What does it look like to develop a culture of abuse safety in Black communities? That’s the question that Ashley Cook and Kevin McNeil worked to answer in our latest episode of Honest Conversations.
Ashley and Kevin are survivors of child sexual abuse (and Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitators), and have firsthand experience navigating the process of disclosure and healing amid Black communities that discouraged their voices. They encountered perspectives such as:
- “Men should be strong and in control; being abused would mean you were weak.”
- “Sex before marriage is unacceptable, especially if you get pregnant; how could you let that happen to you?”
- “Don’t ever disrespect your elders by accusing them of something so terrible.”
- “What happens in our house stays in our house.”
In their conversation, they discuss the impact of perspectives like these, and strategies they used to overcome the shame associated with them. They emphasize the importance of breaking the cycles of silence and stigma by reimagining the way we interact with children. They ask the question, “what practical steps should adults in Black communities take to ensure children’s safety from abuse?”
“The community has to have this conversation early and often,” says Kevin. “Wherever you take your children, we have to talk about it. Because if we don’t talk about it, we almost say ‘it’s ok’ until it happens. We must acknowledge the problem, start a conversation about the problem, and keep working and being solution focused. A.S.K.”
They offer many practical tips, including recognizing the underlying reasons for a child’s behavior, encouraging open expression from them, and knowing how to respond well to a child’s honesty. Shame, fear, and anger only perpetuate cycles of silence.
“In a lot of Black families, like mine, the only thing we’re told (especially Black Christian families) is ‘Just don’t have sex until you get married.’ Or, ‘Don’t get pregnant,’” reflects Ashley. “So what do you do if someone sexually abuses you, but you’ve been told all this time that you’re not supposed to be doing that? [What happens when] ‘it was done to me?’ The result is ‘I can’t tell you that this thing happened to me because you’re going to be mad at me that I’m not a virgin anymore.’”
Watch the video below to learn more practical tips from Kevin and Ashley!
This series contains descriptions of adult subject matter, including child sexual abuse. It may not be suitable for everyone and viewer discretion is advised. If you need support after watching, please reach out to 866-FOR-LIGHT for confidential support and resources.
Honest Conversations is a Live series from Darkness to Light where two experts have an authentic discussion about stigma and child sexual abuse. Click here to watch part 1 of this discussion of this discussion between Ashley and Kevin.
As a twenty-year police veteran, Kevin McNeil worked as a Special Victims Unit Detective for twelve of those years investigating child abuse crimes. After making the decision to retire from law enforcement, Kevin decided to use his extensive background and genuine insight to educate others on the effects of trauma and abuse, thus creating the Twe12e Project. Kevin has delivered the keynote presentation and workshops at the International Child Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama, delivered a plenary presentation and workshops at the San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment in San Diego, California, and has spoken at events sponsored by Darkness To Light, GNESA, and numerous Child Advocacy Centers across the United States. In April 2019, he traveled to Bermuda to help train law enforcement surrounding child abuse and child sexual assault.
In addition, Kevin also helps businesses and organizations create a healthy work culture. His workshops demonstrate how not understanding the effects of trauma can hinder an employee’s work performance and productivity. He emphasizes people are a company’s greatest asset, and how they’re treated will determine the success of the company.
Ashley Nicole Cook is a motivational speaker, author, and facilitator. After receiving much backlash for disclosing her child sexual abuse experiences and naming her abuser, she realized there was an opportunity to help others navigate through disclosure. She is particularly passionate about prevention efforts within the faith-based community. In 2016, she established Project Be Brave to help facilitate healing in the lives of other victims. Her story of resilience has opened opportunities for her to establish and maintain strong relationships with many faith-based and non-profits organizations throughout the United States. Ashley is a proud independent facilitator and has partnered with colleges such as Xavier University (Ohio), University of Cincinnati, Kent State University and other learning institutions to facilitate Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® training. Her charismatic personality creates a unique, fun and engaging experience for every person who encounters her. She is the mother of a teenage daughter who is heavily involved in her own advocacy initiatives.
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