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Dr. Shireen Fernandez & Andrew Willis

Andrew is a wonderful man from Britain, who is as genuine as they come and always has time for everyone. He put his life aside to Champion a cause very close to his heart and one that should be close to all our hearts as well.

SC: What is the Stop Abuse Campaign and why did you start it?

AW: Firstly let me thank you Alex and Shireen for inviting me here. I’m happy to have the opportunity to discuss stopping abuse but particularly happy to talk about it with you because stopping abuse is a choice for society. It is Society’s Choice! Each of us make that decision on behalf of society every day.

The Stop Abuse Campaign is a grassroots movement stopping the sexual, physical and emotional abuse that affects half the US population. That’s right half!

A group of friends launched the campaign with me and more friends join us every day. Many of us are survivors but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about stopping abuse. When I rattle off the statistic ‘half the population are survivors of abuse’ it just flows over people’s heads, its too big a number to think about, too incredible, frankly it’s unbelievable – but the statistics that the number is based on come from the FBI. They’re collated from police forces across the country. It is sadly true.

Men, women and children get abused sexually, physically and emotionally every day. A quarter of our children are sexually abused before they are 18 years old. And frankly what’s more incredible is the fact that nobody is talking about it. Since we started this interview today someone else has been sexually abused in America!

That’s the most important thing we have to change. We need to get people to talk about the problem, we have to ignite conversations.

Abuse is the cornerstone of many of society’s problems. Understandably society judges addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and the incarcerated but consider this; 9 out of 10 prostitutes were sexually abused as children and in their shame are living the life they believe they deserve, 8 out of 10 of our substance abusers were abused as children, 8 out of 10 of our home runaways who go on to become our sex slaves of tomorrow cite abuse in their decision, 7 out of 10 of our alcoholics, 9 out of 10 of our pedophiles and 8 out of 10 of our prison population.

That’s a whole lot of human suffering. A whole lot of human suffering that is costing the US over $400 billion a year, that’s a $3,000 taxpayer burden for each one of us. To put it in perspective we debated $300 Billion over 10 years in last year’s healthcare debate we’re talking about an investment of $400 Billion every year to mop up after abuse.

Abuse causes massive, ongoing and very expensive human suffering.

Society has a choice though. We can continue to invest in the human suffering that forms the aftermath of abuse or we can make a far smaller investment in stopping abuse.

To stop abuse we just need to educate America. Every American adult needs to understand enough about abuse to stop it. That’s not a lot of education, not a lot of understanding, and not an impossible task.

Compare it to drunk driving. Yes people still drink and drive but it is no longer culturally acceptable. I won’t let you drive from my house if you’ve been drinking and yet only 20 years ago drinking and driving was almost a badge of honour to some.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving changed that, they educated America, understanding led to a change in societal attitudes, laws changed. In a landmark Supreme Court ruling the court agreed that the Federal Government could make road funding conditional on state law changes.

MADD shows it can be done. We just need to do it, and that’s why we launched the Stop Abuse Campaign.

SC: What does the term “survivor” mean?

AW: Dictionary.com defines the term to mean “A person who survives, esp. a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died: “the sole survivor of the massacre”.

Half of us are survivors of some form of illegal abuse. Most of us are just not talking about it, we’re ashamed. Many of us would agree we are surviving where others have died.

Abuse survivors survive one day at a time. Many of them keep their abuse secret because of their shame. It eats away their sole. Most rapes go unreported, most child abuse is the same,and in most states when it is eventually reported,when the survivor is at last able to deal with it themselves, society continues to protect the abusers. Statutes of limitations protect pedophiles and rapists from prosecution. Statutes of limitations that don’t apply to crimes like murder and in most cities don’t apply to parking tickets either!

Abuse survival is one day at a time and abuse remains the major cause of suicide in this country. That’s what being a survivor is.

Over the last two years we have interviewed many thousands of survivors and a lot of experts like psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, lawyers and members of the criminal justice system and from that and our own experiences our small team has put together a very simple plan to stop abuse in America.

Our plan is as bold as it is simple. All we have to do is sell it to one person at a time and get them to sell it too! We need America to decide to stop abuse one person at a time.

Abuse can stop if we want it to.

SC: How can we help to stop abuse?

AW: It starts with becoming an AbuseStopper.

That’s what we call our members and it’s also our name on Twitter!

As an AbuseStopper you have access to our Tool Box where you will have access to simple online education modules which you can use to create your safe environments. Safe environments for ourselves and safe environments for those we love.

The role of an AbuseStopper is to create safety!

Each of us has a responsibility to create an environment safe from abuse around us. We have to create a safe home, a safe workplace, a safe school for our children, safe churches, and safe homes for our elderly. If each American spends 30 minutes learning, and certifying, in each of these environments I commit to you now that together we will stop abuse.

How?

That’s the easy bit!  Because we are you!

As an AbuseStopper you take personal responsibility for creating your own safe environments and safe environments for those you care about.

As an AbuseStopper you pledge not to abuse and you pledge to report abuse when you even suspect it. Report it like the crime it is by calling 911.

Abuse is a subject that none of us wants to talk about and so we all know enough to be dangerous. For instance most parents, myself included, spent time talking with our children about ‘Stranger Danger’ but did we spend time talking with our children about family danger? A quarter of our children are sexually abused and adults need to take responsibility for stopping that. We need to educate ourselves.

In 7 out of 10 cases childhood sexual abuse is incest. He or she may be a teacher, cleric or sports coach but the biggest chance is that it is an incestuous relationship, a family relationship. No wonder nobody wants to talk about this!

But we need to talk about this.

Abuse doesn’t just happen in the next city or on the next block. The sad fact is that most children and adults know their abusers. Statistically abuse is happening next door or in the next room. That’s why most abuse doesn’t get reported. As a society we need to make it easier.

How can you help to stop abuse? It starts with going to our website and becoming a member. It costs just $10 a year to be an AbuseStoppers. That’s 89 cents a month. That’s less than a small bottle of water a month!

SC: How bad is abuse in our current society?

AW: The Centre For Disease Control list abuse as epidemic. A quarter of our children are sexually abused before they are 18 years old. A quarter of our women will suffer domestic violence, many men too. Around half the population of America are survivors of some form of illegal abuse. And as we’ve discussed there are severe consequences to abuse. The science is becoming available. Society now understands the terrible consequences of abuse. Society now needs to do something about it. We’re here to help.

SC: How did you get the courage to speak up?

AW: Hahaha! I look at that question the other way round. I ask myself how I had the courage to stay quiet for so long. Speaking out isn’t easy. Most survivors feel some shame, often survivors feel in some way complicit in their own abuse, I know that I felt complicit in mine – but I was eight years old. That’s too early to be made responsible for your sex life!

I feel I have a duty to speak out. Nobody judges me more harshly than I judge myself. My transparency about all aspects of my life including my abuse means I have to live up to my own standards! Being abused is never your fault. After years of therapy I’m not ashamed of my journey, I understand it and I’ll spend the rest of my life working to stop abuse happening to others.

SC: Is abuse common to both men and women?

AW: Yes, abuse has no boundaries, nor is it exclusive to any race, religion or culture. We allow abuse to ripple through our families, neighborhoods, businesses and places of worship. At the Stop Abuse Campaign we have a simple belief: Abuse, whether it’s sexual, physical or emotional, affects us all, and we all share a responsibility for stopping it.

SC: Is Abuse common in other countries outside the USA?

AW: All the statistics I have seen show reasonably consistent levels of abuse around the world. Of course abuse is defined differently in different countries and that affects the statistics that are usually provided by law enforcement. Take spanking as an example of that. The science now available clearly shows that spanking has a lasting affect on children’s brains. I wish I had known that earlier – as I’m sure do both my sons! Spanking is still legal in most states in America but has been banned in much of the rest of the world.

SC: What do you intend to do going forward?

AW: Well, that’s an easy question for us to answer. We’re going to stop abuse for the next generation, the generation being born tomorrow. We’re going to do that because we can. We’re going to do that because stopping abuse is a decision we can all make. Frankly now that the science is available to us not stopping abuse is the harder decision for each of us to justify.

We can all be AbuseStoppers. We can all be a part of this solution. We can stop abuse here in America and across the world. We can stop abuse as soon as each one of us decides to play our role and become an AbuseStopper.

SC: What message can you leave the 20,000 members of Society’s Choice?

AW: All of society is affected by abuse and we all share the responsibility for stopping it. We’re not funded by government we’re funded by you our members. We can’t do this without you.

Please join the campaign by visiting www.stopabusecampaign.com. Membership is only $10 a year and for that we commit to giving you the tools to protect yourself and those you love – but only you can do it.

We can all be AbuseStoppers.  We can all be a part of this solution.  We can stop abuse here in America and across the world.  We can stop abuse as soon as each one of us decides to play our role and become an AbuseStopper.

For more info:
andrew.willis@stopabusecampaign.com |  www.stopabusecampaign.com

http://twitter.com/AbuseStoppers
http://www.youtube.com/user/StopAbuseCampaign
If you are being abused or know someone who is you can find helpful resources here: http://stopabusecampaign.com/get-help-here/
Our vision is to stop abuse and alleviate the suffering of all those directly & indirectly affected, including families, friends, communities & businesses.

Andrew Willis, CEO of Stop Abuse Campaign

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3 Comments

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    Best,
    Melissa

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