97 Rapists Walk Free (And that’s just the start of it!)

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and that’s got me thinking.

In my novel, Into the Free, Millie Reynolds struggles to overcome many difficult situations in her life, one of which is a serious sexual assault. This event happens near the end of the book, and Millie leaves us when she is still in shock — numb from the traumatic episode. She reaches an understanding of what it will take to overcome the damage and the pain, which is the first step, but she has not yet completed that journey. (That’s why the sequel will allow readers to follow the next phase of Millie’s story).

Many readers have reacted to the ending of the book. They loathe the man who attacked Millie. They want him to suffer and they don’t want him to get away with what he’s done. They want vengeance. And they want it NOW.

This is a natural reaction because by this point in the book we care about Millie. We don’t want one more bad thing to happen to her, and we are angry at anyone who hurts her.

I could have worked in a fairytale ending. The good guy could have swooped in to save her. The bad guy could have died at the hands of Millie’s loved ones. Millie could have risen up and handled the situation differently. And believe me, I considered all of those options. But reality tells us a different story…and while Into the Free is a novel (which means it’s all pretend), I wanted it to be believable. I wanted the story to be authentic to a character who is so steeped in the flaws and fractions of the human condition that we can all relate to her journey – both the triumphs and the failures.

So I told Millie’s truth. The truth of many victims of sexual assault. The truth of countless readers who have reached out to me with letters confessing the deep, dark secrets they’ve kept locked away for decades – that they too survived a sexual assault, and that they reacted exactly as Millie did, only to feel tremendous shame and anger about it for the rest of their lives. Until…until…they read Millie’s story, and realized they were not alone.

In the real world, more than 200,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in our country. That’s one every two minutes, or thirty every hour, or 720 a day! And one of those has likely been you or someone you love. Maybe even your mother, your daughter, or your wife. Or your son.

Disturbingly, one in six boys and one in three girls will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18.

Approximately 2/3 of these assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, which makes it a lot harder for victims to come forward. In most cases, there are real relationships tied into the mess (whether directly or along the perimeter) and victims feel as if there’s no easy answer for anyone involved.

Nearly half of the victims are under the age of 18. As a mother, that makes me shiver. Millie was 17 at the time of her assault. If the same situation had happened to her later in life, would she have reacted differently? I think so. And as much as I wanted her to do something other than what she did in the book, that was exactly what Millie would have done at that point in her life. As much as we hate to see it, it really is her truth. Sadly, it’s also the truth of countless unknown victims around us right here, right now. And that’s why I encourage mothers and daughters to read and discuss Millie’s story.

Maybe the fact that victims often know their attackers and that victims are often very young at the time of the event factors into the fact that 54% of sexual assaults are never reported to police. Victims struggle with shame, guilt, and fear, even though all rational thought tells us it’s not their fault. But they also worry that even if they do report the assault, they will not be protected. Justice will not come easy for them, and that is the other sad truth.

In fact, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) breaks it down for us. I encourage you to take a mental snapshot of these shocking statistics and then visit their website to learn what you can do to make things better today. For Millie. For your loved ones. For yourself.

Out of every 100 Rapes

  • Only 46 get reported to police.
  • Only 12 of those lead to an arrest.
  • Only 9 of those ever get prosecuted.
  • Only 5 of those lead to a felony conviction.
  • Only 3 out of every 100 rapists will ever spend a single day in prison.
  • The other 97 walk free.

Want to make a difference? Visit http://rainn.org/ today AND share Millie’s story with the world. It’s time we stop hiding and encourage all survivors to step out Into the Free.



7 thoughts on “97 Rapists Walk Free (And that’s just the start of it!)

  1. Julie,
    I kept my rape a secret from everyone. The physical pain was replaced with shame when I found myself pregnant several weeks later. In the most audacious manner I was offered an abortion, but chose to maintain my silence and moved away so no one would see me and tell my parents. I went through the pregnancy, labor and delivery alone and terrified and took hours to sign away my rights to know anything about my baby as he was adopted. Thirty eight years later I received my first phone call from my son: “Hi Mom. It’s Joel. I’ve looked for you my whole life.” I wrote a book about it to give others hope. It’ll be released this May from Tate Publishing and is titled, A Song in Every Silence. Thank you for your encouragement, your willingness to make a difference and your grace. Donna G. Paul

    • Donna, Thank you for sharing your truth on this forum. I am so very sorry to read about the abuse you suffered and the additional pain caused by those you loved and trusted the most. I cannot begin to fathom the journey you’ve had, and I’m grateful to learn that you and your son, Joel, have reconnected after all these years. I know you will touch countless lives when your book is published in May. I cannot begin to tell you how powerful the letters I’ve received from readers have been. They have impacted my life in a profound way. Just since this blog post went live last night, I’ve been receiving a steady stream of emails from readers like you who have survived terrible assaults. They are choosing to tell their truth and set themselves free from the shame and the blame. While I have never been naive to the struggles that exist in our world, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who are hurting so very deeply. I am grateful you reached out to me today and even more grateful that you are willing to share a very personal tale of survival in order to offer hope to your readers. I look forward to reading your book. Many blessings, and may peace be with you.

      • Thank you Julie. Please don’t misunderstand – a horrid doctor offered the abortion, but I was the one who kept everything secret from my family. I just could not shame them with my situation. One of the most difficult parts of the scenario was telling family and friends my wedding was off but not revealing my date rape by my fiance the night I broke our engagement. Joel has changed my life and that of everyone in my family. I am so very blessed to receive God’s grace and witness the love between my three children who didn’t know each other existed until 2004. Long before I married his brother, I worked for Ron Paul as his nurse and practice manager. I told him in 1968 about how hard it was not to know my child was safe and loved. When he met Joel he told me, “I always knew your story would have a happy ending.”
        You, dear Julie are a gifted writer and I’m waiting for your sequel! Donna

  2. Wow -the statistics are shattering. I have young granddaughters and i am afraid for them. I loved Into the Free and I wept for Millie. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Thanks cmdale for joining our conversation and for sharing your sweet comment about Into the Free. I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful, peaceful Sunday with your granddaughters. Best, j

  3. Julie,

    I am so glad to see someone speaking out about this. I have recently been beyond grieved over this very issue. A sheriff in my state was arrested for selling drugs to minors in exchange for sex. The very thought eats you up. Drugging up twelve-year-old boys and girls, and then doing those things to them. By far the very definition of statutory rape. As you said, as a mother, it terrifies me.

    That man was sentenced to 30 days. THIRTY DAYS! Why? One, because he is much older, and two, because his name is on the penitentiary. Apparently that is humiliating enough. That almost sickens me more than his actions.

    There are no words to express the grievous, sorrowful thoughts I have for you at this moment. How amazing you were reunited with that boy, and are here to tell about it. I will keep an eye out for your book next month!

    • Wow, Stephanie! I’m very sad to learn about that situation. I’m praying for everyone involved and hope peace and healing come quickly for all of the victims. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and for caring so deeply about the world around you. Many blessings, julie

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