Lena Stickling, 18, is currently undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But instead of focusing on her recovery, she wants to raise awareness of something else entirely...
‘Cancer never bothered me at all versus with sexual abuse,’ she explains in the video, which was made with Collectively, and which has now gone viral. ‘It’s like [the abuse] happened and it’s still haunting me.’
Lena, who lives in Alaska, was repeatedly abused by her father when she was six years old. ‘As far back as I can remember my dad was sexually abusive,’ she explains. ‘He could even find a way to do it in front of people without anyone noticing.’
She says that at the time, she was too scared to say anything, especially because she had younger siblings, and was terrified of discovering that their father was targetting them, too.
But in the space of two years, Lena tried to commit suicide four times. She was depressed, scared, and lonely. And it was only when she confided in a friend who revealed she had also experienced sexual abuse, that Lena felt like she was able to open up. She told her mum, who immediately reported Lena’s father to the police, and he was subsequently imprisoned – and later discovered to have schizophrenia.
Now Lena has two close friends – who have both survived abuse themselves – and she says that opening up about her experiences saved her life.
‘Now I can talk about it and I have two of the most amazing friends in the world, an awesome boyfriend and my family know and no one cares.’
‘It’s OK because life goes on and I’m OK.’
‘If you were sexually abused, it’s OK to talk about it,’ she and her friends tell everybody watching the video. ‘Just say it. And be proud of yourself and stand up for yourself. Don’t let anybody knock you down.’