Local resident, former Olympic swimmer shares story of sexual abuse; to host book signing

E-T staff report
The cover of Kim Rodenbaugh Lewallen's book, "Master of the Mask: An Olympic Swimmer's Long Journey to Freedom." Lewallen will host a book signing from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5, at Beans and Franks in Stephenville.
Rhodenbaugh Lewallen

Longtime Stephenville resident Kim Rhodenbaugh Lewallen plans a book signing for her release "Master of the Mask: An Olympic Swimmer's Long Journey to Freedom," from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5, at Beans and Franks, 2810 W. Washington St.

In "Master of the Mask," Rhodenbaugh Lewallen shares her journey to freedom following decades of bondage as a result of horrific sexual assaults in her life. She reveals how holding dark secrets within provoked her to become such a "master of the mask" that even her family and friends were unaware of her pain.

The assaults left her with a 10-year battle with bulimia and anorexia and using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, according to an excerpt from the book.

"She not only clearly lays out a path to freedom, offering victims of sexual assault encouragement and hope through her story, but also provides valuable resources and measures of prevention," reads a description of the book.

The book is available on amazon.com in Kindle edition and also through Nation of Women Publishing at nationofwomenpublishing.com/kim-rhodenbaugh-lewallen/

An excerpt from the book from swimswam.com: 

"It was the Opening Ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Since we were the host country, the United States was the last team to march out. The crowd was pumped! As we entered the tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, we could hear them chanting, 'USA, USA.' As we got closer to the opening, the cheering got louder and louder. When we entered the coliseum, the crowd went wild as they continued to chant, 'USA, USA, USA' over and over while waving American flags.

"I will never forget that moment of hearing 90,000 screaming fans there to support us. The feeling of pride for my country and all of my accomplishments felt overwhelming. I’m so glad I could bask in that moment. I had made it! I’d fulfilled my lifelong dream to make the Olympic Swim Team, a dream I had from the age of ten. But that would be the only happy memory I would have from the Olympics. On the outside, I looked like a happy and confident person, but inside I was dying. I had a dark secret that I’d been living with, and it was killing me."

Rhodenbaugh Lewallen is a former competitive swimmer who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where swimming was the family sport. She went on to compete in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in the 200-meter breaststroke. She continued to stay active in swimming for nearly 30 years as a coach and an instructor.

She is now a motivational speaker, writer, and the founder of Freedom Now, a non-profit organization focusing on bringing hope and encouragement to sexual assault victims.

Kim married Nolan Lewallen in 2016, and they live near Stephenville. Together, they have seven grown children and four grandchildren.

Sexual abuse statistics

• Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted and every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.

• 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime

• From 2009-13, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.

• 9 out of every 10 victims of rape are female

Information from: the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, www.rainn.org

Local resources

• Cross Timbers Family Services, 1794 N. Graham St. (254) 965-4357; 24 hour hotline, (866) 934-4357

• Paluxy River Children's Advocacy Center: 817-573-0292

• Texas Child Abuse Reporting Hotline: 1-800-252-5400

• Suicide Prevention hotline: 1-800-784-2433

• Drug Abuse Hotline 1-800-662-4357

• Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400

• Family Crisis Center: 1-800-848-3206