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Sexual Assault Awareness through the stories of survivors

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. It's a national campaign that aims to raise the public's awareness of sexual assault, and let people know the services available to victims who experience it. 7News Anchor Makenzie Burk spent some time with two victims of sexual assault who want to tell their story, in hopes of helping someone else.

Every 98 seconds another person experiences sexual assault. Most often it's by someone the victim knows. Sexual violence affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Today, only 3 out of every 500 rapists will end up in behind bars. While you may not be a victim, someone you know has been sexually assaulted.

"I was grounded and a friend had called me and asked if I would walk to the store with her. These guys came and picked us up from the drug store. And they were driving this like pimped out Cadillac and they were older. So, we got in the car with them and we went to the liquor store and they bought liquor and just started drinking," Jordan Kuhs shared.

"I really didn't I guess realize the signs or see anything at first...He would just, we would clash sometimes and he would hit me," April Campbell said.

"I remember I kept asking them to use the phone to call my mom, and they just kept saying 'you can call her later, you can call her later.' They just kept feeding me more alcohol and more alcohol," Jordan stated.

"I remember one incident where he held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me and I called the police. And then of course he convinced me to drop the charges," April explained.

"We were standing at the back of the vehicle. I ended up getting so intoxicated that I passed out," Jordan said.

"He ended up tying me up and sexually assaulting me. After beating me for two and a half hours. He finally fell asleep and at that moment I laid in bed and I was thinking what do I do?" said April.

"I had scrapes all over my elbows and one of them put me in the back seat of the car and raped me in the back seat of the car." Jordan Kuhs was raped when she was just 14 years old. "I never talked to anybody about it. It was just shoved aside, and life goes on."

"I tell people you know you keep stuff bottled up, it comes out regardless of whether you want it to or not," Kerrie Matthews, the Program Director for New Direction's women shelter says there are people for victims to talk to.

"A lot of times with sexual assault people don't want to report. Maybe they're ashamed of how it happened, that it happened to them. There's a lot of victim blaming that happens with sexual assault."

"Why did you get in the car? Or why did you drink that much? If you hadn't have drank that much you wouldn't have passed out. If you hadn't had, this wouldn't have happened. If you hadn't had, that wouldn't have happened. Well, if they wouldn't have, it wouldn't have happened. End of story," Jordan explained.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's website, 2 out of every 3 sexual assaults go unreported. In Jordan’s case, she did go to police and there was physical evidence of sexual assault but, because she couldn't remember much, detectives told her and her family they didn't have enough information to go after the man.

"It affects your family life, your marriage life, your relationship with your kids." Jordan says it's something she's carried with her, her whole life.

"It's about someone being able to exert their power over another person. That is the same thing that happens a lot of times in a relationship where there was domestic violence," said Matthews.

April Campbell was married to her ex-husband for 7 and a half years and never thought of herself as being in an abusive relationship until she got out.

"You justify things. Oh, he was upset, oh he said it's not going to happen again. Oh, I really want my daughter to have a mom and a dad and not be from a divorced home like I was," said April.

"A lot of times because, especially if they are married, the partner may feel like they have to do something sexual with their partner that they don't want to do just because they are married. You can even be raped or sexually assaulted by someone that you love, that you are even married to," Matthews explained.

The last straw for April came when her ex came home after a night of drinking.

"I let him in the house and then he proceeded to beat me for two and a half hours-- banging my head against the door, getting on top of me and choking me. I really honestly thought I was going to die that night." April got away and called the police and he was arrested and charged. "It was hard because I was far away from any family but I knew then that that's what I needed to do."

"A lot of times the victim is scared and they don't know what to do and they just don't know sometimes where to turn because they've been told no one would help them. There's other people who are going through some of the same things that you are and that know what you feel and what you think. All of the emotions that you're going through are completely normal and it's going to be hard, but you don't have to do it alone," Matthews said.

For April and Jordan, they hope that telling their stories will inspire others to speak up too.

"Love shouldn't hurt. No one should be hurting you or abusing you. So, you definitely need to talk about it and get some help. I mean once you're out of the situation you'll look back and you'll just 'I can't believe I stayed. I can't believe I went through this for so long,'" April explained.

"I think that God put me on this earth to help people anyway. He put me through that so that I could come out and have the strength that I have now, and have the knowledge that I have now, and have the fight that I have now, and the voice that I have now, to help people. That's what I take out of it. Absolutely," Jordan said.

It is not common for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault to come out and tell their story so publicly, but April and Jordan wanted to show other victims that they can heal from something like this and come out even stronger.

My aunt, Diane Burk-Dye, was a victim of domestic violence. In 2010, after filing a restraining order and a protective order against her abuser, she was murdered by her estranged husband.

If you or someone you know is or was a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, speak up. You could save someone’s life.

New Directions in Lawton offers counseling, housing, advocates who stand by your side, and many other services. The number for the 24/7 hotline is 580-357-2500. The number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800-656-HOPE. They are both free and confidential.

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