Victims' Rights Caucus

Articles

By Allison Brennan
updated 7:54 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014

Editor's note: Allison Brennan is an editorial assistant at CNN.

(CNN) -- I was 5 years old when the person who took my innocence touched me inappropriately. What he did to me went on for a period of time, though I don't remember how long exactly.

He was a teenage babysitter. His sister also participated in the abuse. She taught me things that no child should know about sex. To this day I don't understand why they did what they did. I'm not sure I care why they did it.

What matters to me now is talking about it. As a victim, I want to start a conversation about sexual abuse. As a society, I'm well aware that many people -- victims like me -- are afraid to speak out because they feel ashamed or scared.

Allison Brennan
Allison Brennan

But by remaining silent, victims like me feel like we're taking responsibility for a crime committed against us that we know is wrong.

I wanted nothing to do with the abuse. I didn't want it to be a part of me, so I ignored it for almost 25 years. During that time, the memories haunted me and I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to compensate for the negative way I saw myself. I tried to be outwardly perfect. I withdrew and became defensive when I faced criticism.

But in order to heal, victims need to be able to talk about what happened to them, to acknowledge the horror of it, to condemn it and to demand punishment.

For example, if we pretend that armed robberies don't happen because they are bad, we would probably have Bonnies and Clydes running around everywhere.

By talking about sexual abuse, we send a message to society to pay more attention to this problem.

It's not easy for me to disclose this part of my life. But with the love of my family and friends, I have begun to address the problem. Part of that includes seeking the help of a therapist to understand the impact of the abuse.

And then something happened the other day.

When Woody Allen received a lifetime achievement award and got a standing ovation at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, his ex-wife Mia Farrow and her son Ronan Farrow sent out tweets that alluded to alleged sexual abuse of Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Dylan, who was 7 when Allen and Farrow were married. Allen denied the allegation and was never charged, but Mia and Ronan believe otherwise.

Their tweets made me think of my own past. I remember reading an article a few months ago about the allegation. When I read about Dylan and the Farrows trying to put forward her voice and her story, I wondered what was holding me back in telling my story.

Now, I'm revealing to the public something so personal I'm not sure what's going to happen as a