By: George Garneau
She seeks to remind apologists that felon is no victim sp.
WHAT TRIGGERED THE anger was all the sympathy, gushing from talk radio and newspaper columns, for Richie Parker, the 18-year-old high school basketball standout who pleaded guilty to forcing a 14-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him and another male student.
What a shame Richie Parker is losing a scholarship to Seton Hall, people kept saying.
Jill Agostino, a 30-year old sports copy editor at Newsday, couldn’t stay silent anymore. When Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reporter Karen E. Wall called, seeking a woman sports journalist’s view of the controversy, Agostino was mad enough to let out a secret she had hidden for eight years: She, too, had been raped.
It happened on a date, eight years ago, in a motorboat, and it left her bleeding.
She never told anybody for fear she wouldn’t be believed. Eventually, Richie Parker came along, and a reporter called her.
“I was very angry about the way everybody was seeing Richie Parker as the victim,” Agostino said in an interview.
Wall wrote in a sports column Jan. 26 that she was “furious” when she heard WFAN-AM radio talk jock Richard Neer decry how it would damage Parker’s career to lose his scholarship.
But telling another reporter wasn’t enough. Agostino told her own story her own way Feb. 2 in an op-ed column reproduced in 750,000 copies.
“Many act as if Parker, not the girl, is the victim,” Agostino wrote. “These people don’t know what it is to be raped.” In a dispassionate but powerful narrative, she described her rape, interspersed with her views of the Parker affair.
In a bargain with prosecutors, Parker pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse, downgraded from two sodomy counts, in exchange for five years of probation. He quit his high school team to spare the school the press attention. His accomplice pleaded guilty to attempted sodomy.
Parker will likely go on to play college, and his crime will become “nothing more than a speed bump on his drive to basketball stardom,” Agostino wrote, while his victim “may never again be able to have a normal relationship” and could “wake up screaming” any night from a memory that never ends.
Only one of the two will suffer forever, Agostino wrote: “The wrong one.”
To this day, the newswoman said she dreads riding alone with a man in an elevator and walking alone at night.
In an interview, Agostino said she revealed the rape to her husband and her parents before the column appeared. Writing the story brought back painful memories, she said, but she wanted to reach the people who were feeling sorry for Richie Parker. She wanted them to know what sex crimes mean to the victims.
Agostino said her column inspired an overwhelming response.
“It reached a lot of victims and gave them a lot of courage,” she said.
Of Parker’s five years’ probation, Agostino wrote: “To me it looks like open season on women. Go ahead and sexually assault two-on-one as Parker did. You’re not hurting anyone important. Trouble? Don’t worry, you might get a slap on the wrist, but you’ll be making millions soon.”
She said Parker’s punishment “should last until his victim is able to walk alone up the street or through a parking lot, or down a dimly lit hallway and feel safe. Until the nightmares cease. Until a day goes by, and she doesn’t think about the horrible things these boys made her do.”
Parker’s attorney declined through a secretary to comment.
Agostino suggested “the real victim should be given Parker’s full scholarship to Seton Hall when she’s ready for college ? her grades and SAT scores shouldn’t matter since Parker’s didn’t. Give the victim the opportunity to get a free college education, an opportunity that Richie Parker doesn’t deserve.”
?(Jill Agostino’s column in Newsday) [Photo & Caption]