CU rape victim responds to assailant Austin Wilkerson's sentence

Posted at 1:55 PM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-13 00:17:29-04

BOULDER - The victim in a University of Colorado sexual assault case said she hopes her assailant won't have chance to commit another assault despite what she calls a light sentence.

Austin Wilkerson, 22, was sentenced Wednesday in Boulder County Court to two years of county work release for the 2014 assault on CU's campus. He will also spend 20 years to life on probation.

In a statement sent to Denver7 following Wednesday's sentence, the victim said the court process was traumatizing, but she would do it again if it meant her rapist was held accountable.

"Although I did have to relive the trauma multiple times, I would go through this process all over again. Our goal has been to have the rapist not perpetrate again, which hopefully won’t happen even with the light sentence," her statement read.

She said telling her story in court has benefited her emotionally and she was inspired by other victims.

"Surprisingly, this whole ordeal has been therapeutic. I get to tell my story and not keep it bottled up. Other brave survivors’ eerily familiar stories have inspired me to share my story that rape isn’t always a stranger in the bushes. The most rewarding part of this process has been meeting the most brilliant, hardest working, funniest, most encouraging people I have ever known."

Prosecutors agreed with the victim and felt Wilkerson got off too easy. Lisa Saccomano, a Boulder County Deputy District Attorney, said the judge's sentence was not strong enough.

"We’re obviously disappointed by the sentence that was imposed," she said.

The victim says she is now trying to piece her life back together. She told the judge she has to deal with panic attacks and feelings of depression, saying her "life has been ruined without my consent." In a victim impact statement, she said at one point, reliving the trauma was so overwhelming that she attempted to take her own life.

She says she has difficulty attending social events and CU football games because those things remind her of that night. She also told the judge that she sometimes blames herself for what Wilkerson did to her.

"To begin with, this sexual assault has ruined me socially. I don’t go to CU football games anymore. I don’t drink at parties anymore. I don’t even go out anymore. This is partially because I’m too scared to be in situations that remind me of the sexual assault. But it’s also in part because of all the victim blaming that I have internalized."

The victim said that months after the assault she started experiencing severe panic attacks and needed to go to the hospital. She added that she felt she was dying or going crazy during the attacks.

"When I was filing this sexual assault case with CU in the fall of 2014. I was peacefully sleeping. Then I woke up to the horrible feeling that I was dying. I was so scared and confused that it felt like I was going crazy; it didn’t feel real."

She was also critical of how CU handled the assault. Wilkerson was allowed to remain on campus:

"On campus I was on high alert constantly checking over my shoulder. Keep in mind that CU didn’t have a Criminal Protection Order. All CU said was that if we crossed paths, he would have to turn and go the other way. However, this didn’t happen. After the trial conviction, the rapist was in the waiting area. Instead of him turning around and going the other way."

She also said that the assault has damaged her financially. She put the damage at $250,000 for medical expenses and lost educational opportunity.

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