Down East incest survivor taking action against sex abuse

Posted Aug. 15, 2011, at 4:43 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Kayla Garriott of Robbinston, a victim of childhood sexual abuse by her biological father, has turned adversity into action. She has created a grassroots organization, Breathe the A.I.R. (abuse, incest, rape) to break the silence surrounding these issues and is hosting her first fundraiser on Aug. 27.

“I am a survivor of sexual abuse, incest, and rape,” 22-year-old Garriott said in a recent email. “My abuser is my biological father and it happened from the time I was 10 until I was 17. After we went through a trial and he was prosecuted, I decided to start my own nonprofit organization called Breathe the A.I.R.”

”Our mission to victims and survivors of sexual abuse, incest and rape is to provide the support they need,” Garriott’s website states. “We aim to provide victims and survivors a place to learn the stories of others and know that they are not alone. We will also provide them with education on how to stop it, how to keep it from defining who they are, and what they can do about it.”

“We will also provide victims and survivors with a better informed public,” she said.

Garriott endured over seven years of abuse from her father before she found the courage to speak out. Since she has found her voice she has been doing everything she can to let it fly.

Garriott was 10 years old when the abuse started, she said. She was manipulated, controlled, drugged and abused by her biological father up until her senior year of high school.

During this time Garriott did not speak up but wrote of her pain and confusion on scraps of paper in a notebook which was eventually found by her mother. The police were contacted and Garriott’s father was eventually convicted of his sex crimes and sent to prison for 12 years.

In the wake of the trial, Garriott said she was determined to help give other victims a voice.

She is now attends Quinnipiac College in Connecticut and, as a certified domestic violence counselor, addresses high school students, college students and police recruits on issues of incest, abuse and rape.

Garriott is holding her first fundraiser, Riding For A Voice, on Saturday, Aug. 27. People are urged to ride two-, three- or four-wheeled transportation along a roughly 90-mile route with other participants to make noise, help publicize Garriott’s organization and alert the public to the issue.

“What I hope is to raise awareness about the crime that so many consider a family problem when in reality it is a crime,” Garriott said. “With the money raised I hope to launch an educational campaign for local schools and law enforcement centers on how to understand and deal with this crime.”

Last week, the Calais City Council declared Saturday, Aug. 27, Riding For a Voice Day.

The event will begin at Karen’s Main Street Diner in Calais, travel to Cohill’s Inn in Lubec and wind up at the Eastport Chowder House for a Biker Bash Barbecue where there will be food, music and prizes.

Entry fees are $35 per couple or $20 per single for those on motorcycles, and $20 per person for cars, bicycles or other vehicles. Registration will be from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Participants will receive an event T-shirt and will be entered to win other prizes.

For more information, send email letyourvoicefly@gmail.com, or go to www.wix.com/letyourvoicefly/breathetheair.

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