“The pain, the stench, the look of hate in his eyes. It’s finally over. And now a blackness has come over me,” wrote Kristin Cooper in a poem. Kristin Cooper was a victim of rape, depression, and suicide and on Sunday Oct. 21 students gathered to hear her story.
A around 1:30 p.m. in the University Lecture Hall, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and the Women’s Resource Center sponsored a presentation entitled, “Kristin’s Story: A Story of Acquaintance Rape and Depression.” Acclaimed speaker and Delta Delta Delta alumna Andrea Cooper spoke out about her late daughter Kristin Cooper to approximately 400 students, including around eight or nine fraternities, according to Shima Vasseghi, president of Alpha Chi Omega.
On Aug. 4, 1995, Kristin was raped by a “friend” during her sophomore year at Baker University, a small, private institution in Baldwin City, Kansas. Several months following her rape, Kristin committed suicide on New Year’s Eve. Andrea Cooper began speaking to colleges, universities and conferences across the country in 1998. She has now spoken at over 325 campuses, 27 conferences, and has reached 100,000 students, faculty, and administrators in order to raise awareness of acquaintance rape and depression.
“She was 20 years old, and hadn’t had a curfew…we kind of knew who her friends were,” stated Cooper as she began speaking in regards to the night Kristin committed suicide. Cooper confirmed that Kristin went to a party on New Year’s Eve just like other typical college students during winter break. Cooper expected nothing out of the ordinary as she said goodbye to her only child before leaving to the party. There was not a worried bone within Cooper’s body because she, “wasn’t one of those moms that said, ‘Okay, call me when you get to the house.’” However, Cooper also was not aware that this would be the last time she saw Kristin. Around 2 a.m. was when Cooper surprisingly discovered that Kristin had come home, which seemed slightly early in Cooper’s eyes. She said, “I expected her to stay out all night, and that was fine,” stated Cooper. The next moment is what truly startled Cooper.
Once Cooper entered her home, she thought that Kristin had been asleep on the family room sofa. As Cooper described the moment she found Kristin, she stated, “She looked very peaceful. She was on her back. Her eyes were closed. Her color was good.” Cooper thought Kristin had passed out due to alcohol poisoning. However, “when [Cooper] leaned over, there was no pulse; she wasn’t breathing, and she had a gun in her hands,” according to Cooper. Kristin had shot herself to death.
Before her death, Kristin had suffered from severe depression, but Cooper thought her depression was caused by a break-up. However, Cooper said, “I found out through her sorority sisters that Jeff broke up with her after she went to him, and told him she’d been raped. And he dumped her.” Strangely, Cooper noticed Kristin’s sudden happiness when she came home during winter break from Baker. “She had made the decision,” said Cooper. “If you have a friend that’s been depressed and they suddenly get happy, it could mean they have a plan, and they feel that the pain is going to end”.
“Rape is a crime of the heart for the victim and a crime of convenience for the perpetrator,” said Cooper. Cooper made it clear that rape is a serious crime that can only end if spoken about, as well as made aware about. She said that in addition to the dangers of rape, each and every single one of us needs to be made fully aware of the dangers of depression and suicide. According to Cooper, “30 percent [of sexual assault victims] contemplate suicide.” The connection between sexual assault, depression, and suicide is a fatal cycle that must be stopped.
“I think the most important thing is to know where to go if you are sexually assaulted. The Women’s Center told us about their services being available. Campus police, you can always call. And also if you see a friend has depression or possibly being suicidal, you need to tell someone about that, and hopefully they will get help. Help them get help,” stated Cooper. She wanted audience members to know that there is always hope, even in light of such tragic events.
“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”
Following the presentation on Oct. 21, the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event took place at the Bell Tower at 2:30 p.m., where approximately 100 young male students participated. Various fraternities and student organizations (including the Surf Club) came out to the walk, took off their typical day-to-day sneakers to slip on heeled shoes in order to walk around the perimeter of the Bell Tower. The walk is intended to stand up against sexual assault and domestic violence against women.
Alpha Chi Omega President, Shima Vasseghi stated, “She [Cooper] told me herself that she’s never been to a campus with this many guys [that are] absolutely interested…” Though many of the men seemed uncomfortable walking in high-heeled shoes, the experienced turned out to be great for many.
Second-year business major, Rosti Vana stated, “Heels are not a thing for men to wear, but respect for the ladies who wear heels. Much respect for them, because this is not easy!” The event wanted to show that just as walking in heels is not a simple task, neither is being a woman. The annual event symbolizes the hardships that hundreds of thousands of women struggle with every day of their lives.
The annual “Walk a Mile in her Shoes” event is co-sponsored by the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and the Women’s Resource Center. Second-year English major and Alpha Chi Omega member Kaitlyn Palmeter stated, “Our philanthropy is domestic violence, so of course it’s something close to our hearts, and I know personally it’s close to my heart, so we’re taking a stand for women and trying to make it known to other people.” In conjunction with Alpha Chi Omega’s intention to hold the event each year, Kristin Cooper was also an alumna of Alpha Chi Omega at Baker University.
Both the presentation and the walk were held in observance of Domestic Violence Month. Raising awareness in regards to domestic violence, as well as sexual assault is one way of ending the silence of violence against women.