"Stories of sexual assault and harassment are very prevalent in the news right now, and while it might be hard to hear, abuse can happen to anyone – even someone close to you or someone you see every day.
"In fact, you may have heard about the “Me Too” movement, which encourages women and men to come forward with their stories to shed light on this problem.
"It doesn’t make our jobs as news anchors and journalists easy when we have to report the facts of something this tragic, but we strive to inform you of the good and bad, and to help the members of our community whenever and however possible.
"Day in and day out, you welcome me into your hearts and homes. So I’m taking this time to let you into my heart, with the hopes of helping just one person. It’s not going to be easy for me to say, and could be hard for you to hear – and you may not want children present for this.
"My mom always told me, 'Be a voice for those who don’t have one.'
"But in a time when there is something horrible in the news, like the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and so many others hits close to home, who would be MY voice?
"Drowning in shame and pain…finally a light…a beacon of sorts, freeing me from the guilt I’ve been carrying for almost a decade. I finally heard my voice through millions of women, in the form of two words…Me Too. That movement, giving me the strength to share my story of survival.
"That story has been haunting me for nine years. Nine years of flashbacks, of tears. Nine years of carrying a weight too heavy to hold most of the time. For nine years, I made the weight easier to carry by simply ignoring what had happened to me, but never allowed myself to share the burden – always feeling like it was mine to bear. Like I put myself in a position to be drugged and raped, because I was stupid enough to believe an audition with an Academy Award-winning composer was legitimate.
"For nine years, I have thought about what I could have done differently. I had done my research. Joseph Brooks was extremely credible, with songs like “You Light Up My Life” topping his list of accomplishments. An assistant posed as my friend, and as a mother figure – she had shared her personal life with me, even introducing me to her husband and her small children. She sucked me in and gained my trust. My gut told me it was too good to be true, but at 23 years old, I wasn’t listening to instincts, I was chasing after what I thought was a “huge movie role” and heading to New York City for the first time.
"The only dress I had packed was perfect in my mind. It was knee-length, it was floral and it was classy. It was my great-grandmother’s, and I figured it would bring me good luck. The audition was set in a low-lit apartment in an extravagant part of town. A glass full of white wine awaited me and GG’s dress.
"The wine was the beginning of the end. Everything went black. Now with every ounce of dignity shredded, the acclaimed composer had also literally shredded my identity, and my driver’s license, my credit cards…everything was gone. I was stuck in New York, weak, hopeless and ashamed.
"When I finally made it home, I couldn’t find it within myself to tell the people I loved what had happened.
"Not long after my time in New York, a brave woman came forward about her dark experiences with Joseph Brooks. I, too, was his victim. I knew I couldn’t let her stand alone, so, through my pain, I stood in front of a room of strangers – a judge, lawyers and police officers – sharing the horrifying details involving the man whom I knew right then and there would always be a part of my life.
"In 2008, Joseph Brooks was indicted on 91 counts of sexual assault. At least 11 women were lured into that Manhattan apartment under false pretenses of stardom and hope. In 2011, before the case could make it to trial, Joseph Brooks killed himself. Shortly after, the assistant pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and criminal fabrication charges.
"My nightmare wasn’t over, though. It was just beginning.
With no closure, I stored those dark memories and feelings deep within my soul. I knew I would never be the same. But through the ashes, we rise.
"That pain, while still fresh and raw, is that of so many women who could have gone on in silence, feeling like it was their fault – me, too.
"Feeling like you could have done something different…me, too.
"Feeling like you should have been smarter…me, too.
"Feeling like you couldn’t keep living this life…me, too.
"Wishing someone would have empowered you to rise above this horrendous reality…me, too.
"If you are fighting your own battle, I am going to be that woman to empower you, and tell you it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done anything differently. You are smart, strong and you are needed right here on this Earth. Me, too.
"No two stories are like, and no one else’s story holds more weight than yours. Sexual assault in any capacity is serious and devastating.
"While what happened to me is constantly in the back of my mind, I didn’t want that to be what people saw when they looked at me. The decisions a horrible man made did not and will not define me. By no means do I want you to take pity on me. That weakness I felt, I’ve turned into compassion for others. That silence that took me over became my strength in telling your stories throughout the community.
"Your story of survival is not who you are, but regardless, it has helped shape us into the people we are, broken and scarred, but mighty and resilient.
"You are a warrior. Pick up your sword and shield and fight. No matter how you share your story, even if it is just writing it down to tear it up – trust me, I’ve been there a lot over the years – whatever you choose to do is the correct thing. As you are in control of your life, you and you alone can make that decision.
"I was inspired to tell my story right here and right now, publicly, for the first time outside of a courtroom, by the “Me Too” movement, along with another news anchor in Seattle who also recently shared her story. By the grace of God I am here to tell my truth.
"My family, friends, and colleagues have lifted me up and embraced me through my time of what I thought was weakness, when really, this has given me strength.
"I am so grateful for that. After living feeling like a victim for nearly a decade, I finally feel like a survivor. We can lift each other up. We can begin to heal.
HOW TO GET HELP
TURNING POINT, YORK COUNTY
YORK COUNTY VICTIMS ASSITANCE CENTER
PCAR (PA COALITION AGAINST RAPE)
NSVRC (NATIONAL SEXUAL VIOLENCE RESOURCE CENTER)
NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE