One in every five women and one in 16 men will be the victims of sexual assault during their time in college.
Former television personality Rosemary Trible knows that pain well.
When she was 25 years old, an attacker brutally raped her at gunpoint in her Virginia hotel room. Earlier that same day she had hosted a segment on sexual assault.
“Absolute, Complete Horror”
“I went down for coffee,” Trible shared in an interview with CBN News. “And when I came back into the room a huge man was there and he began to attack me and began at first to strangle me. And I’ll never forget his words because he put a gun to my temple, and he said, ‘OK, cute talk show host. What do you do with a gun at your head?’ I’d never thought about that. And it was a night of absolute, complete horror.”
The attack left Trible in a constant state of fear.
“I had always been a very trusting and open person and suddenly I had this wall around me of real fear,” she said. “One of my challenges in healing was that within the next six months my husband began running for the United States Congress. So it made it even harder because I was torn inside but putting on a happy face of candidate’s wife.”
Leaning on Faith to Heal and Forgive
As a Christian, Trible leaned on faith for healing, which included forgiving her attacker, who was never caught.
“I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, I forgive the man that raped me, and I will pray the rest of my life that someone will tell him about Jesus and forgive him and that I will spend eternity with the man who raped me.”
In 2010 she wrote a book about her experience and now helps others find healing through her non-profit organization, Fear 2 Freedom.
“Be the Change”
Her Emmy-award winning documentary called, “Be the Change,” challenges schools to make campuses safe for everyone.
She started her work at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, where her husband now serves as president.
“I think that it has encouraged women to come forward, sometimes confidentially and sometimes revealing their names. There has been such a stigma in the past about talking about being wounded by sexual abuse whether it’s child abuse or sex trafficking or being violated.”
Fear 2 Freedom Executive Director Tricia Russell says a big part of the program focuses on male students.
Focus on Male Students
“For the young men, they’re going to be the ones that are going to make a big change in this because they need to be the ones to tell their friend, ‘That’s not ok. Don’t do that. That’s not good behavior,'” explained Russell.
More than 50 colleges and universities across the country have embraced this effort and hosted events, including schools such as Radford and George Mason.
“When we first started Fear 2 Freedom, very few people were really talking about this yet,” said Trible.
Russell said the program now extends well beyond campuses and into communities.
“We partner in each college town with the hospital and also the community partners, crisis centers, counseling centers, shelters, and even domestic violence shelters,” said Russell.
The Importance of Aftercare Kits
Students are encouraged to take an active role by putting together aftercare kits for assault victims.
The kits are helpful because, after an assault, a victim’s clothing is kept for evidence. So, each kit contains a t-shirt, sweat pants, toiletries, and other items.
“A lot of victims were having to leave the hospital in paper scrubs or hospital gowns,” said Russell. “You’ve already been through the most traumatic and humiliating thing in your life and now you’re going to have to walk out like that.”
Also included in the kits is a personal note of encouragement to victims from a student.
“I think that’s a moment that really blesses both the student but also blesses the person that was sexually assaulted,” commented Trible.
Since 2011, student volunteers have put together more than 20,000 aftercare kits.
Russell says the impact on survivors has been overwhelming.
She said, “They’re amazed that someone packed this or did this for them. A lot cry. A lot just heartbroken to begin with but this just helps them.”
While Trible recently retired as head of Fear 2 Freedom, her legacy and achievements are well recognized.
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly awarded her a commendation for helping other victims find freedom.
What was Meant for Evil, God Used for Good
“What was meant for evil I truly believe was made for good because I would have never begun this non-profit.”
“I would have never been able to come forward and really be someone that could be a voice for the voiceless,” said Trible.