Perpetrators of personal crimes sometimes taunt their victims into believing it was them who caused their foul actions. Particularly in rape cases. It helps justify their unwanted and often violent intrusion. “You were asking for it by wearing that outfit.”
In 2020, Shannon Keeler of Moorestown, NJ, was relaxing with her boyfriend on a short weekend getaway. Not being a social media buff she couldn’t remember the last time she had pulled up her FB page so she decided to have a look at it. She went straight to her private messages and that’s when her blood ran cold.
Keelers’ memory was immediately triggered back to December 2013. During her first semester as a freshman at Gettysburg College, she was stalked when returning to her dorm after attending a party. The upperclassman kicked in her door and pinned Keeler to her bed. Her cries for help went unheard. The following day she dropped out of school, never to return.
After all of this time of living a nightmare she couldn’t forget, she was shocked to find an unread message sent just six ago. “So I raped you,” the first in a line of messages read. “I’ll never do it to anyone ever again.” “I need to hear your voice.” And then the most putrid one of all in which he kindly said, “I’ll pray for you.” So now the guy finds Jesus?
As these things unfortunately and all too typically wind up for female rape victims, nobody was interested in hearing about it when it had happened. She’d been to a party. She’d probably been drinking and boys will be boys. What’re gonna do? It was probably consensual anyway. He said it was.
But the messages are a game-changer and Keeler doesn’t care that it’s been eight years. She needs closure and justice being served is the only way to get it. She has a stone-cold confession so the alleged rapist best be praying for himself. In light of the “me too” movement bringing focus to the many atrocities being committed against women, it’s difficult to say if what she has is still going to be enough to prosecute.
Prior to her first day of school Keeler had reviewed the campus guidelines written to curb sexual assaults and what to do if unsuccessful. To verify she had been compliant with campus protocol that night, she read them again and found that she had beyond a doubt acted appropriately.
A male friend had escorted her safely back to her dorm. She immediately reported the rape, painstakingly endured a lengthy and incompassionate police interview, and faced further anguish by agreeing to a humiliating and excruciatingly painful rape exam.
She fervently pushed for criminal charges to no avail. She didn’t care who knew as long as this wretched human was brought to justice. But because of a broken and archaic justice system, he never was.
Like so many rapes, especially among wild and crazy college kids, there would have been too many flaws in the case for any halfway intelligent attorney to pursue it. The victim drank a beer. She knew the guy. She’d been dancing all sexy-like…etc., etc., etc.
The thought of public disgrace should a rape victim lose her case accounts for why four out of five opt for the silent treatment figuring reporting it would be a lost cause anyway. But this didn’t pertain to Keeler then, and it still doesn’t. Now 26, she said, “It has bothered me over the years that I was never able to do anything. If you’re not going to help me, who are you going to help? Because I do have evidence.”
As a star player for a highly nationally rated high school lacrosse team, the 5-foot-11 goalie had a suitcase full of college scholarship offers. When Keeler’s team won the NJ state title it was smooth net-launching from there.
Because Keeler’s ambition was in fulfilling her longtime goal of playing Division1, smaller Division III schools like Gettysburg College were of no consideration. It was Gettysburg Coach Carol Cantele who convinced her otherwise.
Cantele was able to show her how attending a smaller college provided its own benefits by not being so restrictive on her lifestyle. She could party more, live in an off-campus sorority house, and in general have a better life outside of classes.
Cantele, to this day, continues to feel burdened by the event. “How could this have happened to one of ‘my girls’? How could I have educated them better to watch out for each other, and for themselves?” “Why do we even have to think like that?”
Detectives destroyed the rape kit in 2015, but that’s okay because the hospital keeps files. They have the exam report, Keeler’s police complaint, a couple of statements from witnesses, text messages, and all of the campus records pertaining to the incident.
Keeler’s father said of the rapist, “He’s had a good life, as far as we can tell.” But with the publicity this particular case is generating, the guys’ name that has yet to be revealed might soon be in for a dose of his own medicine. Inmates love fresh meat of his variety.