Sexual Assault to be discussed at Girl Developers' Summit

COLDWATER – On a warm summer night 12 years ago, Stephanie Hilker’s life changed forever. That was the night she was raped.
Rather than subjecting herself to being victimized over and over again, Stephanie, now 28, chose to share her story. Her mother, Marie Hilker, said talking openly about the rape has been a major part of the healing process for the entire family.
That process will continue when Hilker addresses attendees at this year’s Girl Developers Summit on February 23 at Eastern Michigan University. The event, sponsored by Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open to the general public.
“People think if you don’t say it out loud, it doesn’t happen,” Hilker said. “It’s a difficult subject for women to talk about.”
However, everyone needs to know, especially when faced with statistics like these: one out of every four female college students; one out of every six women; and boys, men and siblings will be raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
“We are a learning-focused organization and the ‘go-to’ organization for girls,” said Mariela Rua, Adult Recruitment Education Specialist with GSHOM. “We could not pass up the opportunity to have someone with Marie’s experience and knowledge speak about such an important issue.”
Stephanie Hilker , who is now a veterinary technician at Wayne State University, became one of these statistics on the first night of her summer vacation when she walked out of the family’s home and was grabbed from behind. Her attacker immediately pulled her shirt over her face and walked her to an area where the rape occurred. Throughout the assault, he threatened to kill her.
“Stephanie wanted to live so she continued to beg for him to let her go,” Hilker said. “He laid her down and threatened to come back and kill her and her family if she said anything to anyone.”
Hilker and her husband learned about the rape when they were awakened and walked into their daughter’s room to find Stephanie crying. Being fearful for their lives, they determined the best action to take was to immediately report the rape to police.
Hilker said of the police interview, “Even though she could not see, Stephanie was able to describe amazing details. She described the length of his hair and said he had a very hairy chest and arms. Then Stephanie literally drew a map for the police of where she was taken.”
Crime scene investigators found footprints belonging to Stephanie and her attacker still present in the dew on the grass when they arrived. Neighbors were interviewed which enabled the police to confront the attacker within hours of the rape. Physical evidence was able to be gathered from the assailant which ultimately led to his conviction.
“The police were in front of this guy within hours,” Hilker said. “He was everything Stephanie described even though she wasn’t able to see him.”
The Hilker’s learned later that Stephanie had been taught to be aware of her surroundings during a prevention education presentation given in her high school Physical Education class.
The importance of having an awareness of your surroundings is among the topics Hilker and Laura Kopacz, a registered nurse with the Community Health Center of Branch County, will discuss during their presentation at the Summit. They also will talk about the legal description of rape and assault and how to lessen the chances of becoming a statistic.
“We are so excited about this ability to reach so many women who can positively impact girls,” Hilker said. “As parents we take actions from the time our children are born to protect them with safety measure like car seats, sunscreens, and training wheels. Almost half of all victims of sexual assault and rape are under the age of 18. Our children will most likely know or will hear of someone who has been raped or assaulted. We need to talk with our children about this touch subject and discuss prevention education information with them hopefully reducing their risk of sexual assault.”
For more information about the Girl Developers’ Summit or to register visit the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan website at gshom.org.