I am very grateful to the editorial staff of the Bangor Daily News for their June 8 editorial on the very lenient sentence given to a convicted rapist, which is merely the latest in a chain of miscarriages of justice. Over 40 years ago, I too was a rape victim. Today, I am a survivor.

I was disturbed that Brock Turner’s swimming accomplishments at Stanford University were considered a mitigating factor. (This seems to be a recurring theme in similar cases. A number of years ago a high school girl was condemned in the court of public opinion for “ruining” the life of her town’s football star. Does athletic ability confer permission to commit sexual assault?) I was deeply bothered by the “fall from grace” allusion. He did not fall. He jumped. No matter how drunk he was, he made the unconscionable decision to violate an unconscious woman.

What bothered me the most, however, was Turner’s father’s assertion that a long sentence for his son would be a “ steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” When being violated in one of the most horrific ways possible becomes boiled down to “20 minutes of action,” it is so cruelly dismissive of the lived experiences of the victim it revictimizes her.

I want to offer my insight into 20 minutes of action.

I was a virgin, a poster child for “just say no.” I realized unprotected sex could lead to some pretty nasty disease alluded to cryptically as the clap. I also knew pregnancy was a very real danger. I was in no position emotionally, relationally or financially to be a parent. At the same time, I knew I could not deal with abortion or giving up a baby for adoption. Abstinence seemed to be by far the best policy.

One day a friend of my mother’s, a married man with children, offered to give me a ride. He stopped the car in the deep woods and got out, telling me he had something to show me. I had no reason to doubt. He was an avid fisherman, always showing people where he snagged his latest big one. He had another sort of prey in mind. The next thing I knew he was pressing his filthy fish-gutting knife against my neck, telling me if I did not give him what he wanted he would cut my throat. Again I had no reason to doubt him.

After, he boasted about how he had chosen me and then used his friendship with my mother to further his goal. He was going to take my cherry. He also reminded me that, with my mother’s heart disease, learning what happened might very well kill her. I was to keep my mouth shut. And I did even when my period was several weeks late.

For me the horror had only begun.

I became alienated from my own body. In my mind, my breasts and every part of me that stood for sexual maturity became Achilles heels, areas of vulnerability, to hide and minimize or camouflage. For a long time, I dressed to hide anything that would indicate sex appeal from anyone else who might want to take advantage of me.

This is probably one of the reasons I have struggled with anorexia for a long time. One of the ways of minimizing or reversing adult woman sexual characteristics is starving one’s body to maintain or reacquire a prepubescent body. Anorexia also has a lot to do with a perceived loss of control over one’s life. Nothing quite says loss of control like aggravated rape.

Finally, for a long time I lost the ability to trust a lot of my fellow human beings. Apart from my beloved husband and my now deceased uncle, I kept the rest of the men I encountered at a distance, physically and emotionally. I would still feel this way if amazing grace had not entered my life in the form of the University of Maine’s dean of students, Robert Q. Dana. He helped me realize that a man could value me for my beautiful mind and personality and that I deserved nothing less. I easily could have missed out on priceless, trusting friendships with people with names like Silvestre and Shane and Dylan.

No one deserves that.

Isn’t it time we stop trivializing the victim experience and make the punishment fit the very real crime?

Julia Hathaway of Veazie is a writer, community activist and proud mother of three. She is taking up the interests she put on the back burner for parenting and serving on school committee.