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‘You’re not alone’: Sexual assault survivor makes life mission to help others heal

ST. CHARLES, Minn. (KTTC) — Danielle Leukam, a young woman hunted down in 2018 and raped in her St. Charles home is now speaking about her ordeal hoping to raise awareness and help others.

Sexual Assault Survivor Danielle Leukam

It was traumatizing, he knew that I was afraid, he knew that I was shaking,” Leukam said.

Afraid, as a man broke into her home in the early hours of Nov. 18, 2018 and repeatedly raped her while her son was inside the home sleeping.

“I found out that it was a person that was in my wedding, a person that grew up with my ex-husband, a person that I had known for the last 11 years,” Leukam said.

Zane Pederson

That man, arrested in March of 2019, is Zane Pederson. He’s currently serving a 12-year sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility – St. Cloud.

“It was some relief knowing that they had caught him but at the same time it made me a lot more afraid,” Leukam said.

Leukam is now taking that fear and channeling it into strength as she advocates for other sexual assault survivors.

She said raising awareness and helping others is the only way she sees herself moving forward.

“You can hide, you can survive, or you can thrive,” Leukam said. “I hope to thrive with this, I hope to take this entire opportunity and make good out of it.”

The strong mother, Mayo Clinic nurse and now advocate is writing a book and giving talks to help herself heal.

“When I hear other survivors come out and say, ‘You gave me the bravery to tell my story’ that’s incredibly healing for me,” Leukam said.

Leukam said she refuses to allow anyone to keep her silent like that tragically painful night.

While the journey to healing is long, she and her son are also counting down the 12 years until Pederson is released. She adds that she doesn’t know what they will do when that happens.

Olmsted County Government Building lit up in teal April 2019

As her fight continues, she looks forward to once again seeing Olmsted Government Center in Rochester illuminated in teal in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Someone with a passion for what needs to be changed does something about it,” Leukam said talking about her effort.

Leukam has a website where she details the entire court process and her journey. It includes an outlet for other people to connect and share their stories with her.

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