A victim's journey offers hope for battered women

Isabel Escoda says the recovery of the 'Central Park jogger' after her rape ordeal is inspiring

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 2:57am

Trisha Meili should go to India. She is an American who may be able to give hope to women who despair about the savagery traditionally inflicted by men on women there.

This thought springs to mind because of the recent atrocity in New Delhi in which a young woman was gang-raped and died from her injuries. The general outrage in India, and in many parts of the world, recalls the 1989 attack on the then 28-year-old Meili as she jogged in Central Park one spring evening. Left for dead after the gang rape and beating, she was found a few hours later.

Unlike the Indian victim, Meili survived.

It didn't take long for New York City police to pinpoint four African Americans and one Latino, some of whom confessed to the crime. The teenagers were picked up by the police for perpetrating a string of assaults and other crimes in Central Park that night. They were believed to have been Meili's attackers. The five suspects were tried and sentenced to jail terms of up to 13 years.

There was a huge outcry from the general public about the rampant crime in the city, as well as from the suspects' families who claimed the boys were innocent and accused the authorities of racial discrimination. A Baptist pastor charged the police with the knee-jerk reaction of targeting blacks whenever white victims were involved.

It was not until 2002 when a man serving a life sentence for various crimes confessed to being Meili's attacker. DNA tests confirmed this. The five suspects, who had all completed their jail terms by that time, saw their convictions overturned. The five and their families later sued New York City authorities, seeking damages.

Meili recovered enough to pick up her life. She was working as an investment banker at the time of the attack, but her new life has involved, among other things, writing a memoir and giving motivational talks. Mercifully, she has no memory of the horrific attack and only suffers some problems involving her sight and balance.

Men savage women around the planet regularly. Statistics about the number of women being raped per day in many countries continue to make chilling reading. Children as well as women are subjected to sexual atrocities, in developing as well as developed countries. Hatred towards women exists even in progressive societies. Two high-profile women were murdered not too long ago - Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh and Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

As more societies everywhere earnestly try to help men shed their misogynistic attitudes, and as growing numbers of women assert their rights, there may be hope for the human race.

Isabel Escoda is the author of Letters from Hong Kong, Hong Kong Postscript, and Pinoy Abroad