonprofit work in the wake of 9/11, Josh would eventually spend years advocating for safe school policies and programs; work which credits as part of his healing journey.

“Working to ensure young people were safe at school was not only my job, it was part of my healing. It brought me alive. I continued therapy now and again, and while there were missteps and misadventures, overall I continued to heal and grow. Where in my 20s I measured success by money and achievements, today success is a different journey guided by ongoing healing, joy and realizing fulfillment.”

Josh says the power of bringing people together has been a guide in his healing journey.

“Many people rely on a higher power, often coming from their religious faith. My higher power comes from the people around me and very specifically the power of opposites coming together for positive change. In my Safe Schools work, I watched firsthand as gay and straight students worked together to address anti-LGBT bullying and violence in their schools. In their efforts, I discovered a higher power; the very power I rely on to heal, that has helped me in sobriety, loss, love and life.”

Bringing people together and giving back are common themes throughout Josh’s professional and personal life, from his years at GLSEN, an organization dedicated to ensuring LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in safe schools, to his later work in philanthropy, the Obama White House and in recent years running his own business.

“Being of service has been a big part of my healing and fulfillment, both at work and in my everyday life.”

With more survivors speaking out, Josh sees more conversations and dialogues happening.

“Today, conversations about topics of sexual abuse and harassment are more common in workplaces, in homes, and in communities. We are having conversations today that weren’t happening four years ago, and certainly 20 years ago. I think they are leading to significant systematic changes happening in almost every industry and workplace. And while I spent many years stepping up and speaking out, I am learning to recognize and accept that as a white man, I have lived and benefited from unearned privilege.”

Josh says that although he has been historically someone who likes to lead and step forward, he has found and learned along the way the gift of listening, learning, and taking a step back.

“I may have the best intentions, but I have much to learn — and to gain — by focusing on a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion, recognizing that while I have at times been a different voice in the room, there are too many people who still aren’t in the room.”

 

Speaking out has also been part of Josh’s growth and healing.

“Contributing my story of sexual abuse to the 2018 book, You Are Not Alone was unexpectedly profound. It’s not that everyone needs to write a book, but everyone needs to have a place to talk to someone safe and where the microphone is theirs; where the audience is supportive and the space free of judgment. This has been life changing for me and profoundly important for every survivor.”

For Josh, it also comes back to community and service.

“Working through trauma and recovering from abuse for me involved disclosure, connecting, fellowship and at the right time, service to others. I have also learned that self-care is the best care, and helped me live life to the fullest.”

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