By Leah Sander
WARSAW — A recent event in Warsaw aimed to “stop the silence” regarding abuse.
The Walk of Warriors event on Saturday, Sept. 25, included several speakers at Central Park who shared personal stories. Attendees then took a short walk through downtown Warsaw. Walkers carried signs advocating support for survivors of abuse and paused several times to let those riding in passing cars view their signs.
The event was the brainchild of Stephanie Puckett’s daughter, who is a sexual abuse survivor.
“She chose to do the walk because she wants to raise awareness for sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse,” said Puckett, of Warsaw, who also experienced sexual abuse in the past. “Her thing is that she wants people to know that there is help out there.”
“She actually chose the name Walk of Warriors because she feels that everyone that’s been through some type of abuse like this is a warrior, considering that she’s one of the strongest ones I know dealing with everything she’s dealt with,” Puckett added.
Puckett’s daughter spoke briefly Saturday as did several others who shared their experiences: Melanie Ambrose, Jasmine Capps and Margaret Bean.
Ambrose prayed before she spoke and said “I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for (the) very loving God that we have.”
As part of her talk, Ambrose noted it was time to “stop the silence” regarding what victims of abuse have been through.
She shared the story of how she was sexually abused by her grandfather while young and the effects it had on her life. Her mother learned the truth when Ambrose was 23.
“And she said, ‘I thought so because he molested me too,'” said Ambrose. “And in that moment, my entire heart shattered because the one person who was always supposed to be there for me and protect me continuously put me in that same situation.”
“I had a whole lot of resentment, a whole lot of hate, a whole lot of self-doubt,” Ambrose continued. “I didn’t feel like I was worthy of anything. I told her that I was grateful that he was dead, so that he couldn’t hurt my daughter, but regardless, that was still her dad. And in her own way, she had to try to deal … too. You know, nobody’s perfect. We’re not born knowing how to be a parent or a sister or even a good kid. We’re taught all those things.”
Ambrose shared that she dealt with her pain as a teenager by first using marijuana and drinking. She later moved on to meth, before being sober for the last six years.
Ambrose’s pain from the abuse also affected her relationships.
“And that pattern of no self-worth actually, I got into any relationship that I could very early on,” she said. “I have been in two very abusive marriages. It took a very long time for me to actually believe that it isn’t OK for people to put their hands on you. It isn’t OK, but it is OK for us to stand up.”
She encouraged those present to protect the vulnerable around them and ask questions if people display signs that they may have been abused.
“The most important thing that I have ever learned in my life is that if we do not stop the silence, the stigma will not end and there will be more (victims) and there will be an entire generation we have failed because we let the predators, the abusers, the whoever, because we let them go untouched,” she said.
Ambrose also shared she is close to getting her bachelor’s degree in substance abuse crisis intervention so she can help others.
“I really want to help women,” she told InkFreeNews before Saturday’s event started. “I would prefer to help women with children that have legal troubles just to try to help them find help and not for it to take going to jail or losing their kids for them to be able to actually get help.”
Capps was next to share her story. She spoke of how she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend when she was 10 years old and then a few years later by her aunt’s husband, who also abused her cousin.
She also encouraged people to speak out about abuse.
“I know there’s a lot of cases where people don’t speak up because they don’t think they’ll be listened to, that they’ll just be ignored or whatnot, but people need to speak up.”
Also at the event, a raffle was held. It raised $404, which will go to the Warsaw Police Department. Puckett said the funds are going there because the WPD was helpful in handling the investigation of her daughter’s abuse.
Puckett stated she hopes the Walk of Warriors will become an annual event. She created the Facebook group We Are Warriors, which people may message to learn how to get help regarding abuse.
Ambrose said people could also message her personal Facebook page to learn how to get help.