Alexis Wright on history of sexual abuse: ‘When I did reach out, nobody believed me’

York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan fields questions from reporters outside the York County courthouse in Alfred Friday morning after the sentencing of Alexis Wright, who pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanor counts for her role in a high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case.
York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan fields questions from reporters outside the York County courthouse in Alfred Friday morning after the sentencing of Alexis Wright, who pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanor counts for her role in a high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case. Buy Photo
Posted May 31, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

ALFRED, Maine — Alexis Wright told the court Friday that she had attempted to seek help dealing with her history of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, but “when I did reach out, nobody believed me.”

“Maybe if I felt someone would have believed me, I could have avoided this altogether,” Wright said Friday.

Over the last year, Wright has garnered worldwide notoriety as a Kennebunk fitness instructor who led a double life as a prostitute in the quiet seaside town.

On Friday, she was sentenced to 10 months in jail and ordered to pay $58,000 in fines and restitution for 20 misdemeanors related to prostitution and state tax evasion as recommended by prosecutors as part of a plea deal in which they agreed to drop 86 other charges.

Wright and defense attorney Sarah Churchill told the court during her sentencing hearing that her experience as a child witnessing her father sexually abuse her mother — and then enduring sexual abuse from her father — made her vulnerable to manipulation by Thomaston insurance broker Mark Strong Sr.

Strong was convicted by a jury of 13 counts of promotion of prostitution-related charges in March and spent 15 days of a 20-day sentence in jail.

After Friday’s court hearing, however, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan suggested that prosecutors weren’t convinced by Wright’s claims that she was under Strong’s control. McGettigan told reporters that prosecutors considered Wright a “willing partner” in the prostitution business and recalled the videos shown during Strong’s trial in late February depicting the Zumba instructor intentionally dropping her towel in front of her storefront window to gain the attention of construction workers across the street.

“There’s a reason she said what she did,” McGettigan told. “The state believes she and Mark Strong were equal partners, and that she played an active role in the operation.”

Churchill told reporters outside the York County courthouse that Wright has “survived far worse” than prosecutors’ skepticism about her background or vulnerability.

“From the beginning, they haven’t believed it,” Churchill said. “That’s their right. I don’t agree with them. Ms. Wright doesn’t agree with them.”

When Churchill addressed the court Friday morning, she said Wright’s parents divorced when she was “8 or 9 years old” and she moved to California with her mother, a native Mexican.

But then, the defense attorney told Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills, “her father drove across country, kidnapped her and took her back to Maine. I think we can all imagine the horrors that took place during that cross-country trip.”

In a tearful address of the court, Wright said Friday she wants her story to serve as inspiration for other women who are the victims of sexual or domestic abuse and are reluctant to speak out.

“I’ve spent my entire life hiding my abuse, because I felt ashamed and worthless,” Wright told Mills.

Wright said she felt physically ill when she saw that Strong denied his role in the prostitution business and said he simply fell in love with her and had an extramarital affair — but did nothing manipulative or illegal.

“When I heard the ridiculous statements that this was an affair or that this was a friendship, I found it nauseating,” she told the court Friday.

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