Mr. Speaker, Angie described Amherst College as her dream school. A vibrant American teenager, she couldn’t wait to start her new life at the perfect college.
Like all universities, Amherst painted itself in a positive light. It had a good reputation.
But Angie had no way of knowing the dark reality hiding behind that facade. Her initial memories of her freshman year play along a familiar and happy college narrative.
Her life was full of new friends, new experiences, and new challenges. But on May 25, everything changed.
That happy narrative came to a screeching halt. An acquaintance of hers invited her over to watch a movie in his campus dorm room.
Tired from a long day of classes, Angie finally drifted off to sleep. The next thing she knew, she woke up to find this individual on top of her sexually assaulting her.
The morning after the attack, Angie felt that she was in a daze, and she acted like she was in a daze. The illusion of college life filled with smiling faces and good times had been shattered.
Mr. Speaker, according to the Department of Justice, one in five women are sexually assaulted during college in the United States—one in five. Of those, less than 25 percent report the sexual assault.
So Angie, fearing that she would be ignored, doubted, and dismissed, carried on in hopeless silence. In the 4 months following her rape, she fell deeper and deeper into depression.
Finally, when the burden became too heavy to bear, she summoned all her remaining strength and courage and went to the campus counselor. But she was shocked at the counselor’s response.
The counseling center didn’t believe she was sexually assaulted. The counseling center said that she should forgive the rapist.
They told her there is nothing they could do or would do. There was no point in pressing charges; her rapist was close to graduating anyway.
But she could not forget what had happened to her. She couldn’t deal with the sexual assault.
Mr. Speaker, a rape victim cannot just forget what has happened to them. Mr. Speaker, I was a judge for 22 years and a prosecutor for 8 in Texas.
I saw a lot of sexual assault victims, a lot of them. They deal with what happened to them every day, and they feel like the rapist tried to steal the soul of the victim.
A rape victim once told me: ‘‘Judge, rape is a fate worse than death.’’ And to a lot of victims, that is exactly the way they feel.
It is worse than being murdered. These sexual assault victims need support, understanding, and care to be-come survivors.
They first need some-body who will listen to them. Amherst utterly failed Angie, and that failure pushed her deeper and deeper into despair.
When she voiced that she had been having suicidal thoughts, university police forcibly escorted her to the emergency room and left her there.
The doctor who examined her had no training on how to deal with traumatized rape victims. Utterly lacking in any kind of compassion for what had happened to her, the doctor told her that she was being irrational and that her story just didn’t make any sense to the doctor.
He didn’t believe a school like Amherst would allow her to be raped, and he thought she just must be crazy. He ordered that she be admitted into a psychiatric ward and washed his hands of the entire situation.
For 5 days, Mr. Speaker, Angie sat shaking in a sterile room behind locked doors. She becomes the prisoner for the sexual assault that happened to her.
A victim’s pain and suffering should never be increased because the hospital doesn’t have staff trained to provide victim services for sexual assault victims. So to ensure this doesn’t happen to more victims like Angie, I have introduced legislation, along with the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. CAROLYNB. MALONEY), my good friend, that would require a hospital to pro-vide access to a staffer who is properly trained to provide care sensitive to the trauma victim and is concerned about what they have experienced, or have a plan in place to get the victim to a nearby hospital that does.
This is called a SAFE. The law should be changed to require a hospital to have a SAFE or a SANE— that is a sexual assault forensic examiner or a sexual assault nurse examiner—on staff or have one at a nearby hospital.
This bill is named for Megan Rondini. Megan Rondini is another victim of sexual assault on campus.
She was from Texas and went to the University of Alabama, and she was denied proper post-sexual assault treatment at a hospital. This will ensure victims get the care that they need.
Megan couldn’t deal with what happened to her, and she finally committed suicide. Mr. Speaker, we need to, as a body, be concerned about sexual assault victims and provide this basic legislation so universities are trained or have somebody on staff nearby who can deal with sexual assault victims.
That is the least we can do for people like Angie and Megan Rondini.
And that is just the way it is.