Surviving Sexual Assault
Book authored by alumna Samantha Leonard shed light on how predators “groom” victims
As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, University of Delaware alumna Samantha Leonard knows that sexual predators are methodical about targeting and manipulating their victims. The process is known as “grooming,” and it can last for months or years before the first instance of sexual assault occurs.
Leonard experienced the grooming process when she was just eleven and twelve years old, and like many childhood victims had no idea she was trapped in an abusive relationship. As Leonard grew older and realized what had happened, she struggled to cope.
During her time at UD, Leonard found the courage to speak out. While pursuing a degree in human services with a minor in psychology, Leonard began to research childhood sexual assault. She also volunteered as a crisis advocate with the Sexual Offense Support (S.O.S.) network at UD, which provides guidance and resources for individuals who’ve experienced sexual assault. Finding a community of survivors proved life-changing.
In an effort to raise awareness about the tactics sexual predators use to isolate and abuse their victims, Leonard chronicled the process in her new book, Groomed: Shining a Light on the Unheard Narrative of Childhood Sexual Assault, now available in ebook and paperback.
Leonard graduated in the spring and was the 2019 recipient of the Catherine Bieber Scholarship for Academic Achievement and Leadership in Human Development and Family Studies.
She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in social work and hopes to one day work in a rape recovery center. “It is my way of making meaning out of tragedy,” she said.