Louisiana’s sexual assault kit backlog: the survivor

I have interviewed a lot of victims of crime during my nearly 15 year career in journalism. Each and every one has a story to tell and it always amazes me how much we as humans can both hurt each other and help each other heal. From murder victims to victims of rape, I have seen first-hand how much hearing the stories of other survivors can help people move forward with their lives. For the investigative stories I recently finished on Louisiana’s underreported sexual assault kit backlog, and the New Orleans Police Department’s backlog of DNA matches, I was lucky enough to tell the story of a woman from Lake Charles who survived every woman’s nightmare. She was in her early 20’s and had just finished getting something to eat after going out one night in 1992. She and a friend got into her car and when driving down the road, a man wearing a ski mask who was hiding in the hatchback/trunk part of her car came over the seat and put a knife to her throat. From there, she was brutally raped.

Wendy Guidry and her daughter the day Wendy's attacker was sentenced

Wendy Guidry and her daughter the day Wendy’s attacker was sentenced

Wendy Guidry decided after her rapist was sentenced in February of 2015 that she was not going to try and internalize the hurt and the anger and all of those feelings that come when you are victimized by someone else. Through an incredible group called RAINN (Rape and Incest National Network), she has started to open up and share her story in hopes it will both help her heal and help others. She shared this with me after my stories aired. It is the emotional victim impact statement that she read to the judge and her attacker when the judge took his guilty plea:

“There is nothing I could ever do to him that could give me back what he took from me.

I often wondered what I would say if this day ever came. It is hard to put twenty years of pain and emotions into one speech. There is no punishment ever just for what he took away from two innocent twenty year old girls that night. There is NO way he can give me back the years that I was sick with post traumatic stress disorder and constantly looked over my shoulder. The hardest part was watching my family hurt over seeing me suffer. My father died without justice ever being served….knowing how tortured he was over what happened to his only daughter.

This has been a very hard 3 year process. Reliving a nightmare has not been an easy thing on me and my family. I am forever sorry for the affect it has had on my kids and my husband. My children have watched their mom cry many tears….and my loving husband has had to endure several days in the courtroom sitting silent when he was ready to yell. I owe them a huge thank you for dealing with all this and still loving me.

I do owe the most gratitude to my husband bc he was the loving man in my life when this happened. Our dreams were shattered that night. He stood by my side and helped me recover and he loved me even when my anger and hurt made me not very lovable. He married me a year after the incident and convinced me I could have a good life. We have been married for 21 years……so never would I consent to any sexual acts with the defendant like he claims. I will forget he ever suggested that because we both know what really happened that night. Two twenty year old girls with big dreams were kidnapped and I was raped….which has taken me 22 years to be able to say out loud in public. Its time for me to give all the shame and the burden back to defendant. I will no longer look over my shoulder and fear you…..I am seeking forgiveness because I will live in peace.

My only request is no possibility for parole. We can not have monsters living in our society with our children.

I would like to thank Denise Hughes for working the case after almost twenty years. Hope Sanders for working so hard to put it all together and the many men and women at the Lake Charles Police department. I also want to thank Cynthia Killingworth and Candace and her great staff that have given so much of their time and attention to this case. I will forever be grateful.

You will be seeing my face again in courtrooms because I will be the one sitting next to rape survivors and supporting them and pushing for stricter laws when it comes to sexual assault.”

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