Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Angela Shelton Interview

I love Angela Shelton!

I still cannot read the part in this interview, about the seventeen year old girl who committed suicide, without bursting into tears.

Suffering in silence can be deadly.

I highly recommend this book!

Angela Shelton
This is an interview with Angela Shelton that I found on
Angela is such an inspiration, so I thought that I would share.

Do Something: You didn't start the Finding Angela Shelton journey thinking the main theme would be about abuse - your own and so many other Angelas' - did you?

Angela Shelton: No. As I was traveling, I connected with the Angelas as victims of abuse and violence. I knew then that I had to talk about child abuse (in the film and book), especially sexual abuse, because it's an epidemic. Violence and abuse breeds silence, but the self abuse that often follows is totally silent. I see that a lot in teens. I see self-mutilation, substance addiction, sex and love addiction, all in an effort to fill the void.

DS: This happened to you too: After you were sexually and physically abused by your father, you began to hurt yourself.

AS: I put my self through hell, all because of what someone else did to me. I know it makes no sense but it's what so many do, so I wrote about it. The hope is for every survivor to stop the self abuse and break the cycle. That's how the abuse continues - victims marry abusive people, then their kids get abused, and then these kids marry abusive people, and so on and so on. If all survivors heal, we could make a huge shift in society.

DS: How did you plan for such a project?

AS: It did not go as planned. A: I ran out of money. B: I was faced with my own abuse and I wasn't prepared to deal with all of it. It got really intense. I realized I was going to have to confront my dad, my abuser. Then I learned that it was scheduled for Father's Day. I planned it for that day not realizing it -- I never celebrated the holiday.

DS: Why did you decide to write the book and take such a deeper personal dive?

AS: As I was traveling, I found that people wanted to hear my story. So many of them were just like me; we connected as victims of abuse and violence. I knew then that I had to talk about child abuse, especially sexual abuse.

DS: What was the most surprising part of this experience?

AS: Definitely the movement it created. It's totally out of my hands now. If something happened to me today, it would still continue. That's the whole point of the brand that Angela Shelton has become - it's not me, it's just my name. It's about inspiration and empowerment. To this day, every time I visit a college or lecture somewhere, people tell me Searching for Angela Shelton saved their lives. They stopped self-mutilating or decided not to kill themselves. They began to heal relationships.

DS: If you could say something to all the teens in the country, what would you tell them?

AS: Stop judging each other. Stop the whole clique thing, no more gossiping. When I visit schools I always tell a story I heard about what many consider the "perfect" all-American girl - blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect prom queen. I mean, really perfect - she got a new car on her 16th birthday, rich parents, rich life, rich everything. She killed herself when she was 17. In her suicide note she wrote that her piano teacher had been raping her since she was nine. She never told anyone because she was perfect; her coping mechanism was perfectionism. She had no one to turn to because everyone judged her. They hated her because she was just too perfect, but the reality was that she had this deep, dark secret. Her parents published her suicide letter in the local newspaper and six more girls came forward that had been raped by the same piano teacher. No one ever knew that was happening to that girl because she didn't feel like she had a safe place or person to go to. I tell teens they all have a story. I tell them about how I actually hated myself and was obsessed with trying to be beautiful. I self-mutilated and abused myself, and I was a fashion model! I was paid for being beautiful. So it doesn't matter where you come from or what you do, it can happen to anyone.

DS: How did you come up with Report It Now! - Angela Shelton Day?

AS: My original idea was "What if we all reported abuse on the same day -- "Would that make a difference? Would that create tension?" It grew into more than just reporting a violation. People started showing up at their county courthouses. And those that can't report because the statute of limitations lapsed fill out an online form. I was raped when I was 15 and have no idea who did it so I'm filling out the online forms. (For online form click here)

DS: How can young people get involved in Report It Now! Day?

AS: They can visit and find ways to start a Report It Chapter. They can involve their schoolmates in the movement. It's very similar to Take Back the Night - everyone gathers in one place and tells their stories. The difference is we encourage people to report the abuse, but we don't want to force anyone to go to a police station. We're just starting the conversation, saying it's time to start thinking about reporting it, so hopefully they'll ready themselves to report their perpetrator.

DS: Is there an organization or hotline they can contact if they aren't ready to share?

AS: Oh yes. There's Rape Survivors Anonymous and Survivors of Incest Anonymous. There's even a link on my site where people report a rape or assault anonymously.

DS encourages you to talk to your parents if you have been abused. If you don't feel ready, contact the anonymous groups above and you can also report the abuse anonymously by clicking here.

Report It Now Day is NOT about your confronting your abuser. It's about reporting the abuse to a safe authority so be wise and please be careful.

Need more info on violence against women and girls? Click here. Want to get take action for women? Click here for ideas!