(WSVN) - Look around. If you’re in a group of women, chances are that at least one of them has been sexually assaulted. 7’s Nicole Linsalata is one of those women. She is joining another survivor of sexual assault to tell their stories.

On Jan. 10, 2018, I came home from work late in the evening. I took care of my pets and then went to sleep.

Around 3 a.m., I awoke to a man standing over me.

He hit me, dragged me out of bed, put my T-shirt over my head. He robbed me, and then, after several minutes in my house, he sexually assaulted me.

I try not to go over those details in my head, but when those memories come, they come usually late at night, and now, I always sleep with the light on.

I am far from alone.

Ashley Duffy, sexual assault survivor: “When I was in my room alone, I would hide under the covers. I was scared all the time.”

Ashley’s story is different from mine, but in some ways, the same. We are part of a group no one wants to belong to: the one in six American women who have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

Last year, we were bombarded with accusations of sexual assault.

Harvey Weinstein.

Bill Cosby.

Brett Kavanaugh.

Celebrity accusations grab headlines, but for many, their assault remains a secret, like it did for Ashley.

Ashley Duffy: “I think it was really difficult for me, but it’s always there, and it always makes me sad.”

Ashley was only 4 years old when she says a female relative began to sexually abuse her.

Ashley Duffy: “She would tell me if I told anyone, she’d tell my parents, and I would get in trouble. If I cried, she would just stuff things in my mouth to make me be quiet.”

She was 13 when the abuse ended. Ashley finally told her family last year.

Nicole Linsalata: “Did you fear that once you decided to say something you may not be believed?”

Ashley Duffy: “Absolutely. The longer I lived with this, the more difficult it was for me to tolerate and to cope.”

Her family did believe her, but it was too late for the police to do anything. Relatives asked why she waited so long.

Ashley Duffy: “It’s hard to see so many cases of people baring their soul and then people just ripping them to shreds. For some reason, it just seems like the person who is hurt is the one on trial.”

Ana Ferrer is the treatment director at Nancy J. Cotterman Sexual Assault Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Ana Ferrer: “What we’re still seeing is this victim blaming.”

She says while some victims feel vindicated by speaking out, others are made to feel guilty.

Ana Ferrer: “I think it is an uncomfortable topic. I think it’s something that people don’t want to really acknowledge that it’s happening.”

Now, in my case, I never felt I wouldn’t be believed. I didn’t know this man. I went running out of my house in the middle of the night.

Police eventually made an arrest, and the now legal proceedings have kicked in, but speaking out has helped me, and others, to heal.

Ashley Duffy: “It does get a little easier to tell your story.”

Ashley, now happily married, plans to keep doing just that.

Ana Ferrer: “I think it is empowering individuals who have not been able to speak before to find a voice and not feel alone.”

Talking about it seems to take the power away from our attackers and give it back to us.

In Broward County:
Nancy J. Cotterman Center
954-761-RAPE (7273)

In Miami-Dade County:
Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center
305-585-RAPE (7273)

In Monroe County:
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office

Reasons to speak: Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention and Awareness Campaign

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