'There is no recipe for healing after being raped'

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Anne Ream has become an eloquent speaker for victim's of rape since her own attack just after Thanksgiving in 1990. She is putting together a book of survivor stories and has developed a clothing line for girls. CCN/Mary Jean Sell

After surviving a 1990 sexual assault, Anne Ream faced the harrowing battle to regain her strength and find healing. She found it as an activist, lobbyist, and author.

Her attack happened just a month after she moved to Washington, D.C., from Chicago.

Her attacker, who had served time in prison for rape, lived in a nearby halfway house, and had been out of prison only 90 days.
Ream chose to not fight her attacker. She says a woman has to decide for herself how to best handle an attack.

"Women are best served in following their instincts," she said.

Since she'd only recently moved to Washington, D.C., she knew of no one she could call as she waited in the Georgetown emergency room.

The police acted as security in the emergency room because her attacker was still loose, but there were no counselors or advocates available to wait with her until her family arrived from as far away as Chicago.

Ream said the rape kit/hospital examination is one of the most horrific parts of the ordeal.

"Women are screaming because they don't want anyone touching them," she said.

After the rape, Ream wanted to educate herself by reading other women's' accounts of sexual assault.

"I felt so hungry for a role model," she said. "I was struck by the absence of faces of real women who had gone through this."

Two days after the attack, the perpetrator was caught when he tried to cash a personal check Ream had given him when he told her he wanted money.

In addition to the personal check, he also had jewelry from other women he had attacked.

Ream said he was certain he would not be caught and could therefore cash the check at her bank.

"He was convinced I wouldn't report it because he told me he'd kill me," Ream said.

While she awaited trial, Ream received a phone call from an inmate at Lorton State Penitentiary in Virginia on behalf of her attacker. He said if she testified, she would be killed.

She did testify and her attacker was sentenced for eight different crimes, ranging from kidnapping to forgery, each carrying a sentence of 15 years to life, to be served consecutively.

"He will not get out of jail in my lifetime," Ream said.

She adds that such a lengthy sentence is unusual in a sexual assault case. The average time served is five and one-half years.

At the sentencing process, Ream optioned to write out her victim's impact statement and let the judge read it to the courtroom.

It proved to be an epiphany for both the judge and Ream.

"When the judge read it, he said, 'not until now did I realize how this affects women.' That was an 'ah-ha' moment for me."

Ream, who had always been involved in social justice issues, specifically those regarding AIDS and the homeless, began her career as an activist and lobbyist on behalf of sexual violence survivors after she realized how her experience affected the judge.

"This issue chose me. I didn't choose it."

As part of her activism, she spoke to the Grassy Knob Community Nov. 18 on "Living Through Rape: Myths, facts, and what you can do to help survivors."

She presented a similar program to the Xi Alpha Nu Eureka Springs Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi earlier this month.

She is the daughter of Melva and Joe Luker of Grassy Knob.

Ream said her experience has helped her "bring that authority on the subject into my work."

She has met many people across the country who have sought her out to share their ordeals.

Though many rape and molestation survivors are women, men have also approached Ream and shared their experiences.

She said the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and Men Can Stop Rape, also located in Washington, D.C., assists men who have been sexually assaulted.

Ream said only ten percent of rape cases are reported, and only about one-fourth of those go to trial.

However, it is possible for one to heal more effectively, Ream said, when a community shows compassion by not victim-blaming and by supporting rape crisis centers and fighting for tougher legislation in sentencing perpetrators.

"Sexual assault does not only affect certain social groups," Ream said.

"It affects people of all races, socioeconomic status, age, and whether or not one has a boyfriend or girlfriend. This is an equal opportunity crime," she said.

Ream said every sexual violence survivor has to heal in his or her own way.

Some women raise their daughters to be strong and without fear to deal with their own situation.

"There is no recipe for healing," she said.

Despite her ordeal as a sexual assault survivor, Ream does not live her life in fear.

She said because she travels and speaks to so many different people, she "can't afford the luxury of being afraid."

She adds that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, not the "figure lurking behind the bushes."

In addition to speaking engagements, Ream founded "The Voices and Faces Project," which is designed for sexual violence survivors to share their stories.

A book, also titled "The Voices and Faces Project," is tentatively scheduled for a 2006 release. It will detail sexual assault survivors' experiences and recount their inspirational stories about healing.

A website, voicesandfaces.org, is scheduled to available Dec. 15 for visitors to read sexual assault survivors' stories, some of which will also be in the book.

Ream is also developing a series of children's books and a T-shirt line, Girl 360, that spotlights influential women.

Each T-shirt has a wallpaper design of the featured person's face and a symbol pertaining to that person. Some of the women included are are actress Katherine Hepburn, tennis player Billie Jean King and Amelia Earhart. Famous quotes from the women on the back of the shirts.

Each shirt also comes with a book about the person, and what she was like as a young girl.

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