Advocate says reporting incidents, like sexual assault at Franklin theater, important to remove stigma

“They [men] just don’t come forward as often. I’m glad this young man came forward,” the co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, said.
Man accused of sexually assaulting teen at theater
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 4:28 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - New video released by Franklin Police shows the man accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy at a movie theater.

Police are still searching for the suspect accused of sexually assaulting the 14-year-old in the men’s restroom at AMC Thoroughbred 20.

“They [men] just don’t come forward as often. I’m glad this young man came forward,” Verna Wyatt, the co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, said.

Detectives said the boy was sexually assaulted at the theater by the suspect seen in the surveillance video, according to investigators. The suspect first approached the teen and his friends at the theater’s concession stand where he engaged them in small talk, and later followed them into the theater, police said.

When the victim got up and went to the restroom, the suspect followed him in, according to police. A short time later, the suspect sexually groped the teen, who ran away, police said. The alleged suspect left the theater and is still on the run.

Wyatt says reporting these incidents is crucial to remove the stigma associated with sexual assault, ”Take the blame off of the victim, you know most sexual assault victims tend to find a way to blame themselves ‘oh I shouldn’t have been there’ or ‘I shouldn’t have been doing that.’”

She says as a society we need to place the blame on the right person, “The blame does not belong on the victim. It belongs to the person that’s the perpetrator.”

According to Wyatt, this incident shows victims can be men or women. She also highlights sometimes these occurrences have nothing to do with sexual attraction. “Sexual assault is about power and control,” she said.

For sexual assault victims, it’s a personal choice to speak out but for some, it can be liberating.

“From what I’ve seen from victims who have found their voice and spoke the truth about what happened to them they got power from that,” Wyatt explained.

WSMV4 has reached out to the theater where the assault occurred to inquire if they’re upping security due to the incident, but has not yet received a response.