“It’s not your fault”

By Rachel Gobep

“When I was 18, rape was about a girl that gets dragged into an alley. Rape was not [committed] by someone you know,” said Katie Koestner, a rape victim of a man she went on a date with in 1990.

Koestner told her story in the Williamson Auditorium in the Williamson College of Business to more than 200 people on August 31. Attendance included Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, students, student athletes and staff.

At the age of 18, Koestner was the first woman to speak out as a victim of date rape. She was featured on the cover of “Time” magazine, appeared on numerous national television programs and has spoken at approximately 4,000 locations including universities and naval bases.

She attended the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Koestner selected to live in the only all-girls dorm on campus, which is where she said her rape occurred.

They met during the first week of school and he asked her on a date, Koestner said.

“The restaurant he picked was French — it was like Epcot. The waiter started speaking French and he spoke fluent French to the waiter while ordering,” she said.

After dinner, she invited him to her room where they danced together and he attempted to unbutton her dress. Koestner turned away and saw in the mirror that he was taking his tie off.
She said he got her onto the floor and held Koestner’s wrists above her head with one hand.

“He was kissing me and hurting me at the same time,” Koestner said.

When she told him to stop, Koestner recalled that he replied, “Stop thinking and start feeling.”

After his weight was lifted off of her, she remembers feeling worthless. When Koestner called her father and explained the assault, he wondered how the man broke into her room in the first place.

“You should not have had him in your room, Katie. It would have never happened,” her father said and hung up.

Koestner was able to have a sexual misconduct hearing as per the university handbook’s detailed policies against sexual assault, which all students agreed upon enrollment.

The college held a seven-hour court hearing, which lasted until two in the morning. This was the first hearing of its kind held at William and Mary, she said.

“I heard her say ‘no’ at least a dozen times but she stopped, so I thought it was a ‘yes,’” Koestner recalled her rapist saying during the hearing.

The dean of William and Mary had found him responsible and he could not enter any residence hall other than his own for the rest of the semester. He urged Koestner to date her rapist in the spring semester because they make a “nice couple.”

Koestner, infuriated, said she sent a letter to her local newspaper. She told them to print her name and other news organizations heard of the story, leading to its publication by numerous news outlets.

“On average, ten people a night disclose their stories to me,” Koestner said.

Koestner offered advice for victims of sexual assault during the lecture.

“It’s not your fault,” Koestner said. “Don’t keep it a secret.”

According to healthresearchfunding.org, 32 percent of date rape incidents occur when there is a romantic relationship between the perpetrator and the victim and 60 percent of campus rapes occur in the victim’s residence.

Rayann Atway, president of the Student Government Association, believes events like this are a great way to get people talking about issues like sexual assault. She also sees YSU as a campus that is ahead of the game when it comes to educating students about the issue.

“All incoming students must undergo Title IX training, and student athletes must undergo extra sexual assault training,” Atway said.

Moataz Abdelrasoul, a sophomore political science student, attended the event and believes it is essential to have events like this because sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses.

“The insight of someone as remarkable as Katie Koestner is helpful in understanding how someone was affected by sexual assault,” Abdelrasoul said.

Last year, YSU hosted sexual awareness events such as Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and Take Back the Night.

Koestner is the director of Campus Outreach Services and Campus Outreach Online, the director of the Take Back the Night Foundation and the founder of Respect Red.