Kat O’Brien was on vacation when The New York Times ran her account of how she was raped by an MLB player in 2002 when she was a sports writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
She said this piece was “sometime in the making,” and she did not know when the Times would publish it.
Since it went online Sunday morning, she has received thousands of messages of support.
“I have had dozens and dozens of women reach out to me to say they were sexually assaulted or raped, from friends to relatives to acquaintances to people who are complete strangers,” she told me in a phone interview on Monday. “So many people have responded to me, and I’m so sorry. It’s overwhelming.”
Kat O’Brien is not lying. She has zero to gain other than trying to help other victims.
Kat is a former colleague, and a friend. She graduated from Notre Dame, has an enviable and admirable work ethic, has completed countless marathons, is fluent in Spanish, lived in Spain, and survived a stroke. Above all else, she is just good people.
All of us who worked with Kat when this assault happened had no idea, and are sick to know that she was in this type of pain. I can only conceive the rage our former sports editor, the late Celeste Williams, would have felt had she known.
We have all seen and read stories about women who make every single attempt to bury a sexual assault experience. To know this happened to a friend is infuriating.
She said she covered most everything she wanted to say in her piece, but added that she hopes something positive comes from it.
“Three things,” she said. “One is I hope a woman, or women, feel more empowered to share their stories either privately or publicly. Or at least not blame themselves.
“Second is I hope the leagues, and/or teams — because this is not just a baseball problem — put more things in place to prevent these types of things from happening. You can’t prevent every bad act, but things can be put in place.
“And thirdly I would hope that people are a little bit more conscientious about the things that they do. I detailed some. There was a reporter in the Metroplex who started a rumor that I got a job because I slept with a Texas Rangers executive. Or maybe some of the comments that people laugh at and go along with you don’t just say nothing, but instead say, ‘You know, that really isn’t funny.’”
The majority of the responses to Kathleen’s piece range from anger for her pain, to sadness that it happened, to support, encouragement and admiration for her willingness to speak up.
And there are just enough stupid responses that illustrate whatever advances have been made in this area show just how far we still have to go.
Kat understands why people want her to name her attacker. Her answer is tragic.
“A very, very, very small percentage of women who are raped or sexually assaulted who pursue some criminal justice get it,” she said. “The chances of that happening for me when I’m a 22-year-old against some pro athlete, my chances are next to none. My career would have been over.”
She is so right, which is so wrong.
By her own calculations, she gains nothing by naming her attacker.
“I see nothing but negative vitriol for me if I do that, and there is zero chance for him getting civil or criminal consequences. I see nothing but negative consequences for me,” she said. “If I saw there were six other women who said the same thing about this person, that would be different.
“I’d be a single voice speaking up with no way to prove it.”
She is so right, which is so wrong.
We have no problem pointing out the person who robbed us, but we keep our mouths shut when it comes to sexual assault.
I asked her what she would tell a woman who goes through the same thing today.
“I don’t know that I have advice to give that person. I wish I did,” she said. “I do think that more women are believed today. It’s more possible now than 20 years ago for someone to be believed. It’s more possible, but I can’t give that person advice.
“Each person has to do that what is right for them. I have seen a lot of reaction and I am grateful that there is an overwhelming positive reaction to this piece.”
And that’s both inspiring and tragic.