Karen & Lauren
Karen: This story is very personal for the two of us…The reason we share our story is because we do want to educate -- we are sort of becoming the poster children for the things that have happened to us. Go ahead - you start, I’ll jump in.
Lauren: Ok so, this is a lot of information. A lot of it’s personal, but we feel that if we’re sharing this information, we’re empowering other victims and survivors and also preventing this from happening to other women and children. Because with education, 95% of abuse can be avoided. Karen and I are both survivors of college campus rape. Mine was a date rape situation, it was someone that I knew, someone that I had gone out with. We went back to my apartment after going out and he forced himself on me against my will and had sex with me. So, I, you know, ran into my roommates room, her boyfriend went in and kicked the guy out. This was 20-some years ago where date rape and acquaintance rape wasn’t really a thing.
Interviewer (BeckyInBoca Show): And I think this happens sometimes to young women and they don’t tell anybody.
I: Because they feel like it’s their fault.
L: Or you just don’t know. I didn’t know what my choices were at that time. So, other than my roommate and her boyfriend, they were really the only ones who knew -
Karen’s situation was a little different. She had gone out with a group of friends, some girlfriends, and there were two guys in the group. They went out, she was having a bad day, they were like, ‘let’s go out and we’ll cheer you up’. So they went out, they drank, she drank a lot of beer - it’s what you do in college. When she was going home, they lived in a townhouse community, and she was two doors away from her friend’s house. And she’s like, “ok, I’m gonna go”, and her friend’s like, ‘well let my boyfriend walk you home, he’s leaving anyway’. And she’s like, ‘no, no, I’m good, I’m good’. Karen is 5”2, but she’s pretty fierce. So they’re like, “no just let him walk you home”. So she did. She let him walk her home, he came into her house, and he raped her. The result of her rape was pregnancy and the birth of her daughter who’s now 22 years old and is an amazing human being so.. I mean obviously, that was a silver lining for her but she should have never had to go through that to begin with.
K: Right, and I want to just jump in with two really important statistics. Like you said, most rapes go unreported and actually it’s 93% of rapes. And 5% percent of those rapes, every year, in the US alone, result in pregnancy. So if you’ve ever been to a Miami Heat game, you can actually fill that arena two times with the number of pregnancies that result from rape every single year. Just in the US.
I: So is this still going on on college campuses?
K: Absolutely. So many people are so ready to victim blame. They think ‘oh, were you drinking’? Or ‘what were you wearing’? Or ‘did you have a short skirt on’? ‘Were you flirting’? You know, all of those things. People don’t realize that is victim blaming. And it’s hard enough to come forward with your story as it is, and that should tell you, 93% of women and men don’t come forward with their story. Because that’s what you expect.
L: I mean the statistics are today ⅕ girls and 1/16 boys will be sexually assaulted their freshman or sophomore year of college - and those are the only ones that are reported.
K: And only 4% are false claims of rape, so 96% of the time these people are telling the truth. But because of the ones that you hear, everyone jumps on that bandwagon.
L: Right, so how do we avoid this? Well, we need to start educating our children when they’re younger. Doing it freshman orientation is not the time because you ..
I: Educating them to do what? Like if it’s a young woman, how can she prevent this? I mean, your two situations..
K: Yes, well I think in my situation, the thing is once this happens to you, you tend to go back in time. What could I have done differently? How could I have changed the result of what happened? And you know there’s never a way to prevent all of these things from happening. But in my case specifically, it … I had walked home with one of my female friends or if I had not let him walk me home, you know you think you’re being safe by having this big man walk you home because it’s this late at night and you’ve been drinking. Girls just need to stick together. That’s just the bottom line. You need to be at least two girls at all times, you know, not have your drink exposed when you’re in a bar, and just, even if it’s someone you know, because we just spoke at the University of Miami last week and all of this is very fresh which is why my voice sounds so crackly. We’ve told this story so many times and it just does not get old. And I even said to Laura last week, our story is 20 years old. Does anyone really care, is anyone paying attention is this really still happening? And we had a young girl come up to us after we spoke about college campus rape and sexual assault, and this young girl, who’s a pre-med student, comes up to us and says, “This just happened to me this year, almost the exact same story as what happened to you, and I tried to press charges, I did all the right things, I went to the hospital, there’s video surveillance, and the charges get dropped.”
I: Why is that?
K: I wish I had the answer to this.
L: And here’s the thing, this is not at all male-bashing at all, because 92% of men are great. It’s the 8% that commit 90% of the crime. So especially even in college, again, there’s a lot of parties, there’s alcohol involved. So if you’re at a fraternity party, as a man, and you see a guy, even if you’re a 5”9 guy, and you see this 6”3 big guy and he’s trying to get the girl to his room, or she’s really drunk and he’s trying to put the moves on her, we need more bystander intervention. So you don’t go up and make an issue with that guy, instead you grab a buddy, you go get her, and you say, ‘hey Suzy, come take a photo with us’, or ‘hey Suzy, your mom just called Josh’s cell phone she needs to speak to you’. Get her out of that situation, you know, don’t turn the other cheek because if you are, you’re just as guilty. You’re just as guilty.
K: And it leaves a lifetime scar, and that’s what people don’t understand. For the predator, I’ll say, it’s a one time -- actually, they’re usually repeat offenders -- but it’s a few minutes of fun. They don’t even remember the person’s name. But when you’re on our end of it, you remember the name, you remember the smell, you remember the room, you remember details that you wish you could forget.
I: And did either of you two come forward at the time?
K & L: no.
L: So one of the things we’ve done with our company is we’ve become corporate partners with an organization called It’s On Us, which was started by the former administration back in September 2014. It’s out there to end sexual assault on college campuses. The University of Miami is an It’s on Us school, and we’re happy to report that there are now 500 colleges that are the same - there is zero tolerance for sexual assault. It brings awareness onto the college campuses, it brings the resources available for students - it’s a pledge.
K: They talk about intervention, and give examples to kids about how to intervene, how to stand up for one another and look out for each other. They teach boys what rape is, because half the time they don’t even know what rape is. So, there’s a video that we’ve seen on YouTube it’s called TEA and it basically compares offering someone a hot cup of tea to having sex.
L: We’re tackling the college camp, campus rape, because that’s personal to us. So then fast forward, I get married a week after college (which I don’t recommend, it’s dumb! Don’t do it!) I was married for 16 years, with my husband for 18, and for 10 of those years, I was a victim of domestic violence. It was verbal, it was emotional, it got physical one time, and it was economical. I finally, after having 3 children, I got the courage to leave one day. I was like, “I’ve had enough, I’m not doing this anymore.” And I filed for divorce. And 4 weeks after our divorce was finalized my ex-husband ended his life. And that day, my mother said, ‘thank god, he didn’t take my daughter or my grandchildren.’ I was like a dead woman walking. It was scary, and at the time I kind of compartmentalized it, because every other aspect of my life was so great. I work with my best friend, I have three amazing children, my parents have been married for 52 years, I have two older sisters and they’ve been married for almost 30 years. And I just, I didn’t want to face it, because if I told my family, then I’d have to do something about it. And I was afraid to address it. I’m educated, I own my own business, and you think about someone who’s a victim of domestic violence and you think, they have no teeth in their mouth, they live in a trailer, they have no resources. And that’s not the case. With domestic violence it’s all about power, and slowly but surely they chip away at you until they’re in control. And especially a lot of powerful women are victims of domestic violence as a guy sees how a woman is in a high profile position, and he wants to be able to control that.
K: Sadly, the story gets worse before it gets better. Fast forward in my story I ended up getting married as well. And, when my daughter was 11 years old, and I was 9 months pregnant with my son, my daughter came to me and told me that she had been molested by my husband at the time.
L: You can’t make this up. It’s like non-fiction, it’s crazier than fiction.
I: You’re kidding.
K: No. So, that’s why we are tackling these three issues: rape, domestic violence and childhood sexual assault. Because we have just had enough, and people do not talk about these subjects. It’s embarrassing, the predators count on the fact that victims are embarrassed. They’re ashamed, they blame themselves, they feel like it’s their fault. So they feel like they don’t have a voice. And we’ve just had it. We are going to be their voice, we are going to stand up for them, and we’re going to encourage to do that as a society and as a community. We all -- I mean, we’re 2 people, there are 314 million people in the US, we will never get to all of them by ourselves. We need help so that people are not victim blaming, we need help so that when someone comes forward and says, ‘this happened to me’, people believe them. Because it’s too embarrassing to make it up - Why would anyone make that up? Especially with athletes, people think, well, she’s just after the money. But there’s not enough money in the world to make you come out and say something like that because everyone is going to say it’s about the money. Everyone is going to say that you’re just looking for 15 minutes of fame. But who wants that fame? Who wants that kind of fame?
L: Just listen to this, one statistic. For those who have children and grandchildren, ⅓ girls and ⅕ boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. And the average age for a boy is 4 years old.
K: And those are from the Department of Justice, so those are not Karen and Laura made up statistics.
I: And do you know who they’re molested by?
L: 90% of the time it’s someone they know and trust. So, a step-parent, an uncle, a biological grandparent
K: Biological parents, even, yes. And just even yesterday we heard another story about -- you would be shocked: coaches, teachers, church..
L: So with these heavy issues, we're using fashion as our vehicle to get our message out to the world. So, we have a line of handbags, which is the Wren and Roch part, our handbags are made in the garment district in NYC, so yay we’re supporting our national economy, and all of our leathers are hand finished and embossed in Palm Beach so we’re also helping out local economy.
-Interview courtesy of BeckyInBoca Show. Visit wrenandroch.com to support these incredible women with an even more incredible cause.