Richmond sexual assault survivor launches mission to strengthen other women

Richmond college student calls attention to sexual assault

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Richmond college student is opening up about her own hurtful past, as a means to help others who have experienced sexual trauma.

As sexual scandal surrounds national figures like R. Kelly and wealthy financier Jeffery Epstein, ripples of those allegations are having a major impact in central Virginia.

"It happened to me for a straight year. I was 5 and 6 years old,” Ariss Crutchfield said.

She’s just 20 years old, but Crutchfield is wise beyond her years.

"I know I’m not the only girl that goes through this or that went through this, so I have to be the voice because I don’t see another one,” she said.

She started the The Blu Heart Project - a means to strengthen women, especially women who have experienced sexual violence and pain.

“We’re the first home to all mankind. So if we’re toxic, if were broken, and everything like that, what are we giving to our children?” Crutchfield said.

The conversation is gaining momentum following two major cases making headlines.

Singer R. Kelly was arrested again Thursday. This time on federal charges, accused of having sex with teenage girls and recruiting women for sex.

Then there’s the millionaire financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who has major political ties to both Republicans and Democrats. He was in court this week fighting federal sex trafficking allegations.

"It seems like it’s getting worse and nobody wants to talk about how we can change it,” Crutchfield said.

That’s why she is organizing a community forum later this month to give people the platform to speak out. A representative from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office will also be on hand.

“You’re told to be quiet by your family. You’re not believed by adults that you consider to be close to you,” Crutchfield said. “It really damaged me.”

The community forum is scheduled for July 29 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at 835 West Grace Street in Richmond and will also tackle gun violence and domestic abuse.

For more details visit @BluHeartProject on Instagram.

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