Sara Freeman turns surviving rape into a quest for the Minnesota House

The MeToo movement has come for Minnesota time and again. Freeman believes survivors should take the lead at the Capitol.

The MeToo movement has come for Minnesota time and again. Freeman believes survivors should take the lead at the Capitol. Sara Freeman

Sara Freeman is a southwest Minneapolis mom of three Burroughs Community School students. In her pre-kid days, she had a career in corporate finance and investment banking, with which she stays acquainted as a part-time consultant.

She volunteers, tutoring at Burroughs, running the finance club at North High on the other side of town, and chairing the board of the Domestic Abuse Project, a nonprofit that provides therapy to victims.

Freeman is also a survivor of a violent rape that took place about 20 years ago. The perpetrator had a gun. Given the choice to stay quiet and live or fight back, she chose to live. She reported it and took a rape kit, but police never brought the man to justice.

With good therapy and the support of her family, she overcame post-traumatic stress. She now talks openly about what happened. But after October of last year, when the Washington Post uncovered then-presidential candidate Donald Trump boasting of how the wealthy and famous are entitled to grab women by their genitals without permission, his eventual election was like a new trauma. Then came the #MeToo movement, with the revelations about Al Franken, Tony Cornish, and Dan Schoen.

Freeman became convinced that a survivor should take the lead at the Capitol about violence against women. So she jumped in the race to represent District 61B in the Minnesota House, the seat soon to be vacated by gubernatorial candidate Rep. Paul Thissen.

"The decision has been a hard one. I'm not going to lie or sugarcoat it," Freeman says. "I know many survivors in my life who haven't had the access to the trauma-informed therapy I've had access to and couldn't stand up and talk about their experiences. I could, and that to me meant that I should."

Freeman's experiences have shaped her vision for criminal justice reform -- that greater resources should be assigned to the solving of major crimes, gun crimes, and gender violence than the petty prosecution of nonviolent drug offenders. As the daughter of a small town near Rochester, and a family with many hunters, Freeman has ambitions of bridging the vitriolic urban-rural debate over guns. She also wants marijuana legalized.

But public safety isn't her only priority. As a public school mom, she wants to employ her background in finance to find money for Minneapolis Public Schools, and for universal preschool across the state.

"My children's success depends on the success of Minneapolis Public Schools, and that's going to make me a different type of advocate at the state Capitol," Freeman says. "I wonder what the education committee would look like if it were run by public school parents, what the public safety committee would prioritize if there were survivors on that committee."