LOWE: Rape, accountability, and reforming the criminal justice system

There’s a new national headline every week — from Brock Turner in California, to David Becker in Massachusetts, and now, a new case right in our backyard and the University of North Carolina. Stories of rape and sexual assault have taken center stage in the public eye, and it’s an important discussion that must be had.Like the women in these stories, I too was raped. Nearly two years later, my attacker has yet to face justice. That fact is nearly as painful as the crime itself. I’m a veteran, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful young boys. I never thought this would be my story. I’ve been educated to understand that rape and sexual assault happens all too often and took precautions to ensure it didn’t happen to me, but it did.My experience motivates me every day to educate those around me about rape and sexual assault and to address what our society can do to stop this heinous crime while also truly helping survivors. Our criminal justice system has loopholes large enough to drive a truck through and we must change the way we prosecute these cases.In reporting my case to law enforcement officials and county prosecutors I was forced to relive my attack every step of the way and question myself at every turn. I was poked, prodded, and overwhelmed with information. I watched my clothes filed into evidence bags. I was given information about STDs. I was pushed from one department to the next. I was asked if I was wearing revealing clothes, and if I was “sure” I was raped. I was asked why I went to the hospital before the police department, and how much alcohol I drank. I felt like the suspect.All of this, and my attacker hid behind his lawyer and was never even formally questioned by police.I believe in this country and everything wonderful it represents. As a veteran who served in Afghanistan, I even put my life on the line for those values. But when I needed the laws that I fought to protect to now protect me, it felt as if my country had turned its back.Discussion about rape and sexual assault is taboo, and it shouldn’t be. We don’t talk enough in our schools about how these heinous crimes can be prevented. It can’t solely be up to a woman to guard against rape because the truth is, no matter how much training one has, they are still vulnerable. This is a conversation we must have at the societal level and it starts with education and support and extends to serious reforms of our criminal justice system.We have the ability to help one another and change the system for our sisters, daughters, and granddaughters, but we have to make that choice. I’ve partnered with three other brave rape survivors to write a book, “Rape: America’s Dirty Little Secret,” where you can read our stories and learn more about this topic. For more information about the book and educational initiatives please visit the Hold Him Accountable Facebook page, Kelly Lowe, a disabled Marine Corps veteran, lives in Hubert, N.C. with her husband and their two sons.