FARGO—Rhonda Lura, Leslie Brunette and Heather Pautz might be mild-mannered Midwestern moms now, but give them a week or so, and they’ll morph into superheroes complete with tutus and crowns. No phone booth needed.
The three friends are helping head up the first ever Superhero 5K Run/Walk for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota, a topic they know all too well. All three women were abused as children and have worked together through the Authentic Voices program to spread the word and help victims know they are not alone.
“We want anyone who has been through child abuse to know they have superheroes in their communities, people willing to help,” says Lura, who first had the idea for the superhero run.
During the run, the women are asking participants to dress like superheroes.
“We want it to be a very positive experience—very family oriented. Not only do we want those touched by child abuse to see they’re not alone, we want it to be a way for communities to rally together for prevention and awareness,” Lura says.
It’s only been about two years since Lura started talking about the physical and mental abuse she suffered at the hands of the man living with her mother—abuse that went on until she was in about the sixth grade. But fortunately, she found her superhero.
“There was a woman who lived kitty-corner from us. I’m sure she knew what was going on, but when I’d go over there, we never talked about it. We talked about everything else,” she says.
Brunette and Pautz, who are sisters, have been very vocal about the physical and sexual abuse they endured from their father.
Brunette, the younger of the two, calls her older sister “my superhero.”
“I always giggle when she says that,” says Pautz. “I just had had enough. Knowing what was going to happen next. If I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to help her.”
Pautz told a friend who told her mother, who then told authorities. Brunette and Pautz’s father was sent to prison. He’s been released now, and the two women say they do have contact with him and have forgiven him.
“We’ve seen the power of forgiveness. He no longer has control of us, so we’re able to put it past us,” Brunette says.
As an avid runner she was on board when Lura suggested they use the run as a means to get people talking and healing.
“I want to let people know there is light at the end of the tunnel,” says Brunette.
“I think we’ve seen it as something to push under the rug, so a cycle of silence starts. It happens everywhere, even in rural North Dakota,” says Pautz, who is now a social worker in part, she says, because of her childhood experiences. She is responsible for starting the Authentic Voices program through Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.
The women hope to keep spreading the word about child abuse throughout the state. Lura will be competing in the Mrs. North Dakota International pageant in January with the hopes of using the crown to get into more schools to spread the word.
“It took me 26 years to tell my story. But after finding your voice and healing, you can choose the path you want to take,” Lura says.
And for Lura, Brunette and Pautz, that path is 3.1 miles long and soon to be covered with superheroes.
If you go
What: SuperHero 5K Run/Walk for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Oak Grove Park, 170 Maple St. N., Fargo
Cost: $20 for individuals, $40 for groups. Proceeds go to Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.