PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Delaware County woman was motivated to help victims of sex trafficking after going through a traumatic experience of her own. For her efforts, she was recently honored in Washington, D.C. with a special Congressional award.
In May 2015, Susan Ingram-Weidemann was sexually assaulted while getting a massage at a spa. Encouraged by her daughter, she reported the crime to police. After the story aired on the news, 11 other women came forward to report that they too were assaulted by James Deiter, the same massage therapist. A year later, Deiter was sentenced to six to 13 years in prison, where he remains.
“It really motivated me to take something that was difficult in my life and try to make it easier for others,” Ingram-Weidemann said.
She decided she wanted to help victims of sex trafficking, an issue she’d always felt drawn to. She came up with “Walk Her Home,” a non-profit to raise funds and eventually form a national alliance of accredited safehouses to help women break the cycle.
“Without a safe place for these women to go, they return to a life again of commercial sexual exploitation,” she said.
Her efforts got the attention of Congressman Patrick Meehan, R-PA 7th District, who submitted her for the Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award. It’s a Congressional honor for people who’ve suffered a personal tragedy and go on to help others. She received the award on April 5th in front of family and friends.
“She was a woman of great courage, coming forward after having been sexually assaulted during a time of vulnerability,” said Rep. Meehan. “It was her courage that allowed us to appreciate the importance of creating protections in that kind of a situation.”
Ingram-Weidemann and Rep. Meehan have collaborated on a bill that would require spas to report any allegations of assault to police. Ingram-Weidemann hopes her story encourages other crime victims to come out of the shadows.
“I think that’s the very best way that anybody who’s ever been victimized can not only heal from that, but bring healing to so many,” she said. “That feels really good. That feels like living a life of purpose.”
Walk Her Home’s first charity walk is scheduled for October 7th at the Westtown School in West Chester. Meanwhile, Rep. Meehan is working to get enough co-sponsors to introduce The Duty to Report Sexual Assault Act of 2016 on the House floor.
To find out more about Walk Her Home, visit: http://walkherhome.org/