I want to tell Megan's story from her point of view and her beliefs. She was smart, kind, ambitious, and funny. She loved other people.
After attending high school in Austin, Texas, she enrolled in the University of Alabama. She had a beautiful life--that is, until she was sexually assaulted in January of 2015.
After a night of drinking with her friends, Megan was ready to go home and go to bed. However, a finely dressed young businessman who referred to himself as “Sweet T” offered to give her a ride.
You see, “Sweet T” was from the richest family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and just so happened to be a big financial backer of that university. Megan didn't remember climbing into his sleek Mercedes, but she woke up at his Southern mansion and knew something was wrong.
Megan said she resisted his initial advances and repeatedly told him she wanted to go home. He refused to do so. Instead, he sexually assaulted her, and then he fell off to sleep.
She tried to get out of the room, but the door was locked. Desperate to escape, Megan climbed out of the mansion's second-story bedroom window and went to his car looking for her keys.
It was there that she discovered a handgun Sweet T had in the car all the time but took it for her safety on her walk home. Doing everything a rape victim should do, she immediately called the police and went to the hospital.
But it is here that the system, she says, started to fail her. The hospital wasn't sufficiently trained in sexual assault procedure and botched the rape kit.
Megan then went to the police station to give her statement about what happened to her. But it was there she was treated with disdain and disbelief by Tuscaloosa's police department.
After all, Megan was claiming that the son of one of the wealthiest families in Tuscaloosa had raped her. Despite her insistence that she said “no,” the police did not believe her. She said they didn't want to believe her.
An officer asked her why she didn't punch or kick the rapist. The police thought it must have been consensual since she did not violently resist the attacker, and they moved on.
But rape victims can never move on. It is something they carry with them for the rest of their lives. The scars left by the rape do not fade away for victims.
I was a prosecutor and judge in Texas for over 30 years. I met a lot of rape victims, and I learned how these attacks sometimes devastate their lives forever.
Sexual assault is a very different type of crime. It rips the identity, the self-worth, and the very soul of the victim apart.
It is the victim's belief, in some cases, that it is a fate worse than death. It is easy to second-guess what someone should or should not have done after emotional trauma of sexual assault, but Megan believed she did everything a rape victim is supposed to do: She sought help, but she found none.
The university failed her. The counselor assigned to her knew of the rapist's family name, so the university wouldn't give her any assistance and provided no other counselor.
Megan was dismissed, ignored, blamed, and forgotten. In the months following the sexual assault, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She was so depressed, she left the school and returned to Texas.
Still feeling like there was no way to escape her pain, Megan took her life. Rape is never the fault of the victim. She deserved better.
Now, I don't know whether the perpetrator in this case is guilty or not. I am giving you Megan's point of view.
But what Megan believed was that she was failed by the hospital, law enforcement, and the University of Alabama. This past February before her death, Megan filled out a mental health clinic intake form at her new school, Southern Methodist University.
One question asked if there had been any major losses, changes, or crises in her life. She wrote: “Raped, bullied by police, and I changed university.”
It is important and it is imperative that we understand victims of sexual assault. She got the death penalty for being the victim of sexual assault. She is not here to tell her story today, and I am telling it for her.
And that is just the way it is.