Mother commends community for actions that may have saved her daughter’s life

Social media helped save an area abduction and sexual assault victim in July. Now, the victim hopes social media and activism will aid others facing similar tragedy.

The victim and her family have been speaking out in an effort to reach others; and are also advocating reform in the criminal justice and corrections system–regarding sexual assault.

Brenda Peasley, of the rural Erhard-Elizabeth area, was among those commenting at the August 27 community notification meeting at the Lake Region Electric Cooperative meeting
room. Peasley is the mother of the victim of the July kidnapping and sexual assault incident that captured statewide media attention. The family’s goal is to seize the tragedy to help other victims, through advocacy and activism–including a Facebook social media site: Beauty from Ashes Otter Tail County.

The July 2018 case, when a young mother of four was abducted at gun point from her rural Elizabeth area home, has been widely publicized–so we won’t go into detail here. We’re also not publishing the victim’s name, at least at this stage.

But she and her family have been quite public following the horribly traumatic case–including an emotional appearance at the August 27 sexual offender meeting at Lake Region Electric’s headquarters.

We spoke at some length with her mother, who is willing to be identified: Brenda Peasley.

“Her goal is to serve her God, and use this awful thing to go forward and help others,” said Brenda. “One of the first things she told me after she was rescued was that she was determined make something good out of the tragedy.”

First initiative is a Facebook social media site, titled Beauty from Ashes Otter Tail County. Enacted for barely two weeks, the site has already generated hundreds of comments and views.

Another initiative Peasley and the family would like to advocate is a statewide kidnapping alert system.

The so-named “Amber Alert System” is aimed primarily at child abductions, but there is not a comparable network for adult victims, noted Peasley.

The immediate posting of her daughter’s kidnapping played a role in rapid awareness–and the suspect was caught, with his victim aboard, within a matter of hours.

Her daughter is also interested in counseling other victims, in the future.

The entire family has been highly complimentary of law enforcement, rescue volunteers, social services and others involved–including Someplace Safe, the non-profit Fergus Falls domestic abuse victim advocacy organization.

“It really reflected the beauty of our community–how complete strangers went out in their vehicles, searching,” said Brenda. “People in the area communities have supported this family beyond belief.”

The entire area, from Fergus Falls to Pelican Rapids, Underwood, Ashby and places between…“I can’t say enough about the outpouring of generosity and love.”

Brenda is especially anxious to meet the Pelican Rapids Steeves family, who voluntarily went out on patrol after the alert was sounded and were the first to spot the suspects vehicle–at an abandoned farmsite east of Erhard. “We really learned the beauty that is in the heart of the community,” said Brenda.

Interestingly, there are missionaries in Africa who are part of the extended family, said Brenda, and in a short period of time, “people were praying all over the world,” thanks to the power of international communications and social media.

Though the victim has become identified through many channels, she is limiting her public comments –pending the trial of her alleged attacker.

“She’s about as public as she can be right now…We don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize the trial,” said Brenda of her daughter. “But she does want to proceed with a movement to make our community safer.”