In addition to helping victims access justice though the legal system, we spread our message, and Russell Manser’s story, through social and political activism as a means of reaching out to survivors and offering support.
This is his story:
Russell Manser, himself a survivor of institutional child sexual abuse, is a committed champion for the rights of others who have experienced these traumatic and painful abuses.
A 17-year-old boy in an adult prison
Growing up in western Sydney, Russell was committed by a Children’s Court Magistrate to the adult Long Bay Jail, despite having just turned 17 years old.
He was housed with some of the state’s worst sex offenders, resulting in him being sexually abused repeatedly. His eventual heroin dependence also started there, after his abusers injected him several times with the drug.
Prior to this, Russell had already been struggling to cope with the trauma and anger of having been sexually abused in Daruk, the notorious juvenile detention centre.
23 years of life spent in jails
These abuses put him on a trajectory where, struggling with addiction, he became a “Bank Robber”, and spent a total of 23 years in jails in NSW, NT and QLD.
For 30 years, including through most of his time incarcerated, Russell kept the secret of what had happened to him.
Despite his best attempts to rehabilitate and live a clean, pro-social life, he was haunted by the abuse that inevitably lead back to drugs and more jail.
Russell speaks out after 30 years
During the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Russell finally spoke out.
In jail at that time, he also contacted lawyers about the abuse he had suffered, and the consequences that it had on his life.
In doing so, he “handed the backpack of shame and guilt”, that he had carried for 30 years, to its rightful owners – the perpetrators, and those who should have ensured his care.
Giving support to other victims
Realising the healing impact of speaking up about the abuse, he found the courage to talk about his experiences with other prisoners, many of whom had experienced similar abuses.
Russell encouraged and supported others to tell their stories, and to seek justice; and after being released from jail, he continued this work, which was the beginning of The Voice Of A Survivor.
‘The Voice’ has now helped over 6,500 people tell their stories and begin the process for justice and healing.
A brighter future begins with confronting the past
In speaking up about his own abuse, Russell confronted his haunting past, and since then he has done the hard work required to dramatically change his life and shift his focus to wellness.
He completed rehabilitation, gained admission to university, and now shares his experiences on podcasts, radio, and in other media interviews.
He is also involved in the Australian boxing community at a local and national level, through coaching and sponsorship.
Russell is committed to his mission for change and empowerment through:
- Supporting others to articulate underlying issues, including child sexual abuse
- Providing connections to appropriate rehabilitation placements
- Mentoring others struggling with addiction issues
- Supporting prisoners to speak up without fearing the stigma of sexual abuse
- Networking with other professionals in the abuse support field to find the best, and most committed, service providers for his clients
- Helping other survivors to find their voice
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