Ladies, meet Jenna Quinn. A “triumphant survivor of sexual abuse,” Jenna knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. When she was 17, she was approached by the Dallas Morning News to be featured in an article just days after her molester was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Since then, she has become an activist and a “voice for the voiceless.” Jenna took some time this week to tell us a bit more of her story.
4word: What was it that gave you the courage seven years ago to first speak up and tell your story to the News?
Jenna: Seven years ago, I realized that for the first time I felt like I did not have to keep silent about the injustice that I withstood. The News heard about my story, and they approached me for the interview. After the interview was over, I remember very specifically what the reporter said. He said, "Don’t worry. We will not put your name in the article."
After the reporter made this statement I was immediately upset. I was upset because my last comment was encouraging other victims to seek help. I felt that I could not ask others to come forward in disclosing their abuse if I was too ashamed to say who I was, and I know that this boldness only came from my secure identity in Christ.
4word: What encouragement do you offer to other women who might be struggling in silence with past sexual abuse or similar obstacles to a life of peace and joy in Christ?
Jenna: The soundest piece of encouragement that I can give is to say that God does not want you to be miserable. In fact He died for us so that we can step into who we are in Him. Your life is worth more than any possession that exists on this earth, so please tell someone about the abuse. Please tell someone who will take action for you.
I would not go far enough to say that I have conquered my past of abuse. However, I would say that because God exists and makes our crooked paths straight, I can face my day. I want to encourage women wherever they are with facing their past to have hope and know that even if you take seven steps forward and one step back, it's still progress. Remember that God does not want you to be perfect. He does not want us to keep our emotions or troubles to ourselves. When I struggle with peace, I tell God exactly how I am feeling, and I trust Him to help me work through it.
4word: And now you've channeled your own experience into fighting against sexual abuse! Can you tell us about your work as an activist?
Jenna: I am 25 now, and for the last seven years I have had the pleasure and joy of participating in a variety of activism work. When I said yes to what I felt God was calling me to do, I was able to record a documentary called, "It's not Just Jenna."
The documentary is a comprehensive educational video that is used for training purposes. The video educates viewers about the warning signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. There is a secular version and a faith-based version. Thus, the video is shown in public schools and churches. Moreover, I have had the opportunity to travel the country making speeches to law enforcement and abuse-prevention groups. I really enjoy going into the schools and speaking to groups of middle school and high schoolers.
I have also moved into political action reaching out to Texas legislatures about the need for schools to adopt an age-appropriate curriculum on child sexual abuse. Republican Representative Tan Parker championed what is now known as "Jenna's Law" in August 2009, which passed the state unanimously.
4word: Other than gathering the courage to speak out about your story, what other obstacles have you had to overcome in your career as a political activist?
Jenna: There are always obstacles to overcome, and having a state law named after me is a doubled-edged sword. Some people can be very critical and judgmental about my motives. Having the label of a victim is not something that I think anyone would ever want.
The law is absolute transparency for me to the public. If someone wants to know about my story, all they have to do is Google it. Thus, I do not have the privacy or the power to choose to whom I disclose my past of sexual abuse. What people don’t realize is that it feels like my journal is out there for all the world to read. Each day I remind myself who I am in Christ, and my wonderful husband is always there to support me.
If you’d like to hear more from Jenna or learn about Jenna’s Law, you can visit her website: JennaQuinn.org