On New Year's Eve, 1995, my husband's and my life changed forever. We arrived home at 2:00 am, only to find our precious daughter, our only child, dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound. Suicide! What a horrible word. We never dreamed we would lose our daughter, and certainly not to suicide. What would cause a beautiful 20-year old, majoring in elementary education, in a top sorority, with lots of friends, lots of dates and a beautiful voice to end her life? At first, we thought it was because she had not recovered from having her boyfriend break up with her in September. But four journal entries told the story.
On August 4, 1995, Kristin went with a group of friends to watch movies at another friend's apartment. All the people went home, but Kristin chose to remain. The boy was her friend of two years. She had no reason to worry. But she was wrong. We don't know what led up to it, but she wrote she felt safe and trusted him ... then, he raped her. She told a good friend the next day, but in spite of her friend's encouragement, she would not go to the police or a counselor and would not tell us. Her friend had been a suicide peer counselor in high school and knew how serious this could be. Kristin would not tell us because she felt we wouldn't believe her, that it would disappoint us, or that we would make her go to the police. (Experts estimate 90 percent of acquaintance rapes are never reported.)
Kristin wrote a "practice letter" to her boyfriend, saying she wanted to tell him but was afraid of his reaction. According to her journal, she did tell him, but he couldn't deal with it and broke up with her. This may not have been the only reason he broke up with her, but in her mind' it was. A Psychologist called this "secondary wounding." She had suffered the trauma of rape and then was abandoned by the love of her life.
Depression is a very common result of rape; Kristin was exhibiting classic signs of depression, yet no one spotted it: fatigue; feelings of helplessness; hopelessness or despair; loss of concentration; lack of interest in activities; sleep problems (she stayed up all night and slept until noon); constantly listening to sad music; and withdrawal. She was missing classes and not turning in assignments, and her grades had dropped. She had gained weight and was using laxatives. No one suspected true "depression" except two sorority sisters. One, a roommate of Kristin's, was truly worried. She debated about calling us. She made an appointment to take Kristin to the college counselor. When the time came, Kristin refused to go. Her friend scheduled another appointment, but she didn't make that one either. Then it came time to come home for Christmas. Kristin Put on quite a front. She seemed happy. We skied, shopped, went to movies, went to church, and she went out with her friends, a lot. Her friends here suspected nothing - even her best friend who had been a peer counselor. That's why Kristin's death was such a shock to everyone - except that one sorority sister.
I am sharing this because I hope by telling Kristin's story that other lives will be saved, and other young women will not be victims of acquaintance rape, and that those suffering from depression, for ANY reason, will get help. I have had three women and five collegians tell me they have considered suicide. Two Collegians I know actually attempted it. What pressures are we putting on our young people? Why are they even considering suicide?
My plea to all of you - if You are a victim of acquaintance rape or suspect you may be suffering from depression, please seek professional help. If you have a friend with any of these problems, PLEASE take her to a counselor. Another life should not be lost.
In the bonds,
Andrea Fuller Cooper
Florida State University, Alpha Eta