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Tina is a survivor of childhood sexual assault who became increasingly involved in advocacy work through her local crisis center and with the Coalition. Tina has learned a great deal about advocacy on multiple levels, and is excited to share that information with other survivors who would like to be more involved in creating positive change in the Granite State. Tina was a keynote speaker at the 2020 NH Womens' Rally. Read her powerful speech below and you can also see the video.
I am here to share my story as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse but more importantly my story of becoming a committed voter!
Just over three years ago I publicly opened up about my experience with sexual violence. Since then I have shared my story to legislative committees, to individual policy makers, and in crowded rooms. I’ve written letters to the editor. I’ve participated in statewide awareness campaigns. I’ve organized phone banks and served as a keynote speaker. I’ve told my story to my friends, my family, and my community. I’ve done everything in my power to help other Granite Staters realize that there is plenty of work to be done and we all have a role to play in eliminating this problem.
Even as I list all that I’ve done to advocate for my fellow survivors, I still can’t believe I’ve found the strength to do all of it. As a young girl, as a teen, and even as an adult – I struggled in silence. I didn’t open up to those closest to me out of fear of not being believed or being blamed for what happened to me. I couldn’t even imagine telling hundreds of strangers – yet, here I am.
When I was finally ready to shatter the silence, I still didn’t know if I had the strength to say it out loud – to share my most vulnerable and terrifying moments with the world.
It’s hard to talk about my father climbing on top of me in our car the night before my first day of school. It’s hard to talk about my father beating my brother and sending him to his room so he could then be with me. It’s hard to talk about my father making me feel guilty and scared as a 10 year old child.
Yet here I am
I am here because I don’t want another six year old girl to know what it feels like to have their father climb on top of them and wonder what they did to deserve it. I am here because I want every survivor to know that support is available. I am here because victims’ rights must be taken more seriously by our education and criminal justice systems. I am here because The NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and other survivors showed me what was possible and why voting was crucial to make change happen.
I was one of those women who thought my vote didn’t matter. Sure, I knew how hard suffragists fought for the right to vote and how incredibly brave they were. That still didn’t make me feel like my vote mattered.
Today I feel differently
My story is no longer only made up of accounts of victimization – I have experience with advocacy, activism, and creating positive change. I’m no longer the scared six year old girl who was sexually assaulted by her father – I am a strong, driven, passionate, and powerful survivor who has found her voice. THIS is what made me feel like my vote mattered. I’ve told my story so loud that those in the highest elected offices have listened! That is why my vote matters! We need to be aware and learn about the candidates to make our vote matter!
I have found my voice – AND it’s not going anywhere
To close, I will borrow words from Michelle Williams’, “So, women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest. It's what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don't forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let's make it look more like us."
Tina Smith is the Volunteer Director of the Coalition's Survivor Caucus, She is a pediatric nurse, a mom, and an activist. She is the Chair of the Greater Federation of Women's Clubs NH Fundraising & Development Program and also serves on the Club's Domestic & Sexual Violence Awareness & Prevention Committee. You can learn more about Tina in our Courage of Survivors Video.
If you are a survivor and would like to learn more about how to use your voice to create positive change, Tina is happy to speak with you. Email email@example.com or reach out to Tina to learn more.