Berkshire support group founder rallies behind alleged sexual abuse victims
GREAT BARRINGTON -- The founder of a local sexual abuse support group has begun a Facebook page in support of the five young women who claimed they were sexually abused by former school counselor Scott M. Muir.
Muir, 39, was acquitted last week by a jury of all 19 counts of abuse in connection with a series of incidents that allegedly happened between 2003-06 at the Stockbridge Plain School in the Town of Stockbridge and the Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington.
Muir and his employer, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, still face a sexual harassment civil suit brought by the five alleged victims.
Gabrielle Senza is an internationally acclaimed artist, activist and social entrepreneur who founded Resilience Support Group, a local organization dedicated to the support of abuse victims of both sexes.
The Facebook page she created on Tuesday is called "We Believe You." Senza invited anyone who wanted to support the five women in this case and victims of sexual abuse in general to "like" the page.
She added that she is in the process of planning, with others, a vigil in support of the five women. The time and place has not yet been determined, she said.
Senza is a victim of sexual abuse herself. As an 8-year-old in New Hampshire, she was abused by a family member. The method in which her abuser assaulted her, she said, was eerily similar to the accounts of the five women who allege they were assaulted by Muir.
Senza recounted how she would be sitting on the lap of her abuser, who over the course of time, eventually worked his hands along her legs, up her body and, eventually, into her underpants.
"It sent chills up me," she said of reading the girls' recent court testimony in The Eagle.
Senza said she set the Facebook page up, and is planning the vigil, "to show support for those young women."
She said she was "surprised and disappointed" in the not guilty verdicts.
"And I know I wasn't alone," she said. "A large segment of the Southern Berkshire community was upset by this."
Senza said she and many others were surprised that the testimony of five women did not carry enough weight to be believable. She said she knew the absence of physical evidence after 10 years would be a factor, "but I think the jury was just wrong. These women had the courage to come forward, which is very hard, and tell their stories."
"I just thought it was very disappointing," said Nadia Barnes, a former Egremont resident who is a supporter of Senza's Facebook page and is now living and working in New York City. "That the jury would discount to testimony of all five [women]? That's just sad."
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