Sexual abuse survivor says therapy helped her uncover manipulation

CHERRY VALLEY, Ill (WIFR) -- Therapists say survivors of sexual assault often go through stages of guilt, disbelief and manipulation. That was the case for a local woman who is sharing a new perspective on her situation.

MGN/Pixaby Uncovering manipulation

Cameron Davis was sexually assaulted by a Cherry Valley Police officer in 2018 during the department's Police Explorer's Program. Two years ago Davis sat down anonymously with 23 News. Now she wants to come forward and share her story.

"I am not a victim, I wasn't raped, I wasn't forced to do anything, it was completely consensual," said Davis back in 2018. "Behind every case and every investigation there's more to it than what meets the eye. I connected with him."

Those words were the product of manipulation.

Jason Personette was 35 years old at the time he was an officer at the Cherry Valley Police Department. He began having inappropriate, sexual interactions with Davis, who was a student in the Explorer's Program.

Davis originally defended Personette, who was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for criminal sexual assault.

Two years later, Davis's perspective drastically changed. She sought out therapy, and read an emotional statement in court when Personette was sentenced.

"I couldn't eat without feeling nauseous, I couldn't sleep without having nightmares," her statement read. "I felt guilty, like everything that was happening was my fault."

Local therapists explain how often sexual assault survivors change their perspective on abuse.

"We want to blame someone, and often times we tend to blame ourselves," says Jason Soriano, a licensed clinical psychologist in the Rockford area. "It's very common for sexual abuse survivors to often believe that, especially if it's an authority figure, to kind of believe that that person is right."

Soriano did not work with Davis, but offered his professional perspective. "[Therapy] helps to provide an objective third party, to say no, this isn't healthy, and what was happening to you wasn't a good thing."

In her powerful survivor statement she says her "fatal flaw" is seeing the good in everyone, especially as a young girl with dreams of working in law enforcement. She once defended her abuser, but now condemns him. She tells 23 News therapy helped her see she was manipulated.

Davis's statement ended with a note addressed "to him." She states "you will never take my strength away from me because the truth is... I am not a victim, I am a Survivor. #METOO."