Sexual Abuse: From Victim to Survivor, Stories of Healing from [Childhood Sexual Abuse Trauma] and Advocating to hold Abusers Accountable


Childhood Sexual Abuse & Truama, Victims and Survivors share their journeys and Healing

I can recall Scott Walker with WGNS Radio in Murfreesboro, Tennessee discussing the need to end the statute of limitations on sexual abuse and the issue of childhood sexual trauma. For over a year or more Scott had mentioned it but I wasn’t interested in talking about such an extremely uncomfortable subject.

“The subject of childhood sexual abuse is often difficult.”

The subject of childhood sexual abuse and trauma is often difficult to discuss. To be honest, the topic makes me sick to my stomach. That’s probably why I shied away from it. Scott was relentless in his pursuit and had a deep conviction for positive change, after all he was a victim of childhood sexual abuse himself. He and others became those lobbyists that are not found on capitol hill.

After doing some research on the subject of childhood sexual trauma I started to find some very alarming statistics. The long-term effects that plague victims and the myriad of its effects is startling. When I asked Nathan Shaver, the senior research associate with Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, TACIR if they would be interested in helping by studying the issue. Needless to say, Nathan “got it” and he knew the issue was of great importance and very interested in helping. If my fellow legislators heard those powerful heartfelt testimonies, I knew they would be very moved for future legislation to be introduced to hopefully end the statute of limitations. The British statesman and Prime Minister William E. Gladstone once said, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

“Justice delayed is Justice denied,”                  ~William Gladstone

The legislature and the committee, in my opinion, and in my past experience would not be comfortable discussing this issue. If a bill was presented it would be quickly struck down and sent to the abyss of a summer study. Yes, some summer studies can be productive, but many bills are sent there to die a quick death.

Often the legislative committees go very fast and sadly many voices may not be heard. The legislature, in many cases, don’t have any lobbyist advocating for the needs of the average citizen. Yes, there are a few groups, but no one came to mind when it was the subject of childhood sexual trauma. That’s one reason I’m writing this article so more victims will seek the help they need and find the courage within themselves like these survivors to come forward. My thoughts are that survivors will find healing by helping others.

“Legislators and TACIR members heard those powerful heartfelt testimonies” ~ Rep. Mike Sparks

I want to say a specials thank you to Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn, Chairman Jim Coley, Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Mike Carter, Chairman Michael Curcio and Leader William Lamberth for their work and their attentiveness to the issue of childhood sexual trauma. I was proud that those legislators and others  personally met with victims and listened to their stories.

The long-term effects of sexual trauma is very alarming.

Many may not want to believe it is happening to any child they know. But with those statistics, that seems unlikely. Our children need to have someone that they can tell – a parent, teacher or an adult that they trust will believe and protect them. Many states have laws such as Jenna’s Law. The law ensures those who teach our children are fully aware of the signs and symptoms of child sexual trauma. They should know how to identify and assist with sexual abuse cases when they arise.

Does Society have a Childhood Sexual Abuse Epidemic?

As a society, we need to know that the first step in dealing with any epidemic is identifying that it exist then developing a plan to eradicate it. Childhood sexual abuse is vastly different from other crimes. Studies show that roughly 70% of the crimes of sexual abuse go unreported. Much like the victims such as Joanna, Donna, Tina and Scott many children will suffer in silence. If this was any other sickness or disease  we wouldn’t stand by and ignore there is a problem. It it was the flu, pneumonia or any other diagnosis and we knew that 1 in 4 people were victims we would certainly call it an epidemic. News anchors, journalist, doctors, nurses, elected officials and dozens of public service announcements would be discussing the issue. We should all identify that it is an epidemic, hold perpetrators accountable, help those victims and encourage survivors to seek therapy and counseling.

Human Sex Trafficking & Synchronicity

When I was first elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2010, Kathy Hines, a former Detroit police detective had requested a meeting with me. I often speak about a term called, “synchronicity.” Webster defines synchronicity as, the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality.” 

I will argue that Detective Kathy Hines was the first to advocate against human trafficking at the Tennessee General Assembly. During her visit she said, “I don’t know why but for some reason I felt a need to meet with you.” When she told telling me about human trafficking I didn’t know what it was and neither did anyone else at that that. My response to her was, “that stuff doesn’t happen in my community, no one would prostitute a young 13-year-old girl. We may have a few rough individuals, but they’re not that bad.”

Kathy helped me to set up for the first human trafficking conference held at the Tennessee Legislative Plaza with various law enforcement, including Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, TBI. She also helpd me go after the synthetic drug problem, known as synthetic cathinones which are often labeled as “plant food,” “bath salts.”  Many may know it as K2 which is dried herbs sprayed with chemicals. The Tennesseea General Assembly voted in May of 2011 to outlaw the use of the chemically treated, smokable leaves, known by names such as “Spice” and “K2,” and bath salts that are snorted or smoked as a hallucinogen.

Kathy and I personally went after a few local drug dealers. After they were busted by our local law enfrment and TBI we then went after their beer licenses. The Smyrna and Rutherford County Beer Board, alomg with Smyrna Attorney Jeff Peach and Beer Board Chairman Keith Brtahcer helped us by pulling their licenses. I highly doubt if those “POS” store owners will be selling anymore syntheic drugs to our children. I owe Detective Hines a great deal of gratitute. That is a great example of how God will send you someone to walk along side you if you call upon him. The book of Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Thank you Detective Hines for fighting the Good Fight and not sit on the sidelines like most do.


oanna’s ourney

I first met Joanna Yoder back in April of this year. Joanna has an infectious smile and a charming personality. She is like a sister or a friend who you thought you’ve known all of your life. Joanna’s personal story of being a victim of childhood sexual abuse is very powerful. She has found the courage to come forward and tell her story. She is hopeful that her efforts will lead other victims to come to terms and heal from this own personal childhood sexual abuse trauma.

Joanna read about our efforts to bring awareness to the issue of childhood sexual trauma. Last year in 2018 I had introduced House Bill 2536 which, “requires Tennessee Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to study the effectiveness of statutes of limitations on prosecution on for criminal offenses, requires the study to include information on sexual offense statutes of limitation and allows the study to include comparisons of Tennessee’s statutes of limitations to neighboring states.”

I met with her and listened to her heartfelt personal story of the sexual abuse by her uncles as a young girl. Joanna grew up in the Mennonite community just outside of Pulaski, Tennessee.

When she visited me was accompanied by her friend Sarah Kurtz and Stehpanie Strasburg, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She decided to travel south and confront her past and report her childhood sexual abuse.Stephanie Along Joanna’s journey Stephanie wrote and documented her story with pictures and video. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousands words, in Joanna’s case that certainly holds true.

Donna (Turner) Coulter’s Story


Donna (Turner) Coulter in her senior year at Smyrna High School

“People don’t realize the toll this takes on your life; every single aspect of your life is affected by childhood sexual abuse. Shedding light on this and coming out with it is the single healthiest thing I’ve ever done.  I feel lighter and life just feels better.  I hope it helps someone else,” ~ Donna Coulter.  

Tina (Bland) Ulery’s Story

(“Attached you will find the only picture I have from my time at the Children’s Home. My sister is in pink. She gave the ok to use the picture and to use her name. Kimberly Bland.
The picture is Easter 1976. In front of the Home that Kim lived in”-Tina)

I haven’t had counseling. I have dissected my own brain constantly to try and resolve the sadness, the depression, and the confusion of what I actually went through.

Tina and her sister Kim on Easter of 1976

I need counsel. My sister needs counseling. Luckily the great state of Tennessee has given my sister care and counseling through out her life, Florida does not care.

Tina Faye Bland-Ulery


But, I have researched the affects for years, I went to college at 40 to try and make up for my life decisions as a teen, a gesture to myself that I could be important,
that I was as smart as I thought I could be. I graduated with a feeling of great accomplishment, and this statute has been on my radar for a very long time.

Thank You so much!

I could have sorted this out a long time ago if I had counseling. The adults in my life that I did tell, did nothing.

Highest Regards, ~ Tina

House Bill 112 Statutes of Limitations Bill

by Rep. Mike Sparks

Statutes of Limitations and Repose – As introduced, removes the statutes of limitation for various sexual offenses that are Class A or B felonies when committed against children on or after July 1, 2019. – Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 40, Chapter 2. See Video Link:

Reseaching Childhood Sexual Truama Revealed Alarming Statistics

When I started researching the issue of childhood sexaul trauma I found some very alarming statistics. The cases of sexual abuse is probably the most under reported of any crimes in our society. Childhood sexual abuse estimates in the United States are devastating and very startling. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 42 million people are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Only 25-30% of the crime of sexual abuse gets reported.

In fact, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are likely to experience sexual abuse. Very often in most cases, 90 percent of the perpetrators are someone that is known to the child. It is estimated that 40 percent being in the family and another 40 percent by other stronger or older children.

Why is this the Silent Epidemic?

Why does this persist in our society? Why does it often go unchecked and upreported? There may be many different reasons. One is that the abuser is likely to be a master manipulator. A manipulator often plays on the child’s sense helplessness and reinforcing the guilt in the victim. One is that a child may feel an undeserved guilt that they must have did something wrong or somehow it was their fault. A child may be fearful that they will not be believed and somehow it’s their fault.

In fact, 1 out of 3 adults are unlikely to believe a disclosure made by a child with regard to sexual abuse. And even if they are believed, they may hesitate due to the collateral damage that will inevitably follow. Since most abusers are known to their juvenile victims, it’s inevitable that telling will result in several secondary victims: the family of the victim, the family of the perpetrator and other members of society who also know.

In fact, they are 7 to 13 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population.

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

The statistics of childhood sexual abuse is often difficult to analize. Experts agree that the cases of sexual abuse are far greater than what is reported to authorities. Statistics below represent some of the research done on child sexual abuse.

Accoridng to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted.

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Chidren Research Center show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are a victim of child sexual abuse;

  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;

  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

According to a 2003 National Institue of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 % (sixteen out of one thousand) of children between the ages of 12-17 were victims of rape/sexual assault..

A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results.

Chidlren who are victims of prolonged sexual abuse develop increased low self-esteem, the feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child often becomes withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and very often can become suicidal.

Children who do not live with both parents as well as children living in homes marked by parental discord, divorce, or domestic violence, have a higher risk of being sexually abused.

The Link Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Suicide

Childhood sexual trauma is a never-ending pain for victims. They often endure sleepless nights, nightmares, flashbacks, body memories and triggers, both internal and external that can send a survivor into despair. An internal trigger is know as a feeling of sadness, anxiety and anger. A few external trigger examples are certain smells, an anniversary or holiday and maybe seeing someone who reminds you of your traumatic event.

Thoughts of suicide is a very common theme among victims of childhood sexual abuse. Research published in Psychological Medicine today, children who experienced multiple abuse are as much as five times higher to attempt suicide. Child sexual abuse survivors may often show symptoms of PTSD, including angry behavior, frightening dreams, and repetitive play in which aspects of the abuse are expressed.

The link between Childhood Sexual Trauma and PTSD

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health disorder that occurs in the aftermath of situations that involve some form of violence or physical harm or situations that contain an imminent threat of violence or harm. Many people associate PTSD with their direct experience of wartime conditions. PTSD disorder can also appear after adverse events that include automobile accidents, earthquakes, kidnappings, rapes, bombings, floods and other various accidents. PTSD symptoms can also appear in the aftermath of child sexual abuse.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental disorder that can occur when a person has directly experienced — or even just witnessed — an extremely traumatic, tragic, or terrifying event. People with PTSD usually have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to.

Posttraumatic stress disorder, once referred to as “shell shock” or battle fatigue, was first brought to public attention by war veterans after the Civil War in the United States (and internationally, after World War I), but it can result from any number of traumatic incidents other than wartime. These include kidnapping, serious accidents such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive. The event that triggers it may be something that threatened the person’s life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or the event could be something witnessed, such as the destruction after a plane crash.


oanna’s ourney

Letter sent to me (with her permission to share it) from Joanna Yoder:

“I am a survivor of sexual abuse.


I was born and raised into a Mennonite Community in Grundy County Tennessee. 


My sexual abuse began at a very early age. As a toddler and continued off and on through the years until I left home at the age of 21.    I have no memory of an innocent childhood. 

I was sexually assaulted by five members within my Mennonite Community.  

At the age of 21 I left my home, my community, the only world I knew. 

With an 8th grade education, less then a hundred dollars in my pocket, I caught a ride to Central Pennsylvania, a thousand miles away from my family to begin a new life. 

I began a quest to find truth.  

I desperately wanted to believe that there was a better life out there. 

I longed to believe that I had worth and value beyond being used and discarded by evil religious men for their sexual perversions…while they went to church on Sundays and stood behind the pulpit, disguised in their plain clothing, teaching about God. 


It took years to reprogram my mind

Growing up in the religious organization, it was the fear that held me captive. 

Fear of God.

Fear of hell 

Fear of dying. 

Fear of leaving. 

Fear of just simply living. 

I remember clearly where I was standing one day soon after I left.. I laughed out loud, and I thought, “wow, I get to do that…it feels really good! ”

In April of 2019  I took a trip back to Giles County Tennessee where I lived as a child and revisited the home and farm where many years of abuse had occurred.  

It took years to gather up the courage to go back and revisit the demons of my past. However painful and difficult it was, I am so thankful that I did, because on this trip I learned that I am no longer need to be defined by my past. 

Joanna Yoder talks to detectives in front of your former grandparents home.

Sexual abuse is about secrets and lies. Every time victims tell their stories,there is light where darkness once was, Light and darkness cannot co-exist.  

I am so grateful to the amazing people I have met along the way. 

Lt Shane Hunter from the Giles County area and the other detectives who were so kind, hospitable, and helpful as I made the report of all the abuse that had occurred so many years prior.

I had the privilege and honor of meeting and speaking with Representative Michael Sparks regarding the bill that was pending in legislation about the statute of limitations. He took the time out of his busy day to listen to my story, and why I believe this to be an important topic that we need to be looking at and addressing. 

Pictured: Sara Kurtz, Joanna Yoder and Tennessee State Rep. Mike Sparks (R) of Smyrna, Tennessee.

My goal on this trip was to bring awareness to Law Enforcement and people in power regarding this epidemic of sexual abuse and I came home from this trip feeling like I had accomplished what I set out to do.   I could not have done that, had they not taken the time or cared to listen. 

If I was a resident in the State of Tennessee I would be proud of the people you have working for you. 

“In ending this, I just want to add that my faith is a key factor in my life and I believe that God was with me every step of this journey and I credit that to him.” Joanna Yoder

As Corrie Ten Boom says, There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

~ Joanna Yoder

Sara and Joanna pray over their lunch at Black Stallion Steakhouse after meeting with the Kentucky State Police, Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Columbia, Ky. Click below to hear Sara pray for their journey as she and Joanna go to visit places from Joanna’s conservative Mennonite childhood in Kentucky and Tennessee.

To read the full article about Joanna’s Journey in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette visit:

A study that has examined the correlation between childhood sexual abuse and drug and alcohol-related addiction found that prior sexual abuse was strongly associated with an increased in alcohol and drug addiction.

The American Journal on Addictions found that 75% of women who enter drug addiction programs reported having experienced childhood sexual abuse. According to another study, women who had endured a history of childhood sexual abuse were 3 times more likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol when they are adults.

Women who have experienced sexual abuse were 26 times more likley to use drugs.

According to a 1992 study by Kilpatrick, Edmunds, and Seymour found that rape victims are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana when compared with non-victims. They are also 5.3 times more likely than to use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes and 6.4 times more likely to use cocaine. The study also found that childhood sexual abuse victims are 10 times more likely to use hard drugs other than cocaine. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape report, 60% of women receiving treatment for substance abuse also survived physical, sexual or emotional abuse as children.

Men who were victims of sexual abuse were 13 times more likley to become alcohol dependent.


Legislature Asks For Study On Statutes Of Limitations For Child Sex Crimes

(Video courtesy of WTVF and Jason Lamb reporting about Rep. Mike Sparks and former Sen. Bill Ketron legislation which requires TACIR to conduct a study to end the statute of limitations on sexual abuse with the TACIR)

Thankfully courageous survivors such as Joanna Yoder, Donna (Turner) Colture, Tina Ulery, Scott Walker and others have came forward to tell their stories. These stories are often difficult for victims to come forward and share and to be quit honest they were difficult for me, as a man to listen to. I cannot fathom a father or an uncle or any grown adult abusing a young girl especially as young as early as 4 and 5 years of age.

“I want to thank my colleges in the Tennessee General Assembly for listening to victims of sexual abuse. The TACIR hearings and powerful testomonies of Scott Walker and Donna Coulter led to the legislation ending the statutes of limitations on sexual abuse. Childhood sexual abuse is a difficult issue to discuss. PTSD from the traumatic effects during childhood from sexual abuse is something that needs to be addressed in our society. My hope with the sexual abuse legislation I’ve carried is to encourage victims to find some form of healing by seeking counseling and therapy and prosecute those who have committed these type of crimes,” said Rep. Mike Sparks


If you suspect child abuse call the Hotline to report child abuse or neglect in the State of Tennessee. 877-237-0004

If your a victim of sexual abuse and are in need of counseling call the Crisis & Support: 1-800-879-1999