North Texas Daily

At UNT, Katie Koestner speaks about sexual violence on campus

At UNT, Katie Koestner speaks about sexual violence on campus

April 23
13:39 2016

Alexandria Reeves | Staff Writer


A small lecture hall provided a space for an intimate discussion with Katie Koestner, a victim of sexual assault turned prevention advocate who spoke without microphone to tell her decades-long battle to end sexual violence.

Koestner, who appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine, was credited in the early 1990s as the first woman to speak out against date rape after she was assaulted in her residence hall at the College of William and Mary. 

At the time, she said date rape was not taken seriously because many believed that rape was only committed by strangers or surprise attacks, not by intimate partners.

“Rape was not a crime of violence under the law,” Koestner said. “It was originally a property crime law, you were damaged goods to your father or your husband.”

Koestner said this archaic set of laws from colonial America created a stigma that has prevailed throughout history.

Koestner was a freshman in college when she was assaulted and afterwards faced multiple dilemmas on her path to have her attacker reprimanded. When she informed the school’s dean of her situation, she was told she was emotionally distressed and was immediately dismissed. When her rape was reported to the district attorney, she was informed that she was unlikely to win the case and was turned away once again.

The disbelief extended beyond administrators and law enforcement. Students on her campus joined the university and accused her of lying. They even circulated a petition on the matter. It raked in 5,000 signatures, she said.

Koestner said fighting so hard for justice only to see her attacker remain unscathed is what turned her into an advocate.

Koestner discussed her privilege in relation to her success as an advocate, citing how her making headlines over something so controversial is a rarity, as factors such as race often play into whether or not a victim is blamed for their assault.

“I was a white female who was not drunk, I had the right circumstances which all together was too much to ignore,” Koestner said.

Koestner pushed for audience members to speak out and not fall victim to the bystander effect.

“If you only think it, it doesn’t count, you must do it, you must say it, you must take the real risk at being vulnerable,” Koestner said.

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