Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges revealed on Facebook that she was sexually abused as a child and wrote that she hopes to help other survivors heal.

Story highlights

Abuse began when she was 8 years old, Hodges writes on Facebook

She told her story on Break the Silence Day at the social media site

CNN  — 

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges says she is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The mayor made the stark revelation Monday via a photo project at the Break the Silence Day Facebook page. It was sponsored by a Minneapolis-based non-profit that supports survivors of sexual violence.

The project captures the faces, names and several first-person narratives of dozens of survivors residing in the Twin Cities. Many talk of their pain, alcohol and drug abuse, and descent into depression. All the survivors say they are speaking up to let others know that they aren’t alone.

In four paragraphs, Hodges writes that while she has been fairly open about her addiction to alcohol, she chose to keep her abuse a secret, until now.

“I was abused by adults unrelated to me for many years, starting when I was eight years old,” Hodges writes. “My family did not know. I believed – was threatened into believing – that the slightest indication that anything was amiss would jeopardize the safety of everyone and everything I loved. No one knew until I told them early in my sobriety – not my friends, not my family.”

Hodges revealed in 2014 that she was an alcoholic who had taken her last drink as a college student, more than 25 years earlier, MinnPost reported.

With her first term ending in November, Hodges, 47, is now locked in a tough reelection battle against several challengers. Two of her key political opponents joined others in voicing their support for Hodges’ Facebook post, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Community conversation

Having a public figure like Hodges come forward is particularly powerful,” Sarah Super, founder of the Break the Silence organization, told CNN.

“I think this has brought this almost unavoidable conversation into public space,” Super said. “Something we don’t talk about as a community is the pervasive nature of sexual violence. Her (Hodges) speaking up forces our community to face that this happens and can happen to anybody.”

The Facebook photo project, which started last November, was inspired by the July 2015 cover of New York Magazine that featured 35 of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims, as well as the project Humans of New York, Super said.

Hodges was the 79th person to share an account of sexual assault in this year’s Facebook project, Super said.

One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, according to the statistics provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Ending rape culture

Super, herself a survivor of a 2015 rape by her ex-boyfriend, said she went public with her story six weeks after her own rape. She said the mission of her organization is to end rape culture, hold perpetrators accountable, and support survivors of sexual violence in their healing.

The Minneapolis mayor speaks at a rally on January 19, in New York City.

“By breaking the silence, I watched a lot of things change, mostly for the better. … I watched the ripple effect of sharing my story in my community,” Super said. “It is totally about social change. I’m trying to create a community where people can tell their stories and be met with compassion.”

Hodges expressed a similar sentiment in sharing her story publicly.

“Being a survivor has defined so much of who I am,” the mayor wrote on Facebook. “I learned well how to suffer quietly, I learned to meet tragedy with a poker face and a plan. … I am breaking the silence so others can know: you are not alone. I know we can heal from anything, because I have. We can heal, succeed and thrive.”

Nicole Chavez contributed to this story.