“I Think It is Wonderful that She had the Courage to Stand Up and Face the People Who Raped Her”

A rapist who gets away with one rape may commit additional rapes. A rapist who is tried and convicted and sent to prison is likely to commit no or fewer future rapes. Testifying in a trial against rapists is a way to protect women who could be future victims of the rapists. In January 2015, a jury convicted Vanderbilt University football player Brandon Vandenburg of nine counts, including instances of aggravated rape. The same jury convicted Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey on multiple counts of aggravated rape. Two other former Vanderbilt University football players were awaiting trial as of January 2015. The woman was unconscious at the time of the rape, which took place in a Vanderbilt dorm room in June 2013. Two rape survivors whose attackers never stood trial regard the woman who took the football players to court not as a victim but as a hero. Annie Wortham of Hendersonville, Tennessee, said, “I think it is wonderful that she had the courage to stand up and face the people who raped her. Not only the people who raped her, but also the people who witnessed it and did nothing about it. More power to her for being strong and not being afraid to stand up when so many people are scared.” Ms. Wortham said that 14 years ago in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, she survived stranger rape. Sarah O’Brien, who is pursuing a master’s degree in divinity at Vanderbilt, experienced acquaintance rape on the same campus. She said, “I’m ecstatic that there was actually some type of justice served for this woman. I really hope it shakes the nation because I know the nation has been following this story. … I cannot express enough gratitude for this survivor and the courage she demonstrated in sitting in that courtroom. She has really empowered a lot of women that I don’t think she even knows that she has.”

Following the convictions, the rape survivor issued a statement that Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman read in full:

“Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this difficult process. I’m thankful that the criminal justice system will hold the defendants responsible for their violent crimes. The hard work of the law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victims’ advocates who dedicated so many months of their lives to this case has made justice possible.

“I want to especially thank detective Jason Mayo, Sgt. Mike Shreeve, Detective Chad Gish, Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman, Assistant District Attorneys Jan Norman and Roger Moore and victims’ advocates Wanda Swan, Lt. Rochelle Barrios and Teresa Shearon. You are my heroes and I am so proud of and grateful for each of you.

“I am also hopeful that the publicity this case has received will lead to a discussion of how we can end sexual violence on college campuses. Finally, I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame.”

The rape survivor testified at the trial and identified herself in several videos of the rape.

For Further Information: Tom Wilemon, “Rape survivors describe Vanderbilt victim as hero.” The Tennessean. 27 January 2015 <http://tinyurl.com/ntwsjjo>.

For Further Information: Joey Garrison, “Vanderbilt rape victim speaks out after verdict.” The Tennessean. 27 January 2015 <http://tinyurl.com/kxaffxz>.

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