More Than Mistakes Made
Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in Olin Lecture Hall at 7 p.m. on April 15. An excited air hung over the crowd as they waited to hear professional speaker Stacey Lannert share her experiences. This event was the first in the Kathleen J. Eberle Memorial Lecture Series in the Social Sciences. The series was funded by alumna Nancy Roberts (class of 1972) to honor the memory of her partner alumna Kathleen Eberle (class of 1972). Roberts’ donation will allow for a guest speaker to come to campus each year and lecture about a topic within the social sciences.
Provost Dr. John McClusky introduced Lannert to the audience; he outlined her story and described how she intended to share a message of forgiveness and love of life. After being handed the floor, Lannert spoke about sexual violence statistics. For example, she said that one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elaborated on this statistic in “The National Intimate Partner
and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report.” They said that approximately 36 percent of women and 29 percent of men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. She discussed how the attendees had the power to change this: “When we communicate, we create,” she said. Lannert acknowledged that empowering victims of sexual violence and asking them what we can do to help is taking steps in the right direction.
Lannert shared her story of living through sexual violence for 10 years. She discussed how she was afraid to talk to anyone about her experiences and despite showing warning signs, no one helped her out of her situation. At 18, Lannert was sentenced to life without parole in prison after murdering her abuser. She explained that the legal system in Missouri seemed antiquated in how they handled her case; she couldn’t qualify as not guilty due to battered women syndrome because at the time, this only applied to spousal abuse. Her attacker was her father. In addition, the jury was told to disregard her 10 years of sexual abuse. However, Lannert was not bitter about her time in prison. She said, “We can be more than the mistake we made.”
Despite feeling safer behind bars, Lannert determined that she wanted more from life. With the help of a diligent public defender, she was granted clemency after spending 18 years in prison. After her release, Lannert found ways to help other sexual violence victims. She created a nonprofit organization called Healing Sisters (an online resource for sexual violence “victors” to empower each other), told her story through a book titled “Redemption” and is currently attending law school. She concluded her discussion by giving the audience resources to help sexual violence victims. Overall, she said that she hoped her story “challenges stereotypes, creates conversation and changes perceptions.”
Freshman psychology major Mia Edwards attended the event and was moved by Lannert’s message. “What most impacted me was the fact that no matter the situation, you can make the best out of it,” she said. “Never limit your capabilities because it can decrease the possibilities. And never think that a certain person can’t be a victim of rape because it can happen to anyone.”