Victims' Rights Caucus

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Sexual abuse survivors speak out in new book

Burlington, Vermont - April 26, 2010

"We are your colleagues, neighbors, friends and you might never know."

Deb Sherrer is sharing a side of the story people don't often hear.

"Because such stories rarely have a place in daily conversation," she continues, reading from the pages of a new anthology.

They're stories of rape. However this new anthology, 'The Journey of Healing: Wisdom from Survivors of Sexual Abuse,' is breaking that silence.

To get the word out about the project and garner submissions, the editor posted on one listserve and told ten colleagues about the book. From that she received 650 stories from survivors across the country.

"My thoughts and memory of what has happened to me hit me like a tidal wave," contributor Susan Russell says, reading from her piece entitled 'Awakening.' "I've been raped, beaten and left here in these woods."

Russell, of Warren, knows firsthand that, for many survivors, the aftermath can be as painful as the assault itself.

"There was no restitution ordered in my case," Russell says. "My medical bills alone were, and this was in 1992, were over $30,000 and my insurance didn't cover everything."

Russell has spent the years since her 1992 attack fighting for the rights of survivors. She's been a key player in several pieces of legislation, including 1996's landmark Vermont Victims Bill of Rights, which provides victims with what Russell calls core rights: safety, information, notification and restitution.

This month, Congressman Peter Welch presented Russell with the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus' Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award. The annual national honor recognizes a crime victim for their work for victims' services and rights.

"We use our voices to really help promote change so the next survivor doesn't have to go through some of the things that I went through," Russell says.

However the editor of 'The Journey of Healing' says all victims are heroes for continuing to survive every day.

"I would like to honor all the people who have not put their stories into words yet, who have something to say and who will I hope, through this book, find strength to speak their stories," Marjorie Ryerson of Safer Society Press says.

'The Journey of Healing' is a body of work in which survivors defy tragedy and personal pain so that others can hopefully start their journey of healing.

Because when it comes to survivors, Sherrer issues a strong reminder in her poem: "We are everywhere."

Susan Russell will be speaking at a free Project Against Violent Encounters event at Southern Vermont College's Everett Theatre at 7:30 Tuesday evening.

For more information about "The Journey of Healing," visit www.safersociety.org.

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