"Visionary" voices speak from insight, experience
Eureka Springs resident Meva Luker, and her daughter Anne Ream, who currently resides in Chicago, were recent recipients of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's 2011 Visionary Voice Award in Little Rock.
Judge Susan Carbon of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, made the trip to Little Rock for the awards during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in support of the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ACASA) located in Fayetteville, where Luker is treasurer and member of the board of directors.
Her daughter, Anne, founded the Voices and Faces Project, for which she was honored by Judge Carbon.
Luker herself became involved with the Coalition in 1990 after her daughter was stalked, kidnapped and brutally raped by a serial rapist in Washington D. C.
"Her life, and ours, changed in an instant. He was apprehended two days later, tried in January, 1992, and continues to be held in a maximum security prison," Luker said.
The experience sparked a wider concern for both women. "I could not believe how many people, from all areas of my life, came forth and shared their personal experience with rape. I had known these people for years but did not know of their stories," Luker said.
"It was then I began to realize just how serious an epidemic this problem was and continues to be. A few years later I trained as a rape victim advocate in Santa Barbara, California.
"My daughter, after her experience, looked everywhere for stories of women and men who had been raped. She was interested in how they became more than what happened to them and how they went on to be successful, vital people. She found very little information, and vowed that someday she would write a book about women and men who had done just that."
Anne Ream's book is due to be published in the near future. Her experience led to her founding the Voices and Faces project, a nonprofit initiative that gives voice and face to rape victims/survivors.
"It gives them a sense of solidarity and possibility," Luker explained. "It counters the existing rape culture, and reshapes our discourse on rape.
"It started with the voices of five women, and now over three hundred men and women have come forth to share their stories.
"Victims are often shamed into silence and become invisible, faceless, and isolated. Silence is the number one enemy of change, and breaking the silence is crucial. This is not a women's issue, but a human rights issue. We need to dispel the myths behind rape," Luker stressed, adding, "How could I not be involved?"
When she moved to Eureka Springs from Santa Barbara, Calif., Luker was invited to be on the Arkansas State Board of Directors for ACASA, and is currently part of a round-table panel that meets with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and other state leaders to address the seriousness of the issue in Arkansas.
She is also on the Speakers Bureau of Voices and Faces. (See voicesandfaces.org.)
More information can be found on the Coalition's website, acasa.us, or call toll free (866) 63 ACASA. Information about OVW can be found at www.ovw.usdoj.gov.