(CBS) - At age six, Jennifer Storm was already stealing sips of her mother's creme de menthe.
By age 13, she was binge drinking and well on her way to regular use of cocaine and LSD. She anesthetized herself to many of the harsh realities of her young life including her own misunderstandings about her sexual orientation, which made her even more vulnerable to victimization.
As a young teen, Jennifer's life was awash in alcohol, drugs, and the trauma of rape.
Her memoir, Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America, is an uncompromising account of her journey from 12-year-old rape victim, to a burned out junkie living from couch to couch, to her wrenching recovery at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
The upside is that she came through the darkness to create a life of accomplishment and joy for herself. Jennifer Storm's intimate story seeks to show that forgiveness and redemption are more than possible through recovery and a commitment to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
In the words of one reviewer, Blackout Girl is "a perfect-pitch memoir for readers drawn to stories about hitting rock bottom and finding redemption. And for counselors, therapists, educators, and parents who work or live with those who have."
Interview with Jennifer Storm by Anthony Venditti, associate producer at 48 Hours | Mystery
What does your work as a victim's advocate entail, and what sort of cases do you handle?
I work with victims and witnesses of all crimes including theft, domestic violence, sexual assault and homicide. As the administrator of the program I am involved in every level of the running the agency from securing the funding, overseeing the staff and performing all human resources, etc.
I walk victims through the arduous criminal justice system to ensure they aren't revictimized and that they are informed and educated every step of the way.
Why did you decide to write the book, "Blackout Girl"?
I wrote this book because I couldn't find my story in print anywhere and I wanted to share my experience, strength and hope with others. I want other people to understand that there is hope out there and they aren't alone in their pain. Additionally, I wanted people to know that you can overcome the unthinkable and create a life for yourself that is beyond your dreams.
Since "Blackout Girl" is a story about very personal traumatic experiences and the demons you battled as a result, what reservations did you have in writing the book?
I was concerned at first about putting my story out there in the line of work I do because in my line of work it is never about us it is all about our clients. While I could often times identify with them, I would never have articulated that, as it would be unethical. My story is unique in many ways in that it involves so many issues that cross over and bleed into one another and many of them are taboo topics but universal ones that young people need to be able to read about--especially success stories such as mine that can provide hope for a better life.
You went from being the victim of a violent crime at a very young age, to victim's advocate. Was there a turning point or a moment when you realized you wanted to work with victims?
When I was once again a victim of a crime in college and I learned that victim's rights existed and that there were programs and people out there that could help me and other victims navigate such a confusing process. I knew that was my calling. When I worked on my first rape case and saw my reflection in the little girl's eyes--I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.
Can you tell us about a particular case that's had great impact or significance for you?
So many of them do in very different ways. The homicides where young people are coming into the city to buy drugs in the middle of the night are always the ones that keep it so green for me--I use to do that all the time and the fact that these days it will cost you your life brings on a different level of urgency to get to these young people and educate them about recovery and options.
Any rape case always hits home with me, especially the ones where alcohol is involved and everyone is placing the questions at the feet of the victim as opposed to the offender--they touch my heart in a special way because I know what that is like.
What do you want your readers to come away with?
That life is and can be very unfair and hard but everything in life boils down to the way we choose to approach it. While we may not have a choice in becoming a victim of a crime or being born with a predisposition to the disease of addiction, we have a choice everyday upon waking how we choose to deal with it. I want people to understand that there is hope and that on any given day, you can wake up and change your life. It's that hard and it's that simple.
What question should Book 'Em have asked you that we didn't... and what's the answer?
People can learn more about victims rights at www.victimwitness.org and can find out more about me and my upcoming publications at jenniferstorm.com.
About the Author
Jennifer Storm is the Executive Director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, Pa. In 2002, Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed her as a commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. She makes frequent appearances on the major networks as a spokesperson for victim's rights. Storm has been profiled in We, Women, Curve, The Advocate, Central Penn Business Journal, Rolling Stone, TIME, and others. She writes a semi-monthly article for Mystic Pop Magazine.