Mr. Speaker, Megan Rondini was a young college student at the University of Alabama. She was a bright young woman with her whole life ahead of her. What happened next should have never transpired. Megan was raped by a man from a rich family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After Megan managed to escape Bunn by fleeing outside a second story window, she headed to a hospital for a rape kit. She did everything a victim should do.
But it was here the system began to fail her. The hospital did not have a sexual assault forensic examiner or SAFE on staff, so they had nobody trained to properly deal with a sexual assault victim or trained to properly collect DNA evidence.
When she went to the police station, she was treated with disdain and disbelief, dismissed and ignored. The police didn’t believe her, and treated her like a criminal. They even read her—the victim—her Miranda Rights.
Megan was failed by the system at every turn. Feeling like she had no other option, she tragically took her own life.
The injustices she endured started a national dialogue about campus sexual assault, an issue that is extremely pervasive in our society, but one that very few people wanted to talk about. The outrage generated forced many universities to re-evaluate and change how they handle victims of sexual assault. Legislators on both sides of the isle came together on local, state and federal levels to try to come up with new laws and real solutions.
Many hospitals and university infirmaries have begun hiring and recruiting staff trained. specifically to handle sexual assault cases. Countless future victims will benefit from the changes that have been implemented because of Megan Rondini. And those changes have only just begun. We will all continue to fight in her name to make the system better for victims.
Each year the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus honors outstanding individuals and organizations for their tireless efforts supporting and empowering survivors of crime. Cochaired and co-founded by JIM COSTA (D–CA) and myself, the bipartisan caucus advocates for crime victims and protects programs that provide critical support for related services. Today, I am proud to announce Megan Rondini as the recipient of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness. The Public Awareness Award is in memory of Susanne McDaniel, one of the first prosecutor based victim advocates in Texas and the nation. There is no doubt, Megan’s story has overwhelmingly brought change at the National level for crime victims.
And that’s just the way it is.