PW Seeks First-Person Essays From Sexual-Abuse Survivors and Their Loved Ones

By Nina Hoffmann
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Jun. 27, 2012

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A few weeks ago, Philadelphia Weekly won a national public-service award for a special issue we did on sexual-assault awareness. The Rape Issue, published June 22, 2011, tackled some myths (and outright lies) associated with sexual assault, including the age-old victim-blaming trope that women invite rape through their clothing.

Tara Murtha, a staff writer here who fights tirelessly for awareness on this issue, wrote about the unfortunate fact that Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not allow expert-witness testimony in sexual-assault trials. (Update: House Bill 1264, which would allow such testimony, finally passed the Legislature five years after state Rep. Cherelle Parker introduced it, and has been signed into law by Gov. Corbett.)

Also in the issue was a piece by a male survivor of sexual abuse. In the piece, he recounted how painful it was to cope in a world that stigmatizes survivors of sex crimes. That man’s name is Joel Hoffmann, and he is my husband.

Months later, when abuse allegations against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky came to light, I wrote about the difficulties survivors—and their loved ones—face during the healing process. Joel and I both received a lot of positive feedback about our willingness to talk openly about what we were facing. The problem is that too often, survivors are paralyzed by a culture that silences, shames and blames them.

Philadelphia Weekly is dedicated to fighting against this. Which is why we need to hear from you—the survivor, the loved one, the advocate. We need you to tell your story, in your own words. To do so would help bring to light the one thing that’s missing from the national conversation: the reality of what it’s like to heal from the devastating effects of sexual abuse.

Contributors can disclose whatever details they choose about the abuse, but you should be prepared to write honestly about your experiences with healing. We encourage you to share the good and the bad because the primary goal of this project is to make it clear what it takes to get better.

And we’re looking for a diverse group of contributors—diverse in age, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background—in order to convey how universal this problem is. Joel comes from a white, working-class family in Delaware County. I am a multi-racial first-generation American. We will both be sharing our stories.

Please do not hesitate to email me with any questions you may have about the process. Our goal right now is to collect as many essays as we can.

You may be afraid to speak out. Joel and I both can assure you that staying silent about sexual assault will not help you heal. It took time, but Joel found the strength to tell his story. You can, too. And we are ready to listen.

Send your essays, and any questions, to senior editor Nina Hoffmann at

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Ray said... on Jun 29, 2012 at 04:39AM

“A justified concern for the victims and survivors of sexual abuse. It rings a bit hollow when PW accepts advertising dollars from asian massage parlors, which are known to law enforcement as engaging in sex trafficking. Any similar concern for those victims? Many of whom were duped into coming into the US illegally and are now essentially enslaved while working off their debt. Is PW's position on that issue going to be the juvenile 8/17/10 article: Rub "N" Tug Mysteries Revealed?”

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2. Stephen Segal said... on Jun 29, 2012 at 09:52AM

“Ray: As the new editor in chief at PW, I have reviewed the freelance essay from 2010 you reference. It does not meet the journalistic standards to which PW is committed under my watch, nor does it represent the views of this news organization; we have removed it from the online archive and noted the removal.”

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3. Ray said... on Jun 30, 2012 at 06:24AM

“Mr. Segal: A bold step has been taken. Will PW go one further and take a stand on sex trafficking by refusing to accept advertising dollars from the AMP’s?
Please refer to the link below:

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4. a victim said... on Jul 12, 2012 at 06:15PM

“How do you start healing after putting your abuser behind bars, there's no such thing as closure just pain, tears, anger. Can't get his face out of my head HELP!

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5. Lara said... on Jul 21, 2012 at 12:58AM

“We all know PW thrives on sex trafficking adds and you are talking about RAPE? Shame on you! Hundreds of women in Philadelphia's hidden sex parlors get raped every day and you coulnd't care less! In fact your income comes from their torture. Disgusting!”

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6. Suzanna said... on Aug 26, 2012 at 10:48PM

“Number 4 I really feel for you and would like to help. Have you ever been to see a good Psychologist? One who will give you answers and direction? Not just those who want you to go over the same old shit of re-living everything and you come out worse and more fucked up than when you went in?”

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7. Let Go Let Peace Come In said... on Oct 3, 2012 at 01:21PM

“The Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation is nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are actively seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post a childhood photo and caption, or their story By uniting survivors from across the globe we can help provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out. We also have a prepared a youtube video that can be viewed at Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please visit our site for more details on how you can send us your submissions.

Also, if you would like to leave a donation to help us keep this non-profit running, it will be greatly appreciated! Donate here:”


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