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  • Reverend James Squire

Date Rape




I remember when I received a phone call from Katie Koestner who was raped at William and Mary College in 1991 when she was a freshman. She knew the person who raped her and decided to invite him back to her room after having dinner with him. He raped her after being told “no.” She was not given a rape test kit. She decided to bring the incident to the college’s awareness for support. She received no support from the college. She was encouraged to go through the school disciplinary process. The school said that there were mitigating circumstances. The final decision of the school was that there would not be a severe punishment for the rape even though she shouted 12 times for him to stop.


Koestner wanted justice. The college had encouraged her to go through school channels and not by filing a police report. The alleged person who committed the rape was allowed to stay on campus if he did not enter anyone else’s living quarters. Having a C average and being on probation leading to expulsion was regarded as a more serious event. She wanted justice and agreed to have her story told by HBO in a video called No Visible Bruises: The Katie Koestner Story which was aired in 1993. She was paid to do this. This divided William and Mary College. There were various petitions including one that asked for the “male point of view” started by the then present girlfriend of the person who raped her. Petitioners indicated that her actions would “ruin” the reputation of the person named in the rape. The school newspaper received letters to the editor that Koestner should have reported the rape sooner which is something that she tried to do. Koestner wanted to put a face on justice for rape victims and to put a face on this lack of support.


Ms. Koester called me after she graduated from William and Mary and before date rape became a national concern. She also wanted her story to help others who found themselves in her situation. I believed her, but I thought that having the boy back to her room where the rape occurred was something that gave me pause. However, I felt that her message which I reviewed with her could benefit both our male and female students. It was a time when this was not readily discussed in schools. I had her speak in the chapel for if someone speaks there, it communicates that I think that what she has to say is important. Graduation occurs there. I thought that chapel was for worship services plus anything beyond that with speakers, etc. that contained a religious, faith, moral, character-based issue. Her address was compelling and started an important conversation among our girls and guys. I was a reference for her for other schools as she was just getting started in getting her message out there. EA was part of the vanguard raising awareness of this issue.


I think that our school was the mustard seed giving Katie a forum for her message that grew in an important way. I have always been proud of her and to have had the opportunity to be one of those to help her get her start. I had her speak at least twice at EA. Note the following:


Katie was the first woman to speak out nationally about date rape.

She appeared on the cover of Time magazine at age 18

250,000 people heard her speak on the mall in Washington, D. C.

For 11 years she has spoken to incoming students at MIT, Amherst, and Williams College and many others

She has given 983 interviews on TV and other media

10 million people have heard her speak to date


Part of her appeal is the strong but gentle message that she gives in her addresses. She is someone that introverts and extroverts are moved as she tells her story. Her power is that she is an ordinary person doing an extraordinary thing. She is like the girl next store.


Date rape is an important concern of parents of girls and guys now. As the years went by from my first call with Katie, this issue has become an important one in our culture. Katie has been at the forefront of increasing awareness of this issue as the first person of alleged date rape to go public about her experience. Many colleges have the discussion of date rape as part of their freshman orientation. She founded the Sexual Assault Companions Program at William and Mary, Students Helping Others to Understand Trauma at Cornell called SHOUT, and is the Executive Director of Take Back the Night.


Parents saw the value of having Katie speak to their children before awareness was raised to the degree it is today. They thought that it was an important character, moral, ethical issue to be discussed. Yes, there were some who thought it was not a big enough issue to have Katie speak about it. They also thought that chapel was not the appropriate place for her address to be given. My whole approach was always to do what was best for my students and to work closely with parents. If parents know that, they will always support you. If their kids are alright, they are alright. Today parents want to make sure that their daughters will be safe in all settings. Today parents also want to make sure that their sons will always be aware of ethical behavior. They are also aware that the crime of date rape is in the “eye of the beholder.” That means that it is not the boy who determines if rape has occurred. It is the woman. Parents are also concerned that their sons will be falsely accused. I have a recently published blog on the Duke University Lacrosse Scandal which I used as an example in ethics class to examine what happens when students are falsely accused.


Like the mustard seed stated in the Gospel from which a large tree grows, it was a good decision to support Katie in the beginning of her work. Her accomplishments tell me that. I continue to be proud of her life changing work and the small way I was able to help her “grow her important message.”


When an important issue emerges, we all should take on the role of the mustard seed! That is why Jesus used such a common ingredient to make his point. It’s ordinary. Everyone can be it!

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