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Athletes unite to spread awareness and help stem sexual assault

From the NFL to the WWE, athletes are sharing stories of how sexual assault has affected their lives

Although April is designated for Sexual Assault Awareness, former NFL cornerback Wade Davis and other current and former athletes, in collaboration with Mic, are making it their mission to ensure that sexual assault awareness and the quest to end it spans beyond one month.

In four moving videos and a personal essay posted to Mic, Davis, WWE star Titus O’Neil, former Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, Atlanta Dream center/forward Elizabeth Williams and Atlanta Dream guard Layshia Clarendon share their very personal stories of how sexual assault has affected their lives in a project called Athletes United.

“My mother was sexually assaulted at 11 years old, and that’s how I was conceived — via rape,” O’Neil said in his video. “And so for me, I’m very passionate about making sure that the same thing that happened to my mother doesn’t happen to other women or young men around the world.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there are 321,500 victims of sexual assault in America each year. Ninety percent of adult rape victims are female, and Americans ages 12 to 34 are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted or raped.

For years, rape and sexual assault have been tagged as taboo topics. Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Some of the reasons most victims choose not to report sexual assaults are out of fear of retaliation, not wanting to get the perpetrator in trouble and/or fearing the police would not believe them. Only 3 percent of rapists go to jail.

Sexual assault survivors such as Clarendon and Levy’s wife, Desire Vincent, are taking a different approach to the trauma. Sharing their stories is not only therapeutic, but it can also be a tool to let other victims know they are not alone, besides empowering them and encouraging them to tell their story.

“I walked alone in my shame for years,” Clarendon wrote. “I only recently told my girlfriend, and she was the first person I ever shared my story with. That’s a long time to carry something. Something that I should not have felt I had to carry. I am speaking up because I want people to know that it can happen to anyone, that you are not alone and that it was not your fault.”

Read more about Athletes United and the quest to end sexual assault here.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.