WEST GREENWICH - Rep. Sherry Roberts finds it hard to talk about the abuse she endured as a child.
But she's now beginning to speak publicly about a secret she held for decades, in hopes that it will encourage other victims to come forward.
"I just came to the conclusion that I have an obligation to protect other children," the 54-year-old lawmaker told The Providence Journal in a recent interview.
Roberts says her former stepfather, Harry N. Edwards, was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive throughout her childhood. She went to the police at 14, but he was able to evade justice.
Then, in 2019, she got the case reopened.
Last week, Edwards pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault. Roberts said that she feels that she's finally received "some justice" after 40 years. But she still wants to see him locked up and believes he may have had other victims.
"If more victims come forward and he gets put behind bars as a result, to me, that will be full justice," she said.
'No escape' from childhood abuse
Roberts, a Republican who represents parts of Coventry and West Greenwich, describes life with Edwards as a "nightmare."
"Due to his unpredictable, wild mood swings, every day of my childhood life was spent living in fear that would be the day that I die," she said in a victim-impact statement read in the courtroom during the sentencing hearing and later shared with The Journal. "Or that that would be the day he would kill a family member because of my lack of cooperation to his deranged demands. This was a heavy weight."
"As a child, I felt there was no escape," she continued. "Being raped into submission through threats, he paralyzed me with fear. I felt emotionally alienated with nowhere to turn and no one to confide in."
At school, she couldn't concentrate because she was "too busy watching the clock, dreading my return home each and every day," she wrote. "I rarely had time to do homework, either, because Harry just couldn't keep his hands off of me long enough."
At 14, Roberts reported her stepfather to the police in Richmond, where they lived at the time. Richmond's current police chief, Elwood Johnson, says records show that the case went to a grand jury in 1983, but the jurors never voted on the proposed indictment.