Person: Stacy Bohrer
Drink: Regular brewed coffee
Stacy cuts straight to the chase.
All year I’ve had people advising me to decide what I’m passionate about and turn that into a job. Stacy Bohrer told me she knows what she is passionate about—but consciously decided she wasn’t going to make it her job.
She told me this as I sat in front of my computer, headphones plugged in, coffee at my side. On two different occasions we had tried to coordinate a coffee meeting in Chicago, but our schedules never aligned, so we opted to video chat. After sorting out some technical difficulties, our conversation got started when Stacy asked, “So, how does this meeting work?” I explained that we talk and then I write, pretty straightforward.
I found Stacy through my friend Christine. The two of them met a little over a year ago while working at a small startup in Chicago. It was clear Stacy had given Christine some good advice over the past year and likely had good insight to pass along to me. Christine said Stacy was a huge supporter of the notion that if you don’t wake up excited to go to work, you should find a new job.
I also subscribe to that notion, so I asked her about that right away. Stacy was straightforward as she explained that she knows herself well enough; when a job is making her unhappy or doesn’t fit well, she isn’t going to waste her time working there. Life is too short.
Stacy currently works as an Account Executive for an online media network and it was clear she enjoyed her job, which led me to the assumption that this new job was directly in line with her passions. It surprised me when she said this was not the case.
She said her true passion is helping victims of rape, raising awareness of the issue and bringing justice to perpetrators. However, after becoming very involved in a volunteer organization associated with Chicago hospitals, she realized she couldn’t emotionally separate her work from real life. To maintain balance she knew the best career fit would be a job she enjoyed in another industry, with a separate volunteer position that was less emotional.
Then she explained why.
Stacy was raped during her freshman year at Ohio State University. Like most rape victims, she never expected it would happen to her, especially because the perpetrator was a student she knew from high school. Afraid to speak out about the event, Stacy kept it a secret—a secret that would slowly spiral into a deep depression. Her 3.9 grade point average slipped to a measly 1.4 average. She stopped wearing make up and rarely left the house in anything but sweatpants. She resented her college and essentially everyone connected to it.
It was obvious to Stacy she was drowning—it was only when she made that realization that she found the courage to come out about the attack. She told the authorities and within a few weeks a half dozen other women also spoke up—Stacy wasn’t the man’s first victim.
After the attack, Stacy spent sleepless nights studying the constitution and other legal documents researching how to bring justice to the situation—both to her assailant and to OSU for their poor response to her rape complaint. Her efforts were successful. In 2005, she received the Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award for “demonstrat[ing] incredible courage in seeking justice and in working to improve how OSU and other colleges response to student rape complaints.”
When Stacy decided to tell people, she wanted to spread the word to help prevent it from happening to others. Once again, she didn’t tell me the details, but told me I could find them online. The press release from the Jeanne Cleary Campus award explained it all:
Her assailant, a friend from high school and then a fellow freshman at OSU, pled guilty to sexual imposition in the fall of 2004, and a federal civil rights lawsuit against OSU is now pending over their failure to remove him from campus until a year and a half after the assault was reported. She has also gone public, writing an editorial that appeared in our “Campus Watch” newsletter and doing an interview for an upcoming segment of Dateline NBC that sheds light on problems with how campuses deal with sexual assault.
Speaking out helped Stacy move on, as did transferring to Kent State before moving to Chicago after graduation for a fresh start. She found a job she really enjoys, married an incredible man (whom she refers to as the luckiest man in the world), and found a great passion for life that was evident in her voice. I asked her if she still holds resentment for the event. She told me that the incident is a part of her past; however, it is not a part of her identity. After the event, the rape consumed her identity, but she decided that she is not letting it control her life anymore.
Although memories do sneak up on her occasionally, especially on the anniversary of the event. She said when she looks back, she feels like she sees a completely different person. Today she is so much stronger than the person that was raped nine years ago. She is in a healthy relationship, has a great job, and is using her voice to help other victims of rape.
Instead of letting the event destroy her life, Stacy chose to fight and overcome it.
After Stacy told me that she paused before explaining that the experience has made her a better person. She paused because she didn’t want the statement to sound like she was giving credit to the man that raped her. Because the reality is that it wasn’t the rape that made her better, but rather how she chose to handle the situation. Finding the strength to speak up and move forward made her a better person. And the support of her therapist, husband, and family helped her in the process.
Our conversation continued and slowly drifted to other topics, mainly how I’m dealing with my impending graduation and the stress that comes with it. Christine was right about Stacy, her insight left me feeling better about what the future holds.
Stacy’s story and insight helped me put life into perspective. I’ve been consumed with stress about how things will unfold, but the worry doesn’t get me anywhere. As I talked about my situation Stacy could hear the stress in my voice and called me out on it—she (repeatedly) told me to relax; that life would work out.
And I believed her because her experience shows the strength, power, and resilience of human will.