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Virtual Walk of HOPE

Virtual Walk of HOPE

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Amber McCutcheon

Founder of HOPE (Healing Our Past Experiences) Amber McCutcheon is organizing the Virtual Walk of HOPE. Registration is open. 

The Walk of HOPE planned for April 18 has gone virtual, opening up the opportunity for more people to become involved.

"I would like to personally invite you to join me and my family as we participate in this virtual walk to raise awareness, connect people and encourage healing," Founder of HOPE (Healing Our Past Experiences) Amber McCutcheon said. "April is child abuse prevention month as well as sexual assault awareness month. I truly believe that prevention is possible and healing is essential."

McCutcheon said so many people she personally knows have been sexually violated but would not say that it was an assault. 

"By participating in this virtual walk you will help support those who are survivors," McCutcheon said. "For the survivor, you will be inspired, encouraged and empowered with truth to help you on your journey of healing." 

Registration to participate in the virtual walk is free but important. McCutcheon said, by registering individuals will be informed of the fun activities being planned for the day. She said they are still working out all the details due to changing from an in person walk to virtual, but she encourages everyone to register and follow HOPE on Facebook. 

"The awareness walk is to bring survivors and supporters together to make a statement that survivors of sexual abuse, misuse and trauma are not alone," McCutcheon said. "It is also to bring greater awareness that prevention is possible." 

McCutcheon said with April being sexual assault awareness month as well as child abuse prevention month, there is no better time to raise awareness and try to change the language.

"Many people who have been victimized will not identify as someone who has been assaulted," McCutcheon said. "They will refer to it as being abused or traumatized or raped or molested or incest or start a statement out that says 'it was just,' to minimize what happened to them."

McCutcheon said according to dictionary.com assault means a violent attack.

"Perpetrators who make a plan to violate someone often do it in a way that is very methodical," McCutcheon said. "Part of that plan is to gain your trust and often times to make you feel special. Ninety percent of the time, we know our perpetrators and 60 percent of the time they are people that we trust."

McCutcheon said she thinks it is important to change the language to include those who know they have been violated and victimized but not necessarily in a violent way.

"We could use the wording like sexually abused, misused or trauma," McCutcheon said. "Sometimes when we simply hear these words an automatic association would be to think that they are violent. In reality they are not."

McCutcheon said for many who are survivors their worst fear would be to have one of their children experience the things they have experienced.

"Part of knowing that prevention is possible, and healing is essential, is to know that as a survivor when I choose to heal I am taking a big step in preventing the next generation from experiencing the things that I have went through," McCutcheon said. "It is a way that we can stop the cycle that has been going on for many generations in some families."

McCutcheon said she believes prevention is possible through education of recognizing signs, eliminating opportunity, setting healthy boundaries and adults taking responsibility to help protect our most vulnerable members or society.

"One in three girls and one in six boys will experience some kind of sexual trauma by the age of 18," McCutcheon said. "This is a number that when you are a survivor you don't realize. You feel very alone and often will stay silent because of that idea."

McCutcheon said she is hoping to inspire other survivors to continue or start the healing process to overcome their past experiences.

"For the supporters, I want to encourage them to continue being there for those that they know have experienced sexual abuse, misuse or trauma," McCutcheon said. "I want everyone to be confident on how to prevent child sexual abuse. If everyone is speaking the same language and no longer staying silent because of fear, we can make a difference in the lives of children and adults."

McCutcheon said she would like to see this awareness walk on a national level in five years.

"Action always speak louder than words," McCutcheon said. "If you believe that prevention is possible and healing is essential, join us for the walk. Have conversations with those that you know are great supporters or are survivors."

McCutcheon said the event is family friendly and shows how healing is beautiful and worth celebrating.

"Confidence is something that is stripped away along with our innocence, but I believe that this very walk can help some gain confidence back and propel them forward on their healing journey," McCutcheon said. "Will you join me for this virtual walk to send a big message that prevention is possible and healing is essential from sexual abuse, misuse or trauma?"

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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