In this edition of “Honest Conversations,” our Director of Partnerships, Ashley Davis, spoke with advocate and facilitator Kevin McNeil about breaking the stigma around child sexual abuse in Black communities.
Ashley and Kevin share a similar life experience: they both know what it’s like to experience sexual abuse in Black communities. They have experienced both stigma and acceptance. They also share a similar passion to help fellow survivors find healing.
When Kevin, a successful Special Victims Unit Detective in Atlanta, realized how connected violent crimes are to earlier childhood abuse, he began to speak up. He saw adults convicted of crimes that he had met before– years earlier in their youth, when they had crossed through his precinct after experiencing childhood abuse. It occurred to him that he and his fellow officers should be equipped with trauma-informed education and prevention techniques. Unfortunately, at the time, his precinct was not receptive to this tactic. Kevin’s passion, however, led him to a new career: advocacy.
“The eyes are great judges, but it’s the heart that listens. Until we learn how to have compassion, we can’t connect with the victim and we’re actually telling the victim they can’t communicate with us. So, silence becomes part of the defense mechanism.”
Ashley and Kevin’s conversation ranges from a frank appraisal of the cultural pressure to keep abuse quiet to the reality of the harsh effects that silence can have on a child to the need to address all the root causes of the violence cycles that many Black communities experience as a result of generations of oppression. They discuss the difference between “surviving” and “healing,” and what a helpful community response to child sexual abuse might look like–from within the Black community, but also from allies.
Above all, these two experts agreed that the time is now to break the silence and the stigma around abuse. Many behaviors and health outcomes in Black communities can be directly tied to childhood abuse. Abuse might not be seen, but it can be heard in so many ways and we need to learn to listen for it.
“In the African American community, we’ve made silence a culture. We’ve made it a badge of honor, you know, like, “don’t snitch, don’t tell…” and our kids listen to that. But if we silence our voice, we silence our power.”
If you’ve ever wished to have a frank, judgement-free discussion about child sexual abuse, this Instagram Live is for you. Watch the full conversation for all of Ashley and Kevin’s insights here!
Honest Conversations is an Instagram Live series from Darkness to Light where two experts have an authentic discussion about stigma and child sexual abuse. Keep an eye out for part 2 of this discussion, coming soon.
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 Davis 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.
Follow us on social media to stay up to date and join the conversation.
4 responses to “Honest Conversations: Stigma and Child Sexual Abuse”
Thank you so much for this discussion. I hope to be able to continue this conversation on a deeper level with someone in Memphis.
What a wonderful presentation. The huge take away was the implications for cultural considerations as it relate to secrecy among many black families.
Thank you for highlighting the correlation between behaviour and trauma, wonderful presentation. Can you recommend any resources regarding how to have conversations with a child about incest.
Hi Tracey! Thanks for your comment! RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) has a lot of resources for incest survivors and families. Here is a good place to start: https://rainn.org/articles/incest?_ga=2.19886973.417004519.1601908954-1198597360.1601908954
I hope this helps! – Katherine, Deputy Director of Communications