Russell Manser’s story is an inspiring one of truly turning your life around, and using your darkest moments to rise up and help others do the same. After being victim to abuse himself, he has set up a company to give other victims a voice of their own and guide them through the healing process and the legal process to give them justice.
Hey Russell. Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Russell Manser. I fell in love with the beaches and settled in beautiful Coffs Harbour with my two boys almost two years ago. I fell in love with a Coffs Harbour local, and we now together have a family of five. Here in Coffs Harbour I have established a company helping survivors of sexual, physical and mental abuse within institutions across Australia.
I myself am a survivor of sexual abuse within institutions and formed the company “The Voice Of A Survivor”, to help others whom have also been through the trauma of abuse. The company has been established to liaise and guide victims of institutional abuse through the legal process to seek compensation and apologies, in order to be able to move on with their lives as best they can.
Your story doesn’t start out with such happy beginnings; where did it all start?
Ha ha no, definitely not. I had a normal childhood (as normal as it can be growing up in Mt Druitt, Sydney). At the age of 14, I began to get in some trouble and ended up in a boys’ home at the notorious Darack and Penang boys’ homes.
After my release from the boys’ home, I was caught for stealing a car (my first real offence) and I was placed into Long Bay Gaol at only 16 years old. I was abused again whilst I was a just boy in a jail amongst some of Australia’s most notorious criminals and pedophiles.
I’m not proud of my life and where it went from there; it was full of ups and downs, drug use and robbing banks, and I have spent a total of 23 years behind bars.
What do you feel was the turning point in your story?
The turning point for me was the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse cases. This was the first time I was able to tell my story to people who would listen. I “found my voice”. After telling my story, I started studying law while in gaol, in order to help the thousands of others in my position.
People now come to me, as they know I have been in their shoes and have a unique understanding for what they have endured and overcome.
What would be the first step for other people in a situation of assault who are ready to turn things around?
The company specialises in Royal Commission into institutional responses to sexual abuse cases. This includes churches, foster homes, schools, boys’ homes, sporting groups, and many more. We are also helping victims of the Stolen Generation.
Voice Of A Survivor is approached by the clients, who make contact via our phone, website, social media and predominantly word of mouth referrals. Once the company has made contact with the client, we begin to create their path to success and link them to the relevant law firm for their case. Voice Of A Survivor remains involved throughout the legal process, and assists the firms by fulfilling the interview process; out of the interviews the company compiles the statement of facts and victim statements for the nominated solicitor.
What are some of the most challenging hurdles when you are trying to help someone who has been assaulted?
The most challenging part for most is having to revisit the trauma; however, this can also be the pivotal moment for victims to have relief also. We have men who have been abused 30 years ago and have never even told a soul.
You now have a team on board helping you reach out; can you tell us about them and how they assist you?
We have a team of eight staff travelling all over the country, cities and rural areas alike, to visit the towns and speak to those affected face to face and help connect them to the opportunities available to create a better future for themselves. We’ve had an enormous influx of enquiries for assistance throughout all areas of Australia. We are currently working with six major law firms throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, providing assistance for our current database of over 650+ clients.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Often victims carry a backpack of guilt, shame, anger, and confusion. Going through the legal process allows them to hand that backpack back to the perpetrators and in turn, often live a more fulfilled life.
What advice would you give any readers who are considering reaching out for help?
A perpetrator’s greatest gift is a victim’s silence; we help people find their voice to bring them to justice. We have a team of professional, understanding, compassionate people (many of whom are victims of abuse themselves) to help guide you smoothly through the process. You can start with as little as a phone call. If you carry the backpack, hand it back.
Russell Manser, The Voice Of A Survivor.