As a society, we are a long way from dealing with rape humanely. In part, this is because many of us still don’t understand what consent is and that it’s not just about a person’s right to say no but also about their right to say yes. Our legal system is woefully inadequate when it comes to addressing sexual assault and victim shaming combined with laws that favor the accused are powerful reasons that many choose not to come forward.
In Alabama, college student Megan Rondini did everything victims are told to do when she reported her assault by a prominent local businessman. Her experience with the criminal justice system was so horrific that she committed suicide.
Under Alabama’s archaic rape law, victims must prove they “earnestly” resisted their attackers, and the investigator who interviewed Megan quickly decided she hadn’t fought back against Bunn — she hadn’t “kicked him or hit him," he explained. His investigation would conclude that no rape occurred. But he didn’t stop there. Instead, he started building a case against Megan, questioning her for multiple crimes she wasn’t even aware she had committed.
Megan met T.J. Bunn, Jr. in a local bar. She did not remember how she ended up in his car on the way to his house but she did clearly recall that she was sober enough to tell him that she did not want to have sex with him. After telling him that she had to go multiple times and him not allowing her to leave, she “felt like just letting him have sex with me was the only way he would let me go.” This is absolutely not the same thing as consent. After he passed out, she tried to get out of his bedroom but the door was locked. She took his handgun for protection and $3 from his wallet, just in case she needed it. She then climbed out of a window in his house and broke into his car looking for her keys. She could not find them but managed to text a friend who picked her up and took her to the hospital where she met with law enforcement to report her assault. That is when she learned that the law and the community would do it all could to protect Bunn, the son of an influential family, instead of her.
Later, when Megan tried to file a civil suit, she learned the only way to escape possible prosecution for those crimes was to drop her case. When she went to the University of Alabama for counseling, a staff therapist told Megan she knew the Bunn family and therefore couldn’t help her. Ultimately, Megan and her family decided it was no longer safe for her to stay in Tuscaloosa. She withdrew from the university before the end of fall semester. [...]
Megan left Tuscaloosa newly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In the months that followed, her depression grew worse, along with her sense of betrayal.
“When all is said and done, I wonder what I could’ve accomplished if one man didn’t completely rip everything away from me,” Megan texted a friend in February 2016. Two days later, she hanged herself.
Megan was treated like a criminal by the police and the local district attorney. She was even threatened with felony charges for stealing Bunn’s gun, the money and breaking into his car. That is when her family decided that it was best for her to leave school and head home to Texas where she was from and that’s ultimately where she fell into a deep depression and ended up taking her own life. Everything and everyone in this case conspired against this young woman. She couldn’t find a therapist in town because everyone was friends with the Bunn family. The police were going to charge her, not Bunn because she stole money and a weapon to protect herself after her assault. She did the right thing and filed a report with the university, only to have them close her case as “unfounded.” What exactly does it take for a rape victim to believed?
“I have no idea who else he knows and has influence over in the system,” Megan wrote to one friend. “The only reason I wanted to press charges in the first place is because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Megan Rondini was 21 years old when she died. She was an animal rights activist and worked with underprivileged children. She was known for her sense of right and wrong and had an entire life ahead of her. This should have never happened. This is an incredible failure of the justice system and well as our educational institutions and is yet another way society fails women and rape victims. Why wasn’t anyone there for Megan? She did everything they say you are supposed to do and she was treated like the perpetrator. This sort of shameful behavior enables a culture where powerful men can do whatever they want to women, without consequence.