Former Spokane news anchor Shelly Monahan-Cain never shied away from speaking out about the sexual assault she survived in the early 1980s, despite the trauma it left with her.
She knew that, by sharing her experience, she could help other survivors as well.
“It became apparent and obvious to me it was going to be my therapy,” she said, speaking before a crowd of several dozen Thursday at Fairchild Air Force Base. “When negative things happen and the more we as a community openly talk about it, the more we’ll be able to help each other.”
The former KHQ morning anchor known as “Sunshine Shelly” was one of more than 40 women believed to have survived sexual assault by the notorious rapist Kevin Coe during the late 1970s and 1980s. She was hosted by the base as a featured speaker in honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness month.
During her speech, she shared details of her assault, how she overcame it – through faith in God and with support from friends and family – and her involvement in the trial that put Coe behind bars for life. She has given more than 3,000 talks across the country raising awareness about sexual assault.
“Each thing that happens (in life), you just learn how to handle it and be tough,” she said. “There were some really dark days, but I got through them. You do what you do and you move forward, no matter what happens in life.”
Public awareness now is different from the 1980s in regards to being able to talk about sexual assault, she said.
She cited the #MeToo movement, which began late last year via social media and aims to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. That movement has since spurred many discussions around sexual misconduct in Hollywood and the workplace.
Monahan-Cain said military bases are doing an amazing job encouraging survivors to come forward because when assault occurs in a protected space, it becomes a “really big deal,” she said.
Monahan-Cain’s husband, Steve, said its important to have compassion when dealing with a partner who is a sexual assault survivor.
“You can’t think about yourself first, you have to think about the other person,” he said.
Fairchild Air Force Base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate Vada Martinez said Monahan-Cain’s speaking events at the base get positive feedback from personnel, and attendees always get something out of it.
“Shelly has been wonderful over the years,” she said. “She’s an amazing speaker, she’s full of life and resiliency. She has an energy that’s really contagious.”
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