Justice

The Vanderbilt Gang Rape Survivor’s Powerful Letter Addressing Attackers

July 18th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

On Friday, former Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the 2013 gang rape of a 21-year-old fellow student.

At the hearing, Batey's victim read a chilling letter addressed to her attackers, which was reported by Cosmopolitan.

"It's hard for me to stand here on display and speak to you today about the impact this has had on my life," she said. "The thought of sharing any more of myself that hasn't already been taken from me seems unbearable, and it goes against every instinct that I have."

In the letter, she explained how seeking justice retraumatized her.

"The humiliation, the pain, the isolation, being reduced to nothing but a piece of flesh right before your eyes, it does something to you that is truly impossible to describe," she said. "I also know that it's hard to encapsulate the impact this has had because it is still ongoing. The attack on me didn't end that day, because I relive it in every proceeding and experience additional attacks every time I am in court."

Her letter brings up the concept of "second rape," a term coined by psychologists in 1991, Fusion explains.

Second rape describes how undergoing medical exams, filing a police report, and navigating the legal system can make rape victims relive their experiences — which can be even more painful and emotionally intense than being sexually assaulted.

Second rape

This trauma can involve enduring character assaults from friends or lawyers of the alleged perpetrator and having to revisit what happened each time a statement is demanded by law enforcement or used in court proceeding.

"A growing body of research suggests that rape survivors are often denied help by their communities, and what help they do receive often leaves them feeling blamed, doubted, and revictimized," a 2001 paper published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence explained.

The paper's authors recommend providing more extensive training on dealing with victims of sexual assault in police academies, medical schools, rape crisis centers, and the mental health system.

The paper's authors argue that it's crucial for police, prosecutors, mental health professionals, victims advocates, and social workers to work together to provide survivors with support and real help.

The letter penned by former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner's victim also explored these issues, as Fusion pointed out.

"After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me," Turner's victim wrote. "To say 'see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.'

Brock turner

"I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name," she explained. "And then it came time for him to testify, and I learned what it meant to be revictimized."

The letters from both victims further illuminate why so many women do not report being sexually assaulted.

Only 344 out of every 1000 rapes are reported to police, and only six of those perpetrators will face any time behind bars, according to RAINN.

RAINN

The victim's ex-boyfriend Brandon Vandenburg — who organized and filmed the gang rape — was found guilty of aggravated rape, sexual battery, and unlawful pornography on June 20, and is awaiting sentencing, according to Cosmopolitan. Two of Batey's Vanderbilt football teammates, who allegedly participated in the assault, have entered not-guilty pleas and are awaiting trial.

You can read the victim's full letter on Cosmopolitan.