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Voices of Resilience: Congressional Candidate Claire Russo on Survival and Selfless Leadership

Former Marine and Congressional Candidate Claire Russo described the trauma she endured in her personal and professional life after being sexually assaulted while in the armed forces, and how her mistreatment in seeking justice drove her to become a leader.

Voices of Resilience: A Conversation with Claire Russo

Trigger warning: This post may contain traumatic content related to sexual assault and violence against women. 

September 2020 – Claire Russo is a former Air Intelligence Officer in the US Marine Corps who recently ran for Congress in Virginia’s fifth district. As a woman in the Marines and a survivor of sexual assault, Claire was motivated to run for Congress for several reasons: namely, her experiences with misogyny and the mistreatment she received after her assault in the early 2000’s. In this sobering conversation with Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson, Claire shares that the trauma she endured in her personal and professional life after the assault, was worse than the trauma she faced during the assault.

Claire explains that leadership of any kind must be driven by selflessness and truth. For her, one of the many truths of our world is that women and men alike are afraid to speak up when they have experienced injustice, especially that of sexual assault. This fear of speaking up is even more prevalent in systems which are not equipped to address such atrocities, such as the military.

Claire’s style of leadership is one that encourages those who have been mistreated to act in a capacity that is conducive for themselves and the greater good. Her compelling testimony emphasizes the power of community and the utility of women’s “sympathetic imagination” in leadership roles. Through this conversation, we are encouraged to understand empathetic engagement as a component of conflict resolution and, ultimately, comprehensive equity.

Listen to her episode here:

This post was written by Annalysse Mason.