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Former officer tells of being raped in parking lot
Rotary - Silent No Longer TN1.jpg

The best way to effect change is to speak out when something isn’t right. “Be silent no longer” are the words of an organization that seeks justice for sexual assault victims and accountability for their assailants.  

Silent No Longer Tennessee is a grassroots organization of sexual assault victims, survivors and allies dedicated to helping those who have been affected by sexual violence by offering unique opportunities for empowerment. 

Greta McClain, a former police officer, victims of crime coordinator and domestic violence outreach advocate, is a two-time survivor of sexual assault. She decided to dedicate her life to help fellow survivors by launching Silent No Longer Tennessee and serves as its executive director. 

“After being raped in 2017 and having the #metoo movement literally save my life, I decided to give meaning to my trauma by sharing my story and dedicating my life to helping my fellow survivors,” said McClain, who was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of McMinnville’s luncheon Thursday. 

McClain spoke to Rotarians about that encounter.

“I was walking through a parking lot when I felt somebody grab me from behind and shove me onto the hood of my car,” said McClain. “I was a police officer in Nashville for 12 years. During that time, thankfully, I was able to defend myself. I was able to take care of myself, if I had to. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t. I left the department in 2000, so it had been 17 years. It never occurred to me that 17 years – age, lack of practice – would keep me from being able to defend myself.”

She became one of 430,000 women raped in the United States every year. That’s one woman every 73 seconds. Only 33% of rapes are reported to law enforcement. 

McClain had doubts anyone would believe a former law enforcement officer could be raped, so she didn’t report it. 

“I blamed myself, like so many victims do,” said McClain. “I felt like I should have been able to defend myself. I should have sensed something was going to happen. I should have been more aware.”

Depression took hold and thoughts of suicide began, even to the point or writing goodbye notes to friends and family. 

In the midst of writing those notes, McClain says she strolled through Facebook and discovered #metoo and was taken aback by the number of women who shared that hashtag. She was not alone. 

“That saved my life,” said McClain. “When people ask me what they can do to help someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, I say the same thing: believe them, listen to them and empower them.”

What is sexual assault? 

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity or contact that happens without consent, including rape.

Sexual assault can include non-contact activities, such as someone exposing themselves to you or forcing you to look at sexual images. 

Sexual assault can include any type of sexual contact with someone who cannot consent, such as someone who is underage as defined by law, someone who has an intellectual disability, or someone who is passed out or sleeping and unable to respond. 

Sexual assault can also be verbal, visual, or non-contact. It is anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual activities or attention. 

What is consent?

Consent is a clear “yes” to sexual activity. Not saying “no” does not mean consent. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault or rape. Consent is an ongoing process, not a one-time question. If someone consents to sexual activity, they can change their mind and choose to stop at any time, even after sexual activity has started. 

For more on this topic, tune in to McMinnville Public Radio 91.3 WCPI on Tuesday, March 29 at 5 p.m., for an in-depth, half-hour interview with McClain. The program will be repeated at 5 a.m. Wednesday, March 30, and 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31. 

During Rotary of McMinnville’s hour-long luncheon, 49 women were raped in the United States, based on statistical averages.