On the morning of April 1, the first email to come my way was from my sister, and it included a newspaper article about Du Pont heir Robert Richards IV being convicted of raping his 3-year-old daughter yet never spending a day in jail. My sister was outraged, and though still half asleep, I was sickened at the sight of his face on the screen. April is National Child Abuse Prevention and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The irony of its first day’s news didn’t escape me, nor did the familiarity of our reactions to it. Our father and Mr. Richards had a lot in common.
We grew up in an affluent family—not the wealth of the DuPont fortune mind you, but the prominence of a Brooklyn ophthalmologist living with his wife and four children in a magnificent brownstone while enjoying the prestige of doctoring the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950’s. No one would have ever expected the atrocities that went on in our home, and though my father sexually abused me for years, I would never tell a word about it until I was 40 years old.
Where did Richard's daughter get her courage? What prompted her to cut through the dense wall of power surrounding her father, and tell her grandmother? One hypothesis I have is that there must have been a level of trust between her and her grandmother that enabled her to feel safe enough to tell and hopeful enough to believe that she would protect her. I say bravo, Grandma! Thank you for believing and telling. Telling? Yes, Grandma told, too. Most likely she was only too familiar with the impenetrable shroud of entitlement surrounding her ex-son-in-law but that didn’t stop her; she told her daughter anyway. And her daughter? Now there’s a woman I’d like to cheer for, because for those of you who don’t know, details of this case were kept quiet until the other day when she filed a new lawsuit, accusing him of also sexually abusing their son. What? Yes, she’s already been through the hellish disappointment of the first legal ordeal, and she’s now signed up for another. I bet she loves her children. I bet she loves them fiercely. And though I have much more to say about this and will, in future blogs this month, for today I stand in support of her. I stand in support of the power of love.
Whether you are the victim of sexual assault or a victim’s, parent, grandparent, or friend, The Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) is ready to help you at 800-656-HOPE or at their Online Hotline (www.rainn.org)
According to statistics gathered by RAINN more than half of sexual assaults go unreported, so those perpetrators never spend even a day in jail. There is only about a 16% chance that a rapist will ever spend a day in prison – and if you include unreported rapes, only about 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in prison. 15 out of 16 rapists walk free, and it’s important to change that.
Note: My memoir, Never Tell: The True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood was released this week in ebook