An Iowa Housewife Uses Her Name and Her Rage to Bring the Crime of Rape Out of the Shadows
According to custom, the press does not compound the private horror of rape by publicly exposing the victim. To print her name, the conventional wisdom goes, would only add to her pain. Yet in a time when approximately 100,000 women are raped each year in the U.S., some women now argue that this protection only perpetuates the stigma of rape. Nancy Ziegenmeyer, 29, of Grinnell. Iowa, has become their standard-bearer. She was sitting in her car in a parking lot near the Grand View College campus on the morning of Nov. 19, 1988, studying, when a man opened the door, grabbed her neck and pushed her to the passenger side. He drove to a deserted parking lot and raped her, saying if she resisted he would kill her. Captured, he was sentenced to life. In July 1989, Ziegenmeyer read a column by Pes Moines Register editor Geneva Overholser urging rape victims to throw off the cloak of anonymity. "As long as rape is deemed unspeakable." wrote Overholser, "the public outrage will be muted as well." Ziegenmeyer came forward and, in a five-part series, talked intimately about her attack, generating hundreds of letters of support. Now, she lectures nationwide "to educate society as to what rape is." And if some look askance at her Donahue appearance and movie deal, Ziegenmeyer says, "I suppose I've made lemonade from lemons. But if I could change the fact that I was raped, I sure would."