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A rape survivor is living proof that victims of this kind have to do way too much to even begin to seek justice.
Shannon Keeler (pictured above) tried for seven years to convince authorities to arrest the man she accused of raping her as an 18-year-old college freshman in Pennsylvania in 2013, but to no avail. Now, authorities have finally stepped up and cuffed the suspect on a sexual assault charge — five weeks after she revealed the alleged rapist confessed to the act in a Facebook message.
Last year, Keeler spotted a message sent to her from the alleged assailant through the social media platform. One of the messages read:
“So I raped you.”
The now-26-year-old later went public and shared her story with the Associated Press, eventually prompting authorities to file an arrest warrant naming the suspect as Ian Cleary.
Related: Bill Cosby’s Accuser Breaks Silence On His Overturned Rape Conviction
In a statement shared with People through her lawyer, Laura Dunn, Keeler said while she’s “moved to tears” by the development, she can’t help but feel frustrated that it took her publicly sharing her story to galvanize the authorities. She explained:
“While I am moved to tears by this result, which I have waited for (for) over seven years, I am mindful that this moment came because I went public with my story, which no survivor should have to do in order to obtain justice.”
She can say that again…
Keeler spent years of her life trying to get officials to take her case seriously. After the incident took place, she reported it to the police, underwent testing with a rape kit, and produced witnesses who had seen the suspect. Frustratingly, no no charges were brought and she was told her case eventually was closed.
But things took a turn in December 2019, when her Facebook Messenger inbox received several messages from Cleary over two days. They read:
“I need to hear your voice. I need to know if I did it or not.”
“I kissed you. I grabbed your breasts. Then I tried to but I couldn’t because I was high. Then I had to catch a plane. That’s why I ran.”
“I played with you but I didn’t penetrate you.”
“So I raped you.”
“I’ll never do it to anyone again.”
Keeler didn’t discover the messages for months, but ultimately brought them to the district attorney’s office in May 2020. Police reopened the case and linked the messages to Cleary’s Facebook account and a matching cell phone number, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
That affidavit claims that at Gettysburg College on Dec. 15, 2013, Keeler walked home to her dorm with a friend from a party, at which a “kid” had been “creeping her out.” The kid — later identified as Cleary — allegedly followed, and offered Keeler’s friend $20 to leave the two of them alone. (Um… WTF?!)
He was shooed away. But 10 minutes later Keeler said she heard a knock on the door. She reportedly opened it, expecting to see another friend, only to find that it was Cleary. The affidavit alleges he walked in, began kissing Keeler, and then assaulted her. Before the attack occurred, Keeler allegedly texted friends, “Help please” and “OMG please Help me.”
In the latest statement, Dunn explained to People that it shouldn’t have had to take Cleary’s confession for authorities to fight for Keeler, sharing:
“The only reason we’re here today is because Ian Cleary confessed in writing. That’s what it took before a prosecutor was willing to bring this case. And even then maybe we did a whole year before bringing these charges. So why does Shannon Keeler have to wait? The answer is, she shouldn’t have.”
The statement continued:
“The criminal justice system should have cared the day she was raped. They should have put all their energy and resources towards prosecuting Ian Cleary and it’s on them, that we have had to wait this long and have this much compelling evidence before action was taken.”
The attorney went on to note that Keeler’s decision to go public about her case with the AP “was a strategic choice because we weren’t getting anywhere waiting with the prosecutor’s office or cooperating with police,” adding:
“It was time for her to go public and put pressure on the district attorney’s office to do the right thing in this case. And survivors shouldn’t have to do that in order to get justice, but she had to, and we’re thankful that the district attorney has heard her case, will be on it and prosecuting it, and has issued an arrest warrant.”
It’s disheartening that so much had to happen before this man was arrested — but for what it’s worth, authorities are now on the ball. In a statement, the D.A.’s office said it would have no further comment “until the defendant is apprehended.”
Thoughts on this, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments.
[Image via ABC News]
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