Blythewood, SC (WLTX) Ms. Blythewood Plus America 2017 is using her experience and her voice to raise awareness about sexual abuse.
Cherisse Branch says, "One person was never found. So you walk around like, 'Is he going to grab me again?' That was really scary for me." Branch says she suffered the abuse from the age of three up to around 14-years-old. She says, "So what it does to you as a child is you blame yourself and you wonder, 'Why am I not being protected?' or you feel like, 'Did I do something wrong?'" Those are feelings she says affected her most of her Life. Now she is speaking out about it as her platform for the Miss. South Carolina Plus America Pageant on Saturday.
Branch tells News 19, "I chose this because this is the hardest and this is the thing we don't want to talk about. It's taboo. 'Don't you tell about your Uncle, don't you tell about your dad. We don't talk about that.' The church, you dare not talk about it."
Well now she is talking. She is talking for herself and all those who can't find their voice. Statistics show that one in five women are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, but that number doesn't include the one's who suffer silently and never tell. Branch says, "I wanted to talk about the hardest issue in my life, to bring light to it. If I bring light to all of my tragedies that happened to me, someone wil get help. 'If she can talk about it, I know I can talk about it. If she can heal from it, I know I can heal from it.'"
Branch is using the crown on her head as Ms. Blythewood Plus America and the crown she hopes to win on Saturday, to show other women their worth. JDior Harrison doing Cherisse's make-up for the pageant. She says she loves the part she plays in this mission. She tells News 19, "I enjoy seeing women transform from what they are inside. I love bringing that on the outside and I believe every woman is beautiful."
Branch's talent is a praise dance that tells the story of how she's risen from her abuse, to show others they can do it too. But if no one hears anything thing else from her message, Branch says there is one thing she hopes others in her shoes come to know. She says, " It's not your fault. If I could plaster that up in a banner, It's not your fault!"
Nine women are participating in the Miss. South Carolina Plus America Pageant Saturday in Sumter at Patriot Hall. It begins at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $20 in advance $30 at the door. The winner will compete for Ms. Plus America in July.