Few things irk Julie Marie Mansfield more than the people who know a child is being sexually abused and say or do nothing. Herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), Julie now make it her mission to help inspire change in humanizing survivors, giving a face to the harrowing CSA statistics that say 1 in 3 girls (and 1 in 6 boys) will be sexually violated before reaching adulthood.
Starting at age eight, Julie was the victim of molestation, incest, rape, violence and abuse, primarily at the hands of her uncles. It’s an abuse that started in Jamaica and ended in the United States, almost a decade later. Then, following the death of her grandfather in 2000, Julie decided to return to ground zero, confronting the genesis of a life of abuse. It was just after the funeral when she decided to visit the ‘path’ where she was first abused, only to find the path wholly impenetrable. That, she took as a sign to let go, to seek help in releasing the pains of the past; as a steering away from living in shame and guilt. And so the conversations began and what came out was indeed a shock: four of her eight maternal uncles were chronic abusers, some abusing their own daughters. In talking with family members, there was a chorus: ME TOO. The closure of that ‘path,’ you could say, was the beginning of a new journey.
In learning of the pervasiveness of CSA in her own family, Julie decided to pen a memoir chronicling her own abuse. That book, ‘Maybe God Was Busy,’ has turned her into a soldier, albeit a reluctant one, in the war against CSA.
Before finding her voice, Julie had buried the tragic experiences of her formative years, and went on to successful scholastic and work careers. An alumna of Morant Bay High School in Jamaica, she went on to graduate Top Scholar and Summa Cum Laude from Temple University where she majored in Journalism, Public Relations & Advertising (JPRA). In the work world Mansfield was the Director of FACE/Special Events and Cultural Grants for the City of Miami; Public Information Officer for the City of North Miami; and producer of major events including the 2007 Carifta Games in Turks and Caicos.
But realizing the years of suppression and disassociating were no longer conducive to healing, Julie sought therapy at Miami’s Journey Institute (now Family Counseling Services), and was finally able to reassign the shame to the rightful owners—her abusers. As part of her therapy, Julie had to participate in group counseling, a move she credits with one of her greatest epiphanies.
“I used to always think of men as predators, then in group therapy we had two men who were also victims of CSA,” Julie recalls. “It was only then I could empathize with men and see them as humans and not just animals always on the hunt.”
Since the publication of ‘Maybe God Was Busy,’ scores of survivors—men and women—have come out of the shadows of shame and hurt, thanking Julie for inspiring them to acknowledge their own abuse. That motivated her to look beyond simply telling her own story and to find a way to help others bold enough to tell their own. She founded Give Me Dignity (www.givemedignity.org) to do just that. And now, Julie uses the book as a catalyst for discussion, and to bring awareness to GMD and its dual mission: 1) Child Sex Abuse Abatement and Rehabilitation programs in the Caribbean, and 2) restoring dignity to homeless women by providing feminine hygiene products.
To know Julie is to accept that she embodies a simple philosophy, often telling you, “I’ve had some rough patches, I’ve had some great stints. Just as no one’s life is all good all the time, no one’s life is all bad all the time. I’m no exception. I’ve had a horrific start; how my story ends is entirely up to me, and right now I’m living a fabulous life anchored in gratitude.
Twice divorced, Julie now enjoys a beautiful relationship with French-born Claude Postel. She lives in Miami and still smothers her two adult daughters, Jenee and Fabienne. In her ever-dwindling spare time, she enjoys travel, cooking, reading, writing and yes—karaoke which she readily admits to being ‘the world’s best worse singer.’ And a self-proclaimed fashionista, Julie truly enjoys clothes. She has had to put a combination lock on her closet—to keep her daughters out!