Emily’s Story – Everyone Can Become an Advocate

"Being around the younger girls, I developed a strong desire to make the gym a safe and healthy environment for them."
“Being around the younger girls, I developed a strong desire to make the gym a safe and healthy environment for them.”  photo by Dakota Hersey Photography

I’ve been a competitive gymnast for 13 years (since I was just 5 years old!), and my teammates are like my family. Not just the teammates in my age group, either– competitors down to the youngest tumblers make up my tight knit community. That’s why I decided to become an advocate. 

Gymnastics has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember and has really helped shape me into the person I am today. It was heartbreaking to hear about the events that went on inside of USA Gymnastics involving Dr. Larry Nassar. It was sickening to know that all of that was allowed to go on for so long. Those girls, along with many other gymnasts, should have been protected and kept safe. This is one of the many reasons that I wanted to be involved with Darkness to Light and advocate for this movement.  

Being around the younger girls, I developed a strong desire to make the gym a safe and healthy environment for them. I truly believe that children are a gift from God and that they should always feel safe, be protected by adults, and not put in harm’s way. Sexual abuse can destroy a child’s life in so many ways. Fear, PTSD, behavior issues, and poor self-esteem are just a few of the things that a sexually abused child may experience, and absolutely nobody deserves to go through that. 

Adults need to be held accountable for protecting children, but I do believe that kids my age can take action as well! I think that children of all ages can be taught how to speak up and protect their bodies. Some other things that I want to encourage kids my age to do would be to learn the signs of manipulation and always pay attention to what’s going on around you.  

I’m thrilled to be named 2020’s Teen North Carolina Petite, and its important to me to use my platform to advocate for child sexual abuse prevention. Child sexual abuse is a devastating thing that happens more than most would think, and I want to do what I can to spread awareness and to help prevent it.  

My goal is to encourage as many people as I can to take the training that Darkness to Light provides in order to become a child sexual abuse prevention advocate themselves.  

August 12 is International Youth Day, which gives an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement. The theme of International Youth Day 2020, “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced. Learn more from the United Nations here. 

This Spotlight Story was shared via our Share Your Story feature, through which survivors can offer their experiences as a source of insight, support, and ultimately hope for the community. In order to create a safe and supportive community for all our readers, we do not share the names of perpetrators or the specifics of court cases. All posts are reviewed prior to posting, must adhere to Darkness to Light’s guidelines for appropriate content, and may have been edited for length.