By Barrington Salmon, Washington Informer
One night, after a day of the usual children’s horseplay and banter at her aunt’s house, a little girl’s cousin stood the five-year-old on a chair.
Then without warning, his head disappeared under her nightgown. Startled and afraid, she froze, hoping that if she did nothing he would stop.
The young girl was molested by her 17-year-old cousin in front of his 12-year-old brother. Following his brother’s lead, for the next eight years, the younger boy also sexually abused her. It finally ended when Lavinia Battle Freeman was 13 and he was 20.
Freeman survived the anguish, anger and confusion of being sexually abused and started a conscious clothing line called No Longer Invisible (NLI) a year ago to shed light on an issue she said is too often brushed under the rug. She also established The NLI Foundation to fund counseling services for survivors.
“Someone you know and love is a survivor of sexual abuse and someone you know and love is an abuser,” she said. “The stereotype is of a dirty, old man looking at kids on a playground. It’s not what you wore, or how you looked. It’s a lack of self control of the abuser who takes the opportunity to take advantage of someone who is weaker than them.”
Freeman, 42, said her cousin cornered her every chance he got, groped her, touched her and forced her to touch him.
“Earlier on, I didn’t know it wasn’t my fault,” she said. “I definitely felt responsible. Most kids do because they don’t know any better.
Freeman, wife of a pastor and mother of three, said she never told anyone of her ordeal except her mom when she was 28 only after her counselor “made me.” She told her twin sister years later and informed the rest her family within the last year only because she started NLI.