Guest speaker uses personal experience to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus

Mackenzie Blanton

Three weeks into her freshman year of college, Katie Koestner went on a date that would change her life forever. After a date to a French restaurant, the young man she was interested in raped Koestner in her own dorm room.

Koestner now travels across the country to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. She visited Kent State’s Kiva Thursday night to share her story.

“I just wanted to gain knowledge from her and see how her perspective was,” said Jessica Benetis, freshman exploratory major with a concentration in finance.

Jennie O’Connell, sexual assault response coordinator for the Women’s Center, introduced Koestner as a national expert on student safety and wellness.

O’Connell said Koestner is the executive director of campus outreach services and has assisted more than 1,500 schools across the country and has been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and the subject of an HBO documentary.

“I think she was able to bring a lot of awareness to the topic,” said Kristen Scott, freshman pre-nursing major.

Koestner said she was raped during her freshman year of college after going on a date with a guy she had been seeing.

Following this experience, she became the first woman to publicly speak about date rape and at the time had very little support from friends and family.

Koestner said a couple of days after being raped, she told her father who responded by saying she shouldn’t have had a boy in her room.

To this day, he still has not attended one of her speeches.

“Could you ever imagine someone that you really, really like hurting you really, really badly?” Koestner asked.

Koestner faced issues receiving help from the court because she was interested in her offender; however, to that she said rapists do not wear nametags.

Koestner said her college’s dean told her to “go home and think about what you’re saying about one of our students because you can ruin his life” when she spoke out about the date rape.

“You don’t need anybody else to be strong except for you,” Koestner said.

Koestner said women need to raise their standards, alluding to a story she told about a young man who stopped multiple men from raping an intoxicated woman after a high school prom. He never told the girl about the situation.

“Do you know many men who would decide to do the right thing if they wouldn’t get the glory for doing it?” Koestner said. “If you don’t know any men like that, tell the ones you know that’s your standard.”

She said she urges women to help each other when they’re in a bad situation and to not have a “she deserves it” attitude.

“I don’t think we, in this room, are going to stop rape,” Koestner said. “It will take the community.”

Contact Mackenzie Blanton at [email protected].