Survivor stories

Survivor Stories: Carson

March 2, 2016

Child Sexual Abuse Survivor


She was frozen when her friend made her get off the bus. Panic-stricken. She couldn’t sleep. She could barely leave her room because her panic attacks were so severe. Carson didn’t know what to do.

Her best friend, Sara, didn’t really know either, but she had heard of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Sara rode the bus downtown with Carson and made her get off the bus, despite Carson’s pleas to just keep riding.

(Read more about Sara here.)

When they finally walked in the lobby of The Leader Building, Carson wanted to turn around. Sara made her keep walking and step on the elevator. There were 14 floors up and at least 14 reasons to go back home, but Sara insisted that Carson at least try the Center. Frankly, Sara didn’t know what else to do. 

I was terrified,” said Carson more than a year later. “But everyone (at the Center) was really nice, they were really friendly, they didn’t push me to tell them anything. I remember how scared I was and I remember that moment of feeling like oh my god, there is someone who actually will understand.”

When Carson was 3 or 4 years old, she was molested and raped by the father of a friend who lived across the street. She had no memory of the abuse until she was almost 16 years old. At 18, she found herself in her college dorm room, terrified that someone would find out.

“I didn’t want my family to know, I didn’t want anyone to know,” she recalls. “At first I was so scared of telling anyone and it was just horrifying to realize that everything I had thought I knew about myself wasn’t really correct.”

That changed when her friend Sara encouraged her to visit Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

“(The Center) taught me to find the strength that I had and to use it, so that I can live my daily life again,” said Carson. “I want other people to know that no matter how alone they feel, there are other survivors who are here and we can all support each other.”

In the last 18 months, Carson has eagerly spoken out to encourage other rape survivors to seek help.

“If you haven’t come (to the Center) yet, if for some reason you are scared or you don’t think someone will believe you, or you don’t think you have the money, the treatment here is free and it can really change your life,” she added. “I understand why you’d be scared. I was terrified… It’s really hard as a survivor. You can talk to your friends and family and they really try to be there for you, but there is nothing like someone who knows what you are going through.”

How has the community responded to Carson’s outreach?

“The attitude I’ve been met with a lot of people is, ‘I’m not a rape survivor, I wasn’t molested, no one I know was molested.’ But chances are that somebody you know is a victim of molestation. Someone that is your friend or your family member (is a survivor) and it’s only by making a safer environment that they are going to speak out.”

You can help create a safe environment by joining Carson as a Face of Change and donating to Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.