Rape victim works to cope after 14 years - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Rape victim works to cope after 14 years

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A 36-year-old woman is still getting counseling for an attack that happened 14 years ago.

Her attacker was a Navy lieutenant and her superior officer at the time. Statistics show the most common rapes happen between acquaintances.

Fifty percent of rape victims never report the crime. Those who do they rarely have the courage to talk publicly about it.

"Joyce" is using her experience to help others know they too can speak up. Reporting a rape immediately is important because silence keeps the cycle of abuse going.

The victim described the attack. "It was very brutal. I fought. I tried to fight. I ripped my clothes off; put a knife to me," she said. "I was afraid. Not only did he have the knife to my throat, he also choked me at the same time. I was afraid to scream because I was in fear of my life."

She still remembers every detail from the night she was raped. It was 14 years ago. She was 21 at the time and in the Navy on a ship in Guam.

The young woman and her superior officer had just finished dinner. She was heading back to her quarters.

"He waited until the perfect moment to bring me to that portion of the ship and force me onto the stairwell and raped me," she said.

She said the man - a lieutenant at the time and 12 years her senior - threatened to kill her and her family if she ever told the story. So she didn't.

When Joyce did report the crime 36 hours later, there was no evidence. It was her word against his.

She feared no one would believe her. That is exactly what happened.

"So yes,  he walked free. There was no prosecution," she said.

Statistics show that most rapes happen between acquaintances. Even though Joyce's attack was on a ship, advocates want you to know that it can happen anywhere and at any time.

Last year, the Savannah Rape Crisis Center handled 100 rape cases. Officials there say one is too many.

 "It should be a zero-tolerance for rape," said Kesha Gibsob-Carter, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center.

She said awareness is key to eliminating this crime.

"I think it's more imperative that people keep their guard up and be cognizant of who they allow to get close to them and the kind of company they keep," Gibsob-Carter said.

The Rape Crisis Center works closely with women such as Joyce to help them cope with the fear, the pain, and the life changes they undoubtedly will endure.

Joyce admitted that she fears getting close enough to a man to be married and the attack left her barren.

She said she decided to talk openly about this now, to keep others from suffering in silence.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," said. "I just want to advocate for others who possibly cannot advocate for themselves."

Joyce was medically discharged from the military two weeks after her attack. However, her attacker is still serving.

WTOC talks with Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap to find out when victims do report rapes and how those cases are moving through the courts faster.

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