■ Shepherd’s Counseling Services development director Jill Armitage and Turn the Light On rally organizer Marc Fredson hope the Oct. 2 event brings more awareness to the issue of childhood sexual abuse. photo/JEFF BOND
■ Shepherd’s Counseling Services development director Jill Armitage and Turn the Light On rally organizer Marc Fredson hope the Oct. 2 event brings more awareness to the issue of childhood sexual abuse. photo/JEFF BOND
Childhood sexual abuse is estimated to affect about one in five people in the United States, according to some experts. Yet this issue tends to be under-reported, ignored, shunned or even sometimes tacitly condoned, experts say.

This frightening statistic is behind the “Turn the Light On” rally taking place this Saturday, Oct. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill, north of the ballfields.

Start of a movement?
Organizer Marc Fredson understands this issue all too well. The man who first thought up the idea for the rally is also a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands a loved one.

Fredson developed the event with the help of Shepherd’s Counseling Services, a nonprofit organization at 2601 Broadway E. that specializes in counseling survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He saw the event as a way to shine a light on one of society’s last great horrors.

The problem of abuse is estimated to haunt potentially as many as 40 million adults in America, hindering their ability to lead healthy, happy lives. Fredson said he hopes that this rally is the beginning of a movement that will help bring this issue out of the darkness.

“This is really an awareness event,” Fredson said. “Our ultimate goal here is to show that every one of us has the power and ability to help break the cycle of abuse by knowing more about it, tolerating it less, speaking up and taking action. That is the whole idea behind the name of the event. We want to shine a bright light on this epidemic, which has been in the darkness for far too long.”

Turn on the lights

The event will include performances by three musical acts, including Banana Cabana, which will open the rally at 6:30 p.m. Other performers include singer/songwriter Kym Tuvim and singer/guitarist Daryl Redeker. Light A Glow, a dance and movement group that uses LED lights, will also give an inspirational performance.

Inspirational speaker Dr. Peter Drury and Shepherd’s Counseling Services executive director Janice Palm are scheduled to talk about the issue of sexual abuse and how to break the cycle.

The event will also include survivors sharing their stories of childhood abuse and how they’ve overcome the trauma.

The rally organizers are joining other national sexual abuse groups in embracing the color of teal to represent their cause. They have arranged for the Capitol Hill clothing store Panache, 225 Broadway E., to sell strings of teal lights that they hope people will put up Oct. 2 to show solidarity with the cause of ending childhood sexual abuse. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go to supporting the work of the Shepherd’s Counseling Services.

Fredson is also asking interested people to turn their porch lights on during the evening of Oct. 2 to show their support for the idea of shedding light on the issue of sexual abuse.      

A perfect match
Fredson, who first imagined in early June of staging this event, said he has been overwhelmed with how fast the rally has come together and how the community has embraced the idea. He first approached Shepherd’s Counseling Services about the idea. Since then, the project has just taken off.

Jill Armitage, development director for Shepherd’s, said Fredson, a client of the counseling center, called and said he was interested in working on a project that would focus on prevention and awareness of childhood sexual abuse.

“It was the perfect match for our organization,” Armitage said. “We have been involved with long-term therapy for survivors of abuse since 1987, and this gives us the chance to get the word out about this important issue.”

Everyone involved has given their time to this project, from the designing and printing of the posters to the musicians, performers and speakers, who are working for free, she said.

A shameful betrayal

As to why such an immense problem remains in the shadows, Fredson said he believes there are many reasons for this, but the main one being the issue of shame.

Fredson said that people who commit sexual abuse most often victimize members of their own family. This results in a complex mix of emotions, including denial, guilt, shame and keeping family secrets so as not to hurt a loved one who, most often, is in a position of power over the victim.

“The most important thing for people to realize is that the effects on the child who is abused are so powerful,” Fredson said. “When we turn our backs for whatever reason on this issue, the impact is compounded over time because the child has the sense of a devastating betrayal.

“If the situation isn’t addressed and the child doesn’t receive ongoing support and treatment, those impacts will last an entire lifetime,” he added.

For more information, visit www.turnthelighton.net.