6 On Your Side: Sexual Assault Victim Speaks Out

6 On Your Side: Sexual Assault Victim Speaks Out

WICHITA FALLS, TX - An eye-opening report shows there were more than 100 cases of sexual assaults filed with the Wichita Falls Police Department last year.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and a local organization is now looking to bring this issue to the surface. And a former sexual assault victim is coming forward, telling her story, in an effort to help others.

"I was about 12 years old the very first time I was touched inappropriately by a family member," Shelli Rushing said.

It's a hard memory to relive for Rushing. It's a memory which she carried around for years.

"I was very scared," Rushing said. "I was scared to tell anybody. I was scared to tell any family members. I was scared to tell any kind of law enforcement." 

Fear is something Rushing says is common with sexual assault victims. 

"Nobody really wants to talk about it," Rushing said. "Nobody really wants to deal with it because it involves so much emotion."

It wasn't until about six years ago when she finally decided she didn't have to be a victim anymore. 

"If you never press legal charges I can understand that, because I did not myself," Rushing said. "However, talk to someone. Get some counseling. Relieve that emotional stress your under."  

Now Rushing serves as a board member for First Step Incorporated. First Step Inc. is a local non-profit providing help to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

"One in five Texan women will be victims of sexual assault," First Step Board Chair Edith Zeisloft said. "One in 20 Texas men will be victims of sexual assault."

In fact, according to the Wichita Falls Police Department, so far this year there have been 21 reports of sexual assaults. Compare that to this time last year, when there were 23 reports. 

"The common image of a sexual assault is a stranger hiding in the bush, but actually 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim," Zeisloft said. 

Zeisloft says they usually see victims between 18 to 30 years old, but they also see high numbers of victims under 18 years old. 

"It's really something that can affect anyone," Zeisloft said. "There is no specific type of person that's assaulted or type of person that assaults."

First Step is now forming a sexual assault response team made up of volunteers. Zeisloft said the volunteers accompany and advocate for victims in the hospital. 

"The hospital will call us and we'll send out an advocate any time of day," Zeisloft said. "That advocate is there, if the victim wants them, to provide any reassurance. They're just a quiet person to hold their hand."

That volunteer can also serve as someone to talk to. 

"Once you can speak it out loud, you're not letting them hold you captive any longer and you can start to heal," Rushing said. "And not necessarily move on, I don't like that term, but you can move forward."

Zeisloft says they're in the process of building the volunteer portion of the response team. They'll be holding an informational meeting later this month so be sure to check out their website or their facebook page for more information. You can always call First Step at (940) 723-7799.

It's not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they've been sexually assaulted, click here for tips on how to help someone you care about. 

Kaylee Pfeiferling, Newschannel 6