Tuesday's "Hope Award" presentation by the East Texas Crisis Center included a message of strength and survival from Tyler native Maggie Watson.
She too is a sexual assault victim. However, Maggie decided not to live her life in silence. She campaigns so women, especially college students, will speak out. "He had picked me, and he had picked that night," she said beginning her account of a night when her youthful trust was broken by an acquaintance. "It didn't matter what I was doing, it didn't matter what I was wearing he was going to rape me."
For Maggie it's a wound that has healed but a scar that will never fade. She was 18-years-old, on a family vacation." "He slipped something in my drink and my last clear memories are towards the end of our walk on the beach and then I went in and out of consciousness while he stripped me and raped me."
It's a painful story, now shared all over the state. Maggie is part of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault's public service campaign. Her face and her story encouraging others not to live with blame.
"I was like well what was I doing walking with that guy? What was I doing taking a drink from a stranger?" she said. "I wouldn't have been raped if there hadn't been a rapist there, that's what I had to keep telling myself." Now she is telling others to speak up, thanks to a counselor she said gave her strength to come forward. "In our society, shame is placed on the victim. It's not that way in other crimes. If someone's shot they don't say it's the victims fault."
Maggie said her biggest reward now is taking the pain and becoming a voice for those too scared or unable to speak out.
"There are ways to come forward and remain safe, and you can find them and if you do your life will change for the better." In East Texas more victims of sexual assault are coming forward everyday.
However, hundreds still remain silent. In 2003, 103 sexual assault were reported in the city of Tyler compared to 137 last year. Longview had 73 reported cases in 2003 compared to 35 in 2004. Last year the East Texas Crisis Center received 445 sex assault calls.