(Editor’s note: This story is the third part of a multi-part series “Stolen Innocence” about children who have been victimized by abuse that begins in Issue #1 and will continue through Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by: DARIELLA HERNANDEZ/Editorial Assistant
Jenna Quinn was 12 years old when a close family friend sexually abused her.
After dealing with the traumatic experience, Quinn became an activist against child abuse at the age of 17.
With hopes of becoming more than a victim, Quinn’s goal is to help others fight through and prevent child abuse.
The Dallas Morning News reached out and contacted Quinn after hearing her story. The decision to have her story featured opened many doors for her.
Quinn is a 27-year-old graduate with a master’s degree in communications from the University of North Texas. She lives in Dallas and is now happily married. Quinn spends her time traveling across the country speaking about child abuse. Her main audiences are members of law enforcement and abuse prevention centers.
Quinn has recently ventured into political action, reaching the Texas legislators and telling them what ideas she has in mind. One of those includes the search for an appropriate school curriculum on child abuse.
Quinn says that she found motivation to start helping others once The Dallas Morning news wrote the story on her case.
“At the end of the interview, they asked me to give other survivors a message,” Quinn recalls. “I told other survivors that they are not alone, and to seek help, that they deserve healing. I told them to tell someone who will report and get them to safety, someone who will take action.”
The Dallas Morning News felt as if Quinn would want to keep her name private.
“After the interview, the journalist told me they had all the information they needed for the story and thanked me,” Quinn says. “Then he said, ‘and don’t worry, Jenna, we won’t put your name in the paper.”
After hearing that, something triggered inside Quinn.
“Immediately, I felt a boldness rise up inside of me, and I shouted, ‘No!’ recalls Quinn. “He was puzzled. The last thing I said was for other survivors to speak out and get help. How can I ask them to be bold when I was not leading by example? I didn’t want to show any indication of shame.”
In order to help others, Quinn had to first help herself. She wanted survivors “to know that they have nothing to feel shameful about.”
After a bit of thinking about the topic, the newspaper went ahead and published her name.
Another reason why Quinn was motivated to help child abuse survivors was her experiences interning at the Children’s Advocacy Center. Although Quinn was there to counsel, “something called [her] back there to learn more about child abuse.”
“As I did my internship, I realized how prevalent child abuse is,” says Quinn. “The statistics are sickening. I saw these little children with my own eyes come in every hour for help.”
That’s when Quinn was convinced that she wanted to use her pain and experiences to help others.
Quinn not only realized that there was millions of children suffering, but she also realized that she was not alone and they were not alone. She says, “something needed to be done to help protect them.” And that’s when “Jenna’s Law” came along.
Jenna’s Law is the “first education law in the U.S for child abuse prevention.”
Now, thanks to Jenna’s Law, children, school staff, and parents are taught appropriate boundaries, and what the signs and symptoms are for all forms of abuse,” added Quinn. “Children have a chance to make an outcry now in a safe place, where before they didn’t.”
By being able to help others who are victims, Quinn finds a lot of things to be appreciative for. She says that she enjoys knowing she has the “chance to change lives for the better, give people hope when they gave up, and expose evil in the world.”
Quinn says that she sees child sexual abuse as evil and wants nothing more than to stop having the topic hidden from society and expose the damage it makes in so many children. With the help of her audience and motivation, Quinn will continue to raise child abuse awareness.