Sexual assault victim encourages others to come forward

Tom Burick says he survived sexual abuse as a child.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted. To combat those numbers, the Rape Crisis Center of Horry and Georgetown counties reached out to the community Thursday night. The group held a discussion and vigil in a classroom at Horry Georgetown Technical College.

Tom Burick joined two police officers and a counselor on a panel to address issues surrounding sexual assault. Burick describes himself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and only recently spoke out about what happened. For the last six months he's been seeing a counselor at the Rape Crisis Center.

"This happened 30 years ago so it took 30 years, but I think there's a new level of awareness emerging," he said. "I've heard child sexual abuse referred to as soul murder and I think that is an extremely accurate word."

Burick is a part of the growing movement of men coming forward to talk about their abuse. He said the Penn State scandal helped him come forward. Sexual Assault Counselor, Christina Toth, has noticed the trend.

"Since the national media has picked up on the stories at Penn State, Syracuse, The Citadel we're just seeing that the climate is shifting. People are feeling more comfortable coming forward. This doesn't mean there's an increase in incidents, we actually hope it's the opposite," said Toth.

Burick is even on a 10,000 thousand mile trip across Canada, the United States and Mexico on a scooter to raise money for organizations who help victims. He's started a website to chronicle his journey.

"I am incredibly happy. It is probably the best decision I have made in my life. It's been an amazing journey through this," Burick added.

He's one of many affected by assault including a Coastal Carolina University student who spoke to the crowd about her experience. The forum is during Sexual Assault Awareness month and on the heels of a busy time for the Rape Crisis Center.

"During the summer months, our agency and the hospitals have a dramatic increase in the number of reported sexual assaults, the number of people having evidence kits collected in the hospital after a very recent assault and reaching out for services in need," explained Toth.

Toth recommends when you're going out for the night, have a friend who's expecting you at a certain time and place.

She added the one misconception about sexual assault is that attacker is a stranger hidden in the bushes, "It is typically someone you know. It may be a brief acqaintance but somebody who has taken the time to make eye contact and state their name or what they want you to believe is their name. And they're going to have some kind of contact with you before the assault occurs."

The one central message the victims and their advocates wanted to pass along was there's hope, in spite of the abuse they suffered.

"Make that move. Take that step. That's the hardest part. Once you get past that, it's a whole new world," said Burick.

Related links:

Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault

Woman shares rape survival story