My daughter, Kristin, was beautiful and talented. She excelled in band, choir and drama and played the flute and the piano. She had a beautiful soprano voice. She was also athletic and on the high school swim team as well as being an outstanding skier. Prior to graduation, she received the performing arts award. She had everything going for her.
She attended a small university in Kansas, Baker University. Kristin joined a sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. I had joined Delta Delta Delta at Florida State University and was thrilled she wanted to also be part of the Greek world. Kristin enrolled as a music education major but changed to elementary education. She loved young children and was excited about someday teaching them.
I had the universal hopes of most every mother of attending Kristin's college graduation, seeing her walk down the aisle on her wedding day, and someday playing with my grandchildren.
All that changed on New Year's Eve, 1995, when my husband and I came home to find our twenty year old daughter and only child, Kristin, on the floor of our family room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was our worst nightmare and one we would never have imagined.
As the hours dragged on, and the police came and went, we assumed she took her life because her boy friend back at college had broken up with her several months earlier.
It was not until we read her journal, days later that we discovered she had been raped.
Two of her good friends admitted to me that she had been at a party that summer, and she had been raped by someone she had worked with for two years. Although she returned to college in the fall, life was not the same for her. After she confided to her boyfriend about the rape, he broke up with her. This caused Kristin to go into a very deep depression. She was not the same girl.
Women and men who have been victims of rape have feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt. To face rejection on top of all that is devastating. Kristin chose not to tell us she had been assaulted. I will never truly know the reason why. I have learned through my reading, traveling and speaking at colleges across the country, that many college women and men who have been raped do not confide in their parents. It is because they are ashamed, they blame themselves and they are afraid their parents will not believe them or will judge them.
It is important when one is sexually assaulted that the survivor's friends truly support them and attempt to get them help. If you have not already done so, now is the time to talk to your son, your daughter, or your best friend and tell them if they are sexually assaulted that you will be there to support them. You will believe them, and you won't judge them. Tell them you will help them find counseling if they wish.
I never had the opportunity to tell Kristin that I was there for her no matter what happened. The best thing you can do as a parent or a friend is to be a good listener. Let your loved ones know you are there to support them, no matter what happens. Time is precious.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text "loveis" to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.