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Michelle Rene Corrao

2010 Special Courage Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Michelle Rene Corrao | Special Courage Award
Prevail Inc.
Noblesville, Indiana

Thirteen years ago, Michelle Corrao was abducted at her own front door by three men. Kidnapped, raped, and beaten unconscious, she was bound and thrown into a car trunk. She knew she would die so, with much difficulty, she removed her rings and bracelet and tucked them under the trunk carpet in the hope that her body could eventually be identified. 

But from the terror and despair of the dark trunk came salvation in the face of off-duty Fort Wayne Detective, Art Billingsley, who had just happened to make a stop when he saw some suspicious activity around the car. Ms. Corrao has overcome her own victimization and dedicated her career to sharing the extraordinary message of the profound impact that first responders have on victims to a broad audience, including law enforcement, medical personnel, clergy, criminal justice students, prosecutors, and government officials. 

The impact of her message on law enforcement is evident when Ms. Corrao tells them she believed she had seen an angel, that his name was Detective Arthur Billingsley, and that she named her firstborn son after him. Her message to emergency room staff and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) has a deep impact and is evident when she tells them that she arrived at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center dirty, bleeding, alone, and humiliated, but that she found compassion and caring in the form of a SANE, and that her long road to healing began right then. Finally, her impact on victim advocates when she tells them that, although she had to find her path to healing on her own, it is important for them to be there for victims and for their families, and to give them hope and courage. 

Ms. Corrao believes that no human interaction is neutral—it is either healing or wounding. She says this is why it is so important to reach those first responders, to help them understand the needs of sexual assault victims and their families and how they can provide opportunities for healing. For several years after the attack, Ms. Corrao could not bear to think or talk about it. The trials of the three young attackers went on for several years, and many considered her to be victimized many times over. It has taken tremendous courage to turn her pain into something more positive. 

Michelle Corrao was nominated by Mary Neddo, Director, Victim Services Division, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.