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Abused Woman Sues Publisher for Revealing Her Name in PR Material for Autobiography

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - An abused wife who wrote the book, "I Married a Pedophile: From Dysfunctional to Healthy Choices," under a pen name, claims the vanity press that published it broke its promise to keep her real name confidential, causing her "public humiliation, isolation and rejection from her immediate and extended family, friends and community."

The plaintiff, D.M. whose pen name is Sharelynne Phillips, seeks punitive damages from Trafford Publishing. Her federal complaint alleges privacy invasion, breach of contract and emotional distress.

Courthouse News will refer to her by her pen name.

Phillips says she "began a romantic relationship" with a man she will call Larry on Oct. 15, 1998, and married him on July 17, 1999.

"From on or about Oct. 15, 1998 to Dec. 1, 2003, (Phillips) was a victim of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse from Larry, including but not limited to rape, sadistic sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sexual and physical assault," according to the complaint.

She says her son was subjected to similar treatment, "including but not limited to physical assault, intimidation, and psychological manipulation," and her daughter was subjected to even worse, "including but not limited to sodomy, rape, molestation, and the forced performance of various sexual acts."

After being divorced in 2005, Phillips says, she "decided to write a tell-all book about her and her family's numerous sexual, physical, and psychological sufferings at the hands of Larry, in an attempt to inform the public about the presence of sexual predators and to empower others to protect their families against sexual pedophiles.

"(She) entitled her book, 'I Married a Pedophile: From Dysfunctional to Healthy Choices' ... and authored it under the pen name 'Sharelynne Phillips.'"

Trafford published it in October 2007. Phillips says she "took extra caution in the book to identify and explain to the reader both the fact that she was using a pen name as well as her reasons for doing so - namely, the potential pain and suffering that would be created for (her) and her family should her real name and identity be disclosed."

Trafford, based in Bloomington, Indiana, claims on its website to be "the indie publishing industry's founding father." It says it is dedicated to helping "self-published authors [who] have long suffered the stigma of condescension from the world of traditional publishing."

In her complaint, Phillips says Trafford asked her to fill out a "Press Release Questionnaire," which included a brief biography. She says she "filled out the questionnaire in its entirety and in no place did she instruct or implicate that her real name and identity be listed or mentioned anywhere in the press release or any other advertisement or solicitation for the book." (Emphasis in original.)

She says used only her pen name throughout the questionnaire.

In May 2010, Trafford released a catalog with "a description of the book, along with a picture of the book, its title, author name, page count, ISBN, dimensions and summary," the complaint states.

"As part of the description of the book in the catalog, Trafford disclosed (the plaintiff's) real name and identity, listing [her complete name] as the author of the book. ... Trafford also disclosed (D.M.'s) real name and identity on its website ..."

Phillips says that "upon seeing her real name and identity disclosed in the catalog and on the Trafford website, (she) called Trafford and left a voicemail demanding that they remove her real name and identity from the Trafford website as well as destroy all hard copies of the catalog that had already been printed and/or distributed."

She says a Trafford representative agreed to remove her name and identity from the company website, but after months of unreturned phone calls, told her that "the matter had been passed on to management and that he was no longer allowed by Trafford to speak with (her) about the breach of confidentiality and the public disclosure of her real name and identity in the catalog and on the Trafford website."

Phillips says that "due to the public disclosure of her real name and identity by Trafford, (she) has had to deal with the realities of public knowledge about her and her family's sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Larry, including her extended family, friends and community."

She says it "has also led to extreme personal grief, anguish and anxiety to levels that have severely impacted and will continue to severely impact (her) in catastrophic ways for the rest of her life.

"Since the public disclosure of her real name and identity in the catalog and on the Trafford website, (Phillips) has suffered extreme emotional distress, culminating in and exacerbating multiple and several medical conditions, which include but are not limited to: fibromyalgia, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, post traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, migraines, severe low back pain, shoulder pain, heaviness over the chest, and the loss of pleasure in doing daily activities."

Phillips seeks more than $25 million in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and breach of contract.

She is represented by Charles Hedman, of Carmel, Ind.

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