Rape victim speaks out to community
By SARAH RYKOWSKI
Saint Mary's News Editor
Editor's Note: Kelly and Justin are pseudonymns.
For Kelly, facing reality was the hardest part to recovery.
"This is the first time I've sat down and shared my story," Kelly said. "It took me nine months to go in front of people and say, `I was raped.'"
Kelly, a junior at Saint Mary's, shared her story of rape and recovery in a Regina Hall event Tuesday evening.
Kelly came to Saint Mary's in 1998, a wide-eyed, naive freshman. She went to the orientation sessions about sexual assault, but she did not take them seriously.
"I thought it was definitely not something that would happen to me," Kelly said. "This was a good Catholic school."
She moved into a double, and quickly caught on to the party scene with her roommate. According to Kelly, they went over to Notre Dame to party every Friday and Saturday night.
"We drank a lot," Kelly said.
Jan. 29, 1999 started off ordinarily enough for the two girls. Since it was a Friday, Kelly and her roommate headed over to Notre Dame to Alumni Hall.
"I didn't like beer, so this guy gave me two airplane bottles of whiskey," Kelly said. "I drank it straight."
Then the two girls walked around campus to see what else was going on.
They soon found another party, and Kelly drank some more. Later, when she asked her friends how much they saw her drink, they said four beers.
"I really don't know how much I drank that night," she said. "After that we went to Reckers. At 3[a.m.] we went back to Saint Mary's."
Kelly was tired, but decided to go down to the writing center to check her email.
A male acquaintance at Notre Dame, Justin, Instant-Messaged her while she was in the writing center. Justin asked her if she wanted to get together. She agreed, and met him in the Le Mans parking lot at about 3:30 am.
"I was very tired. I wanted to go to sleep," she said. "He stopped in Angela. We started kissing. I guess I must have said `Don't take my virginity like five times. I was passed out, but I knew it was happening.'"
Afterwards, she went back to her dorm and fell asleep, aware that something had happened, but in denial.
"I woke up the next morning covered in blood," Kelly said. "I told myself it didn't happen. I tried to play it off."
Later that day, Kelly told her roommates what had happened.
"Then I realized that this was a person I had trusted, but I didn't even know his last name."
She hunted through the phone book with what little information she had, and discovered who he was, and found out he was a baseball player.
"He was a baseball player," she said. "He would have told me."
Then her friends were trying to give her advice, but she was already blocking the incident out. Her roommate left to go to the Keenan Revue, and she decided to let another friend take her to the clinic.
An hour later, she went looking for her friend and found that friend just leaving to go party at Alumni again, unwilling to take her to the clinic.
Kelly decided not to go to the clinic after all.
"I went back and took a shower and went to bed," Kelly said. "I didn't know you had 72 hours to go to the clinic and do a rape kit. It had already seemed like so long ago."
She woke up the next morning, and, after trying to do her homework, realized that all she was doing was writing prayers to God to allow her to die.
She went back to the writing center and was Instant Messaging another friend, and told him she wouldn't be back because she was going to "hopefully be in heaven" by then.
She went back up to her room and went to sleep.
She was in the middle of an email suicide note to her parents when her roommate came and told her that her RA wanted to see her.
"I was put on suicide watch, and every two hours the counseling office called to make sure I was okay," Kelly said. "It was really embarrassing."
"Then I decided to phone Justin," she said. "I called him up with questions about what happened that night. He said, `Oh, we hooked up,' and laughed. Then he wanted to know what I was going to do."
On Thursday of that week, Justin Instant Messaged her. He wanted to know how she was feeling.
"He said, `Should I put this incident behind me?'" Kelly told her audience. Later in that conversation, Kelly said she asked Justin some very serious questions about that night. In the transcript she printed of their conversation, he allegedly admitted that he might have gone against her wishes. He admitted that he did rape her, she said. He even apologized.
"He finally admitted to it," Kelly said. "He said he was sorry."
That weekend, she went home and told her parents what had happened. "I am glad I told my parents," Kelly said. "It was also one of the hardest things I have ever done. My dad was sobbing. He went to Notre Dame, and two times since then he has come to me and said, `I live with the burden that I failed you as a father.' I said it wasn't [his] fault."
Kelly tried counseling, but nothing was coming of it, and she decided to move on with her life.
"[Moving on] didn't happen," Kelly said. "I was very suicidal. My roommate was hostile, and I felt like I was the only one. I was having a really rough time, during February and the end of March."
During Sexual Awareness Week at the end of March, Kelly saw a list of statistics on rape.
"I matched every one," Kelly said. "Freshman, naive, and doesn't report it. I said, `I can't believe I'm a statistic now.'"
However, it was what she read later that week in The Observer, a full-page ad, which spurred her to action. It read, "You may think he took everything from you, but he didn't take your voice."
"He killed me inside, but I still had my voice," Kelly said.
After that, she made an appointment with Notre Dame Security, and they took her statement.
The next fall, she was called into the ResLife office, and given a contact person and a copy of du Lac. She decided to press charges after talking with a student from Notre Dame who was herself a survivor of sexual assault.
"I wasn't prepared for it," she said of the hearing. "I decided to go myself, and I regret that a lot."
Her story and Justin's did not agree, according to Kelly. She said he was allowed to bring in character witnesses, while she was not. She said he told the committee that she was "just after the jocks."
"I was not," Kelly said. "I was a student manager. I love Notre Dame."
Even her roommate told the committee that Kelly was probably making it up, according to Kelly.
A week later, she went in again and was told of the verdict.
"`We have a decision now,' they said. `There was no violation of du Lac. He will receive counseling on relationship issues,'" Kelly recounted. "I told my contact person, `I'm mad. I can't believe this is happening.'"
She met with the Campus Alliance for Rape Elimination (C.A.R.E.), who told her she had a right to a transcript of the hearing. She said ResLife then told her that since she wasn't a Notre Dame student, she was lucky to come over and be a part of the hearing at all.
In desperation, she went to Linda Timm, vice president of Student Affairs at Saint Mary's.
"Dr. Timm helped me so much," Kelly said. "She was amazing. I also spoke with Father [Mark] Poorman [vice president of Student Affairs at Notre Dame], who said he was sorry. He hoped that I would seek pastoral help. But I still wasn't satisfied. I still felt a lot of guilt. I was drinking that night I got in his car."
Her turning point came that fall break when she was in a serious car accident.
"It was a legitimate way for me to die," Kelly said. "I realized then that I was there for a reason. I could get better. I needed someone to tell me I wasn't to blame, I was okay. I started to realize that I wasn't alone, that God was there to protect me."
While Kelly did write an anonymous letter to The Observer last year, she felt that wasn't enough. She spoke to Regina Hall students in an effort to educate students to the fact that they were not alone.
"One of the main things I want to go over is the fact that 1 in 4 women in their lifetime will be raped," Kelly said. "It's not just a statistic."
Kelly also advised her audience to go to the clinic immediately and to get help. Kelly herself took a shower and did not go to the clinic, and thus had no physical evidence to prove her case to outside authorities.
"There are so many places you can go to get help," Kelly said. "If anything ever happens, just go to the clinic. And if it happens to your friends you have to support them, to believe in them. Most women who come forward are not lying. If they won't go, you go yourself to get help. It's a lot for you to deal with."
Although she did not get the result she wanted from the ResLife hearing, she was grateful that they heard her case.
"Technically they don't have to hear [Saint Mary's] cases," Kelly said.
All News Stories for Wednesday, September 20, 2000