Former SMU student shares story of rape, recovery

Monika Korra is talking about the night she was raped, the decision to face her attackers, and the promise she made to herself.

Monika Korra's story starts in her homeland of Norway, where she excelled as a cross-country runner.

She caught the eye of the track coach at SMU, who offered her a full scholarship.

"For me, that was a dream come true," Korra said.

The young freshman — who at the time barely spoke English — came to Dallas with high hopes. In December 2009, during her sophomore year, Korra's life would change forever.

She was attacked while walking to a friend's car after a party near the SMU campus.

"Three girls walking hand-in-hand to his car, but I never got as far his car that night," Korra recalled, describing three men in a van who pulled up beside her.

"Before I knew it, I just had someone grabbing me from behind and I had a gun to my head," she said.

Her friends tried to grab her, but the men pointed a gun at them and took off with Korra.

"The attack started right away... stripped me from my clothing," she said.

They sexually assaulted her for 90 minutes.

 

"They raped me one at a time, two at a time, three at a time," she said, begging them to let her go. "They pushed my head towards the floor of the van and told me over and over, 'Do as we tell you... otherwise we will kill you.'"

Finally they stopped near an empty field in South Dallas.

"At one point, one of them placed duct tape around my head, covered my eyes and opened the door, and pushed me out," Korra said.

Naked, lost, and alone, she tried to chase down cars seeking help. Finally a man rescued her.

"I don't know how many police officers showed up. They had a helicopter above me," Korra said.

At that point, she realized she had survived — and she began to cry.

With duct tape still in her hair and on the way to the hospital, she made a promise to herself: "I made the decision that night that I would not let this define me," Korra said.

Her stolen cell phone led police to the three assailants. Arturo Arevalo and Alfonso Zuniga received life sentences; Luis Zuniga was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Remarkably, Monika Korra said she forgave them for what they did to her.

"For me, forgiveness is not by any means becoming friends with them... it's not about that," she said. "It's all about finding peace by letting go of all this, and that's about me."

She even visited Luis Zuniga in prison, and made him sign a contract promising to get help — in exchange for her forgiveness.

"He signed his name and cried, and he told me how much he appreciated the opportunity to talk to me," Korra said.

She said making Zuniga admit what he had done restored the power her rapists had taken away.

"I told him over and over: 'Tell me what you did to me,' and he said the words: 'I raped you.' It was hard for him to say, but important for him to realize that is what he did."

Now, through her book Kill the Silence, Korra hopes to empower other women who have been victims of assault and abuse.

"I hope it can give people hope, and that I can show people it's possible to move beyond this."

Korra said she learned to keep moving forward... and that in the end, the strong survive.


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