SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One out of six American women has been a survivor of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
And South Dakota experiences one and a half times the national average rate of per capita forcible rapes, according to the Compass Center.
Connor Stewart was 19 years old when she woke up at her then boyfriend’s home, naked and bruised.
“There’s certain bits of it that I oddly recall, and there’s other parts that are completely blacked out and I don’t even remember any of it,” Stewart said.
Stewart was drinking with friends the night before, and left alone to sleep when the party was over. She later learned that a neighbor came in and sexually assaulted her.
“My instant thought was well I was drinking. I’m underage. No one’s going to believe me,” Stewart said.
A week later Stewart’s fears subsided, and she broke her silence to her mom who is also a sexual assault survivor.
“It was always hush hush, you know you didn’t talk about it. It was the females fault,” Stewart said.
Stewarts mom took her to have a sexual assault forensic exam.
“Body diagrams to document injuries, those are all in here. Envelopes for clothes, and then envelopes for swabs for actual DNA evidence collection,” Jennifer Canton said.
Canton is a sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE Nurse, who is specially trained to provide medical forensic care for sexual assault or abuse patients. She says these kits remain confidential, and are performed only if a patient chooses.
“I think it’s a great resource to have for people. It gives them options after they’ve been through a situation where they’ve had their control taken from them,” Canton said.
Patients who have an examination related to sexual assault will be covered by the county where your assault happened in, whether you have insurance or not.
Stewart turned her kit over to police and began working with detectives.
“The guy, the rapist, I can finally say that. He actually said to my face, well I had my way with you, did what I needed to do and left you there,” Stewart said.
But she was left feeling like justice wasn’t served.
“He basically walked away with a slap on the wrist, no time spent in jail because there was alcohol involved and that hinders both parties stories,” Stewart said.
Although the investigation didn’t go as hoped, she says it’s important to raise awareness and remind others it’s not their fault.
Now, about eight years later, speaking out is her own form of justice.
“Together we have a voice and together our voices can be louder,” Stewart said.
Resources for victim’s of a sexual assault: