“Oh mom, I’ll be fine,” were the last words Andrea Cooper heard her daughter, Kristin, say before committing suicide in the family room in Littleton, Colo., on New Year’s Eve 1995.
“I am sharing this because I hope by telling Kristin’s story that other lives will be saved, and other young women will not be victims of acquaintance rape, and that those suffering from depression, for any reason, will get help,” Cooper said on Monday night to the packed Jesse Auditorium.
Acquaintance rape is any non-consensual activity between two or more people who know each other. It can occur between friends, girlfriends and/or boyfriends, spouses, etc.
Kristin, a 20-year old sophomore at Baker University in Kansas, shot herself in the head several months after she was allegedly raped by a friend after a party he hosted.
Since 1998, Cooper has been sharing her daughter’s story — what she calls “Kristin’s Story at College” — at campuses across the country.
MU’s chapters of Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Chi Omega sponsored the event with the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center (RSVP), PHA, Department of Student Life, and the Wellness Resource Center. The groups hoped the event would raise awareness of acquaintance rape and depression. Kristin was a member of Alpha Chi Omega.
Cooper, a member of Delta Delta Delta, recalled Kristin’s childhood and artistic accomplishments in high school, later detailing her daughter’s college experiences.
“It was really hard for me to leave her there,” Cooper said when talking about dropping her only child off at college freshman year. “Little did I know that in a year and five months she would be dead.”
Cooper explained she believed Kristin had committed suicide because her boyfriend had broken up with her. It wasn’t until after Kristin’s father recovered her journals from the police that they realized the situation was more serious.
Kristin never reported her rape to the authorities or to her parents but instead confided in a few close friends at school and her journal entries.
The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2006 that about 54 percent of rapes involved non-strangers and about 36 percent of non-stranger rapes were not reported to the police.
Without Kristin’s testimony charges could not be pressed. Cooper contacted Kristin’s friends in order to gather information about the rape following her daughter’s suicide; he found out Kristin had become severely depressed and it wasn’t until after Kristin told her boyfriend of the rape that he broke up with her.
Cooper said that some signs of depression include feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia, eating disorders, difficulty concentrating and losing interest in things.
How do you help someone that may have been raped or is suffering from depression? Cooper asked audience members.
“Listen and don’t judge, offer shelter, be attainable, give comfort, be patient and understanding,” Cooper said. “Don’t be overly protective, encourage action but accept her choice of solutions and put aside your feelings.”
“Rape is a crime of the heart for the victim and a crime of convenience for the perpetrator,” Cooper said.