In her novel Unbreakable, A Memoir, Jasmine Millwood of Plymouth details the harrowing effects of child abuse she and her sisters repeatedly sustained at the hands of her biological father and stepmother.
Millwood, who was taken in and eventually adopted with her two sisters by her uncle, Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume, said she began writing the book when she was 10 years old “as a very recent child abuse survivor” as a way of coping with the torment she faced. The book took the form of a journal, she said, and she eventually told herself she needed to make this public in order to help others in similar situations.
She now is using her experience to help others, heading a Plymouth chapter of an organization to raise awareness of abuse.
Millwood said she was motivated to finish and release the book after Plymouth Patch , who told the siblings’ story while detailing the positive influence of their uncle on the girls’ lives.
“I realized one day that if I don’t stand up and be a voice to children and tell my story, it will never get better for kids today,” she said. “If I have strength and courage, I know it will change the lives of children who need it.”
With the blessing of her sisters, Millwood released the book this past spring and she said she’s heard from those who have read it that it already has began helping those who have been touched by the book's unflinching portrayal of chronic abuse and moving forward with what she called the “unconditional love” exhibited by the girls’ uncle.
“I knew it would be a good decision (to release the book),” she said.
This need to help others has become a passion for Millwood, who is launching Lighthouse Family Charity, a child abuse awareness nonprofit organization, in Plymouth. She serves as executive director of the fledgling Plymouth chapter, an extension of the Port Huron-based Lighthouse Family Connections.
The group’s first major event is sponsoring the Running for Ribbons 5K fundraiser on Sept. 23 in downtown Plymouth. Millwood said she hopes the run will draw about 1,000 runners, as well as sponsors to help inject some funds into the organization’s efforts.
These efforts, Millwood said, include parenting classes and support groups, bullying classes and other efforts to keep children safe.
“(Abuse) happens everywhere,” she said. “It’s going on right in our back yard. The statistics are alarming and we can’t turn away from it.”
The name Run for Ribbons comes from the fact that runners will be given a blue ribbon to wear on their runner’s bib during the race. Additionally, in downtown Plymouth will be decked out in blue — including the water in the park’s fountain, which will be dyed blue for the event.
For younger participants, Millwood said, a one-mile run will be available so they can show support for other children who are “going through some tough times.”
Millwood said that amidst her busy schedule, she plans to eventually return to writing and already has an idea for her next book.
“I want to write about romantic relationships,” she said, from the perspective of someone whose has faced a history of abuse. “I’m facing some struggles, they’re not what an average woman would face.”
More information on registration and sponsorship for the Running for Ribbons 5K is available on the Lighthouse Family Connections website. Millwood's novel, Unbreakable, A Memoir, is available at many online book retailers, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.