From Scarred To No Longer Scared; Casper Women Tell Their Stories Of Sexual Assault
Their scars last a lifetime.
A former mayor, a mom, a girl and others shared their pain, anger and even some hope as they recounted their stories of sexual assault after they participated in the second annual women's march in Casper on Saturday.
The march, coupled with people who were already at the Lyric for the rally, drew about 350 participants, organizer Jane Ifland said. The number was about half -- possibly because of the storm in central Wyoming -- that of those who participated a year ago, the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
"What we've learned this year is that women are still in the process of starting to feel our legitimate power, and this would be power to be represented in government and to be taken seriously as a group, but also as individuals," Ifland said.
She acknowledged that not all women may share the same goals, such as abortion rights, as those who participated in the march.
But nearly all those who spoke told stories of being disadvantaged because they are women, an experience most women share in common.
"Ask any woman for a painful story about how she was treated by a man; every woman has one," Ifland said.
R.C. Johnson recounted her experience of growing up and the connection between low wages and sexual assault. Her mother was a housekeeper, whose co-worker would supplement her income by having sex with the homeowner, Johnson said.
Her daughter was sexually assaulted when she worked as a lifeguard, and it took her daughter years before she could tell her, she said. "It left a scar on her; and it leaves a scar on you for life."
Kilty Brown told the crowd she and her two daughters, 13 and 17, recently have been thinking about the #MeToo movement, because all three have been sexually assaulted.
The culture that tolerates, if not encourages sexual assault, needs to change, Brown said.
"I look and I see the epitome of what we consider to be the leader of our country with 24 accusers out there, and he gets to walk off scot-free; and nobody holds him accountable," she said.
The tone on the national level with President Donald Trump starts with local attitudes, she said.
The Natrona County School District has a dress code prohibiting girls' clothing that shows bare shoulders because that may be a distraction, she said. But the emphasis should be on teaching boys to be responsible for their own behavior, she said.
They also should not support certain businesses, she said, referring to family members of businessman Tony Cercy, whose family members own restaurants downtown. Cercy is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 12 on three counts of sexual assault.
"When we go into the Branding Iron and we go into the WB (Wonder Bar), we're encouraging it and letting it live in our community," Brown said.
Former Casper Mayor Barb Watters said she moved here in 1980. She worked for the Police Department until 1989 when she could no longer deal with the harassment and the denials of her requests to move up in the department.
Lieutenants told her they wanted to have sex with her, she said.
"A sergeant, who knew I was pregnant, cornered me in an elevator, using his flashlight, holding it against me, and I'm just hoping the elevator doesn't jerk and that he ends up, you know, injuring me or my unborn child," Watters said.
She quit the department, and won a Workers' Compensation case after a six-day hearing, she said. "I still have nightmares to this day because of things that happened at the Police Department."
Another speaker, a girl, recounted how she was sexually assaulted by a man who is now married to her aunt and the father of her four cousins, and who now calls her a bad person.
Nobody took her story seriously, and years of counseling haven't healed the scar, she said.
The assault against her still haunts her, because her cousins are still at risk from the man who married her aunt, she said.
"I just wish I could take them in my arms, and tell them that it would be all right, but I know it's not," she said.
"Seeing all of you here, it heals me," she said. "I'm no longer scared. Thank you."