Berit Francis was a nurse coming home late from her evening shift to a small cottage in Berkeley, California. She was also a woman about to be raped. When she came through her front door, her assailant, who had been waiting, said, “I was about to give up on you. I didn't think you were coming home tonight." For over an hour she was brutally assaulted, raped, sodomized and urinated on. Her attacker finally left her hogtied with telephone wires and her white nurse’s stockings.
“I was in a state of shock,” she remembers about that terrifying ordeal over twenty years ago. “I remember thinking while it was happening I can’t tell anybody about this. I was so ashamed.” But she did free herself, rush to a neighbor’s house in a bathrobe and asked them to call the police.
She never went back to that apartment. The rape, she says, changed her personality and her life. She stopped feeling like the competent “super nurse” she had been. She left California,which she loved, and went back home to Minnesota. “I was a wreck,” she says. But she did get help and though it took her a long time to heal she knows getting help was the key. She saw a counselor, and then joined a group, sharing experiences with other women. She learned that talking and sharing was the best way back to feeling normal once again.
Now Francis is married--- her husband is the Chief Marketing Officer at Target— the mother of four, an active volunteer in her community in Minneapolis and newly elected to the board of RAINN. RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline and has helped more than one and half million people since its inception in 1994.
Francis has talked about sexual violence before. “I have spoken to a lot of women and sometimes a woman will tell me about an experience that she has kept hidden for decades and decades.” Now she wants to take her efforts national. “Rape changes you forever.” Francis says. “ As a survivor and member of RAINN’s Board of Directors, I endeavor to bring rapists to justice and help other survivors receive the help they deserve through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines, as well as promote other RAINN initiatives.”
Francis has also coped with other challenges. Three years ago, her young daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor She is now doing well. But Francis says “ I thought at the time I can’t believe I am dealing with another tragedy. But because I had finally dealt with the rape I was confident I could cope. I could handle it because I had received help when I needed it. That’s what I want to keep stressing, you need help. It is so much better if you get the counseling you need.”
What you should know about sexual abuse:
Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
The FBI ranks rape as the 2nd most violent crime, trailing only murder.
One in six American women is a victim of sexual assault, and one in 33 men.
About 44% of rape victims are under age 18, and 80% are under age 30.
College-aged women are four times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than any other age group.
Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes; more than half of all sexual assaults go unreported.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) works in partnership with more than a thousand local rape crisis centers across the country. The number of the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800.656.HOPE and the online hotline can be contacted at rainn.org. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit www.rainn.org.