Sexual abuse survivor speaks in Oklahoma, encourages others to seek help

Victims of sexual abuse often don't report the crime because of fear or stigmas, Oklahoma officials say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 9, 2013
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“It was time to let it go,” she said. “Sometimes things happen and they seem horrible or unfair, but I realized that without overcoming these obstacles I would have never realized my potential, my strength, my willpower or the true beauty of my heart.

“Yes, I was victimized, but to stay in that victim mode made him the winner,” Byers said. “To stay the victim keeps us from growing, healing and learning.

“If I choose to stay the victim, I lose — I lose all that I am now and all that I'm meant to be.”

Overcoming stigma

Attorney General Scott Pruitt thanked Byers “for your courage, your bravery to stand up and tell your story.”

“Sexual assault is a crime that affects Oklahomans from every community,” he said.

The victim services unit in Pruitt's office administers funding and certification for the 29 domestic and sexual violence programs across the state. It also provides training for law enforcement, prosecutors and shelter workers.

Because of fear or stigmas, assaults often go unreported, according to Pruitt's office. Many victims suffer alone in silence and never seek assistance.

Byers encouraged other victims or those who are aware of sexual abuse to report it and to get help.

“We should feel no shame in coming forward,” she said, “because, like I said, this was done to us not by us.”

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I was on the honor roll, I made As and Bs, I was in gymnastics, I was a cheerleader, I was outgoing, never argued with my parents, had lots of friends,” she said. “But on the inside I was struggling.”

Tonia Byers,
She said she was sexually abused from the

time she was 9 to 13 years old in Iowa before escaping by running away to Oklahoma.

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