Mom of rape victim speaks out
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 25 February 2013 09:33
Kristin Cooper's journals were a window to her heart. They expressed happiness with her college life and excitement about joining a sorority. But midway through her journal, the pages once full of life and joy, took a turn for darkness.
|Andrea Cooper talks before an audience at BGSU about rape and suicide. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Kristin was raped in August of 1995 by a close male friend she thought she could trust.
Less than five months later, the 20-year-old took her own life, unable to live with the pain any longer.
Her parents found her body on New Year's Eve of 1995 in the family room of their home in Oregon. Kristin had shot herself.
Kristin's mother, Andrea Cooper, spoke at Bowling Green State University's student union on Sunday to share her daughter's story.
"I am here because I am hoping I can help someone in this room," Cooper said.
At the time of her death, Kristin's parents had no idea she had been raped.
Cooper recalled her daughter phoning home to tell them her boyfriend broke up with her in September 1995. When she returned home for an extended weekend and later for Thanksgiving break, they were concerned by her behavior. She cried often and rarely wanted to leave the house. They thought she was still struggling with the breakup, but made up their minds to get her help if she wasn't better by Christmas.
When Christmas break rolled around, Kristin returned home and seemed happy again.
And while they will never know for sure, it was likely her happiness came from a sense of relief. The relief came in knowing she would soon escape from her pain through suicide.
In the weeks and months after Kristin's death, excerpts from her journal and conversations with her friends and sorority sisters provided the family clues to piece together what had happened to their only child.
Kristin was raped by a friend during a lifeguard party while away at school at Baker University in Kansas - 10 hours away from her home in Oregon.
|Elizabeth Brown (left) wipes tears from her eyes as she and her friend Paige Gmyrek listen to Andrea Cooper talk.
In a poem in her journal, Kristin described what is was like.
"The pain. The stench. The look of hate in his eyes." …
"Is he still out there? What is left of my soul?"
Following the rape, Kristin told her boyfriend. But after confiding in him, he broke up with her.
"When I needed you most, you deserted me after I opened up to you," Kristin wrote in her journal.
"My message to the men is to support your girlfriend or your sister. If they come to you, support them and be a good listener," Cooper told those in attendance.
She also had a message for women.
"Some of you may feel like it was your fault because you had been drinking or you were given a date-rape drug. But I want you to know, what happened to you was felony rape," Cooper said.
Alcohol or drugs are involved in 90 percent of acquaintance rapes, she said.
And all too often, she said, the rapes are not reported.
Confiding it in someone, Cooper said, "May not make a difference in catching the rapist, but it will make a huge difference in their recovery."
Kristin never reported her rape to police. A close friend had made her an appointment with a counselor, but Kristin never went.
Cooper offered tips for how to help someone who has been raped:
Be a good listener, don't judge, offer shelter, be attainable, give comfort, be patient and understanding.
"They aren't going to get over it in six weeks. It's a long process," Cooper said.
Don't be overly protective and encourage action.
"Accept what she chooses to do and put aside your personal feelings. Just support her and believe her."