CHEVERLY, Md. – They struggled with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and on Thursday victims were ready to tell their stories.
It was part of Prince George’s Hospital Center’s 14th annual Take Back the Night event.
For the last 40 years, the hospital is one of the few around the nation to have a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center. Services provided through the program include forensic medical exams, crisis intervention, counseling, victim advocacy, community education and volunteer coordination.
“[Prince George’s County has] the second highest number of rapes in the state of Maryland and the second highest amount of child sex assault cases, so it’s important to make people in the county aware of it,” said Cheryl Banks, a spokeswoman for the program.
Every year the hospital invites volunteers to share their stories of abuse during a public forum. The idea isn’t to shame the victims but to increase awareness and show how personal this kind of crime is to the victims.
One of this year’s featured speakers was Eric Wright-Mosby. Wright-Mosby was raised in PG county and says the abuse he suffered happened while he was in elementary school.
Wright-Mosby said it didn’t have a great impact until later on in his adolescence.
“I’d have flashbacks of what happened,” said the Wright-Mosby. “It’s like a veteran returning from the battlefront-- people don’t know how to relate to them and it’s hard for me to explain what I’ve been through.”
He believes sharing his story can both help him recover and prevent it from happening to someone else.
“Having people speak up is really encouraging,” said the Wright-Mosby who is on track to graduate from college in 2018.
This year victims were also asked to participate in an art project to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. They used T-shirts to express what the pain of abuse was like.
“It kind of ties into the old saying, ‘Don’t air your dirty laundry,’” said Banks referring to a mindset which prevented the reporting of abuse in the past.
Today, numbers from the Justice Department seem to show that there are fewer rapes compared to decades ago. There were 2.8 rapes for every 1,000 in 1979 and just .4 per thousand 25 years later.
While the national numbers are encouraging criminal justice professionals in PG county are still concerned about the number of victims locally.
“Nationwide rape cases are trending down but in Prince George’s County they are on the rise,” said Donine Carrington, a prosecutor with the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“They suffer fear, helplessness and a lack of control,” said Carrington.
But she added that a victim can put the pain in the past and move forward.
“All of it is in the past and does not define who you are,” said Carrington. “You take your power back; take your life back, take the night back.”