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Published October 16, 2012, 11:34 PM

Child abuse survivor runs for her cause

WEST FARGO – Leslie Brunette used to run from her past. Now she runs to overcome it. Brunette of rural West Fargo is a child abuse survivor and one of six women who run on a team to raise awareness for the nonprofit organization, Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

WEST FARGO – Leslie Brunette used to run from her past. Now she runs to overcome it.

Brunette of rural West Fargo is a child abuse survivor and one of six women who run on a team to raise awareness for the nonprofit organization, Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.

“I’ve turned my running passion into how can I use this to raise awareness and get people to think about preventing child abuse, not just about feeling sorry for children who have been abused,” Brunette said.

She started running seven years ago with a group from Authentic Voices of North Dakota, an organization of survivors of childhood abuse and sexual assault. They decided to put together a relay team to run the Fargo Marathon.

While she’s always been active, Brunette said she had never been a runner.

“I could never understand why people would run,” she said. “And then I became addicted.”

She found running energizing and cathartic and has since run six full marathons and a 200-mile ultra-marathon relay.

Brunette uses her running time to pray and to think of new things she can do to help others who have been abused, she said.

“It’s not only my therapy to get rid of my anger that I felt, but it’s also my creative energy,” she said. “It helps me have time to think.”

Brunette went through years of depression and struggled with an eating disorder. Now her life is peaceful and happy, she said.

“A lot of it had to do with the fact that I stopped focusing on me and what I was angry with and what was done to me,” Brunette said. “I chose to focus on things that I can change or can control and try to make a difference.”

Brunette said that by running in her Team PCAND jersey, she hopes to inspire others to find ways to work to prevent child abuse and raise awareness about the issue.

Brunette is training for the New York Marathon on Nov. 4. She said she did her final 20-mile run last weekend, and while she couldn’t wait to finish it, running for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota kept her going.

“I think about the things I’ve gone through and what I’ve been able to overcome and I also think about the kids who are currently going through things,” she said.

Brunette and two other members of Team PCAND, Lori Klabunde and Julie Bosch, both of Bismarck, will be running in the Fargo Mini Marathon Saturday.

Brunette also volunteers for the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, spending time with teen girls who have been abused. In 2009 she and her husband, Jayson Brunette, partnered with the organization to start a scholarship program. The seed money for the scholarship came from a fundraiser to raise awareness about child abuse prevention for the 2009 Fargo Marathon, Brunette said.

“When we stop focusing on ourselves and we start reaching out to others, there’s no more fulfilling thing than that,” she said.

Brunette and her husband have three children, an 11-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, and 3-year-old son. Brunette said her children know she has been abused.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative experiences,” she said. “What we need to focus on is we were all created to overcome and we can all overcome. Yes, life is hard, but our circumstances don’t have to create who we are.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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