Eighteen year old Kaitlin could barely contain herself. She was excited heading off to college today. Brimming with barely contained energy, she hummed a few bars from a Taylor Swift song while cramming the last treasures that would fit into the stuffed old Mini Cooper. Her big brown eyes framed by soft shoulder length dark curls, held anticipation and eagerness. Well liked in high school, outgoing, talkative she had a welcoming smile for everyone. Waiving goodbye to her tearful parents, she got on the interstate, filled with a sense of freedom and new beginnings.
Once on campus, she went through rush week at the sorority houses and got into her first choice, a beautiful house on campus. Happy, making friends, going to classes, meeting new students, she loved college life and was doing well.
In October Kaitlin was invited to her first real college party held in one of the dorms, on Saturday night. What Kaitlin didn’t realize was that the guys in the dorm, who invited her, had another agenda.
Sunday morning, Georgia, her roommate, found Kaitlin sprawled out on the front lawn of the sorority house. Georgia, used to girls overdoing it on Saturday nights, walked past Kaitlin, without giving it a second thought. At around 2:00 PM, Georgia become concerned and tried to wake Kaitlin. She noticed Kaitlin was bleeding and bruised. She called campus security.
Campus security decided to handle it “internally” without reporting it to the local police but sending an e-mail to the college administration. Security interviewed Kaitlin but since she had no memory of what had occurred the evening before or how she ended up on the sorority lawn, they eventually dropped the matter after a cursory investigation. They believed it was just another college girl, who had had too much to drink the night before. They’d seen it a million times.
A few weeks later, when Kaitlin was having problems concentrating at school, felt depressed and having a breakdown with crying jags, and panic attacks, her parents became concerned. Their once bubbly, outgoing, smart, daughter was now skipping classes, not doing homework, withdrawn, anxious and depressed, for no apparent reason. No one knew what had happened to her or what to do.
The picture became clear, a month later, when one of the college dorm party givers, had asked a friend to videotape the incident with Kaitlin had posted the video on YouTube through the college server. In the video, you saw a drugged, unconscious college girl, being dragged by her dark, curly hair though the dorm hallway, and raped by several identifiable college men.
Kaitlin had been given a Roofie, as well as plied with alcohol poured down her throat by one of the college boys. The young men involved were popular on campus and played college sports. They had had a drunken blast.
Only when Kaitlin saw the video on YouTube did she recognize that she was the woman in the video. At first stunned, then shamed, then angry, Kaitlin began her journey to recovery with the help of the campus rape crisis center. By breaking silence she began to feel empowered. She wanted to warn and help others who were at risk.*
Through an act of courage, Kaitlin testified at the criminal trial of the three college men involved. Supported by the rape crisis center and encouraged by her parents, Kaitlin contacted an attorney and sued the university, the college men and their parents for sexual assault, sexual battery, negligence, failure to investigate, failure to report the incidents of suspected sexual abuse to authorities as required by state and federal law, and for covering the incident up.
It would have been easier for Cassie to withdraw from college, go home, disappear and pretend the whole thing never happened. However, with the love and support of other survivors and her attorney, Kaitlin realized that only through speaking up and telling her story could she protect other college women at risk, help with prevention and increase public awareness. It also began her healing journey.
“Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went the
Shari Karney is a survivor’s attorney. She represents victims of child sexual abuse by sexual predators such as a member of the clergy, a teacher, celebrity, sports coach, wealthy businessman or any other powerful person, Karney Law is here for you.