The Amazing Eight
Breaking the Silence in Southwestern Minnesota
At a family event, eight sisters began to talk and realized that between the 1950s’ and the 1970s’ they were victims of sexual assault. The sisters had not told anyone about the abuse. Once these secrets came out, the sisters decided to bring sexual abuse awareness to their community, and they used the Illusion Theater to make that happen.
With the Minnesota Child Victims Act, the sisters decided to press charges against the offenders. When the lawsuit was settled, the sisters decided to “pay it forward.” The oldest sister, Laura Lee Bast, drove an effort to raise money for sexual assault awareness events. They arranged a session for over 700 Redwood Valley and St. John’s Middle and High School students where the session “Safe not Scared “ was presented from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. In one day the Fairmount Illusion Theater Peer Education Troupe performed TOUCH and the Illusion Acting Company presented Keepin’ it Real to all the youth in both the Springfield and Red Rock Central School Districts. In addition, Patty Wetterling spoke at an event where 1200 people turned out to hear her in the sisters’ hometown of Springfield.
As one of the sisters said, “We don’t want one child to cry into her pillow at night and feel like there is no one who can help them.” In April “The Amazing Eight” received the MNCASA (Mn Coalition against Sexual Assault ) Aware Award for their work to bring awareness about Sexual Abuse Prevention to their communities.
Below is the Springfield Lamberton AWARE Press Release
Sisters Advocate On
On April 20th a group of eight women, dubbed ‘The Amazing Eight’ by their advocate, received the Minnesota Coalition against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) prestigious AWARE award. Included in this group is Wanita Nosbush of Park Rapids, Laura Lee Bast and Clarice Platz of Springfield, Carol Brennan of New Ulm, Joleen Amberg of Redwood Falls, Jean Lange of Glenwood, Miki Schultz of Morgan, and Mary Schmit of Randolph, Wisconsin…….
‘The Amazing Eight’ are eight sisters who grew up between the 1950’s -1970’s in Southwest Minnesota. Six were primary victims of sexual abuse by one or more family members; all eight are secondary victims. Primary victims are those to whom the assault directly happened. Secondary victims are non-offending family members, partners, friends and children of victim/survivors and are often highly affected by the sexual abuse of others, particularly when perpetrated by a family member.
Though the abuse happened during their childhood it took a conversation following a major family ‘life event’, several years ago, before each of the sisters learned that they were not alone; the familial sexual abuse had in fact happened to at least six of them. Each thought they were the only one. As is common, even though this happened decades ago, most of the sisters had not found true peace or healing. The realization that their sisters were also victims reopened wounds that had either partially healed or were scarred over. But it also served to form an incredible bond between them.
While each of course sought personal healing, they had a strong desire for some form of justice as a family as well. And as we know, timing is everything! The Minnesota State Legislature had just recently passed the “Minnesota Child Victims Act”. It allowed Minnesotans who were sexually abused as children to bring civil lawsuits, during a 3-year window [now closed], against their abuser no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. It encouraged victims to come forward and identify abusers who had never been reported or prosecuted. The sisters decided to bring a lawsuit against their abusers. For the eight, the lawsuit was not really about the money. It was about coming out from behind the shroud of shame and secrecy that surrounds sexual abuse. It was about holding their abusers accountable and reclaiming their lives.
Throughout the group process of the lawsuit and the more personal, individual, healing the sisters became motivated to broaden their knowledge of sexual violence. They attended community and youth events that brought forth the voices of survivors. Hearing stories of other survivors, knowing they weren’t alone, gave them both courage and inspiration-the courage to speak out about their own abuse and the inspiration to help others speak out and know healing is possible.
After the lawsuit was settled each of the sisters found different ways to ‘pay it forward’. Several made generous donations to advocacy agencies so victims of sexual violence could get the help they needed. They also realized there was a bigger, more societal, task at hand-- that of making sure youth and the overall community received education and prevention information on sexual violence. They knew it was important to let other abuse victims know they were not alone; there is hope and there is help. And so they did! In April of 2016, Alison Feigh of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center presented “Safe not Scared” to over 700 Redwood Valley and St. John’s Middle and High School students. That evening Patty Wetterling presented “Building a World that is Worthy of its’ Children” to over 450 community members. In 2017 oldest sister, Laura Lee, led the charge and raised enough money to fund two more prevention/education events. The Illusion Theatre Teen Troupe provided prevention/education in the form of theater performances for the youth of both the Springfield and Red Rock Central School Districts. And Patty Wetterling once again offered her message of continued hope for our children, this time to close to 1200 people in the sisters’ hometown of Springfield.
These eight women found the courage to find their voices, to come out of the silence and claim their lives back; they stepped out and they stepped up. They dedicated themselves to educating the public on sexual violence and to making sure those who are sexually abused do not suffer in silence. These sisters truly are ‘The Amazing Eight’.