Saturday 18 November 2017

'Even my own mother was victim blaming. She said if I hadn't been drunk, it wouldn't have happened'- Victim of Colorado rape reads powerful statement

Austin James Wilkerson (22) was convicted for assaulting a
Austin James Wilkerson (22) was convicted for assaulting a "helpless" woman Photo: Boulder County Jail
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

An American student whose rapist avoids jail has written a powerful victim impact statement saying her “life has been ruined” and “everything is a reminder” of the rape by a fellow student.

Austin James Wilkerson (22) was convicted for assaulting a "helpless" woman a year his junior after she reportedly refused to go along with his sexual advances at the University of Colorado in 2014.

Despite a potential prison sentence of up to 12 years for the offence, the judge ruled that Wilkerson would instead serve two years of "work release" and 20 years to life on probation.

The court heard that Wilkerson "isolated and raped the half-conscious victim" after telling friends he would look after her.

He was said to have "digitally and orally penetrated" her after "not getting much response".

Prosecutors added that the rejections "pissed off" Wilkerson and that he called her a "f*****g b***h."

Read More: Fury as sex attacker who called victim 'f*****g b**ch' for rejecting him avoids jail

In a victim impact statement the victim said the attack has "ruined" her life as she even attempted suicide.

"’His life is ruined.’ Oh yeah and it's not like my life isn't ruined or anything. It's always been about the rapist since the assault. As the victim of this sexual assault, my life has been ruined socially, psychologically, academically, and financially," she read out loud in court.

The victim explained how the attack has affected her socially. She told the court she no longer attends college football games, avoids drinking and is terrified of people she doesn’t know.

"In my case, I'm afraid of acquaintances, since this sexual assault was an acquaintance rape. Safety is my #1 priority, even if it means jeopardizing relationships."

The victim said she now suffers anxiety and panic attacks that wake her in the middle of the night and cause her to go to hospital.

"I thought these panic attacks were random, but the more of them I had, the more a pattern emerged that aligned with the sexual assault: I would be peacefully sleeping when all of the sudden I would be jolted awake by this horrible thing happening to me. There wasn't much I could do except try to breathe through it—just try to survive—and wait for the horrible thing to be over with. Just. Like. The assault."

The victim said she suffered from depression and attempted to kill herself.

"Some days I can't even get out of bed, let alone do four readings, projects, and study for tests. And no wonder. The rapist made pleasurable things of sex, sleep, and going out traumatic. So it's no surprise that less pleasurable things like studying are 100 times more difficult."  

She said she was constantly reminded of the rape as she had to recall the night to various investigators, therapists and family.

The victim was also impacted financially of up to $250,000 as she had to repeat college years, pay for hospital bills, medicines and therapy.

"But it's only the rapist's life that has been ruined, right? It's not like I had hopes and dreams or academic and career goals."

She said she struggles the most with "victim blaming".

"Following my breaking down and crying and getting ridiculed about the sexual assault, someone in the jury had the audacity to ask me why I didn't say, "No." The real question is, "Why didn't the rapist get my consent?!" It would be like if someone robbed you and they said, "Well you didn't say no!" Does a lack of a "no" make the robbery okay? Of course not!

"Even my own mother was victim blaming. She told me that if I hadn't been drunk, this wouldn't have happened. Yet, it was excusable for him to rape me because he was drunk. After all I've endured emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially, the burden of the blame still crashes down on my shoulders."

As the sex attacker is now allowed to return to the college the victim still attends she said she fears for her own safety.

"Knowing that the rapist cannot physically get to anyone would give the community and me a peace of mind—well, at least for a little while out of my lifelong suffering. Have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me the night of the sexual assault, which was none.

"The rapist chose to ruin his life. But like the sexual assault itself, my life has been ruined without my consent."

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