NY Times WHEN people hear about campus sexual assaults, they rarely understand the true impact such an attack has on the survivor and her family. But I do.
In the spring of 2013, my daughter, Willa, was raped by a fellow student at her college in Washington, D.C. A freshman at the time, she did not tell anyone until a year later. Meanwhile, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression and an addiction to alcohol. And while she chose not to file criminal charges — out of fear of being traumatized again — she struggled so much after the attack that ultimately she had to leave school.
It would be impossible for me to describe in the space of a newspaper article the emotional toll this took on Willa and our family: the grief we felt that our child’s body (and soul) had been violated; the anger that we (and the college) could not protect her; the fear that our once spirited, ambitious daughter might never be more than a shell of herself. But I can offer, by way of illustration, a financial reckoning — collateral damage that demonstrates the devastation, and that rarely comes up in the national discussion on campus sexual assaults.
The financial burdens of an attack can be overwhelming. A 2014 White House report noted that the cost to survivors (of all types, not just college students) can range from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape. While the numbers are staggering, they seem abstract until your family is the one paying the bills. In our case, they were on the higher end of the range, and included the following:[...]
There were other expenses too, but the ones I’ve listed add up to $100,573.63 out of pocket, and approximately $145,000 in lost wages, for a total of $245,573.63. That’s roughly the same as the cost of four years at one of the nation’s top colleges.
I should be clear: I would have done anything, made any financial sacrifices, to see the light again in my daughter’s eyes (which is there now, thanks to Willa’s hard work and the many caring professionals who helped her). I recently went through a divorce, however, and my former husband and I are writers, not investment bankers. These are big costs for us; at times, we had to borrow from family or retirement funds, or use proceeds from the sale of the house we gave up in the divorce.
We’re fortunate to have top-tier health insurance, which helped defray many of the costs. But this is still an extraordinary amount of money, and I often wonder how survivors from less privileged backgrounds recover from these attacks. It’s not a hypothetical question.
According to a 2015 survey at 27 universities by the Association of American Universities, 11.7 percent of all students (including men) reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact, by force or incapacitation, since enrolling at their university, and the incidence among undergraduate females was 23 percent.
These costs are enormous for any rape survivor, not just those who suffered a campus sexual assault. For our family, they continue to accrue. [...]