With the help of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and the Central Michigan University Program Board, Cooper came to campus last night to speak to students about her daughter’s difficult journey with rape, depression and ultimately, suicide.
In 1998, Cooper began her adventure, sharing “Kristin’s Story;” a motivational speech reaching more than 325 college campuses and more than 100,000 people.
Cooper’s journey started in 1994, after she dropped off her daughter, Kristin, at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.
“We dropped Kristin off to college in 1994,” Cooper said. “I never would have dreamed that a year and five months later, she would be dead. I never thought I would lose a child to suicide.”
Growing up, Kristin was very involved and happy, participating in various school activities and maintaining high grades throughout her academic career. It wasn’t until August in 1995 that her life would completely change, due to what Cooper thought was a break up with her long-term boyfriend.
“Kristin came home in October and would be very upset,” Cooper said. “She would cry in her room with the door shut, always writing in her journal. Thought it was because her boyfriend had broken up with her.”
Little did her family know, Kristin had been raped by a close friend and was attempting to deal with the pain by herself.
Kristin’s depressed behavior continued throughout the fall months, and eventually led to her tragic suicide on New Years Eve of that same year.
The experience left Kristin’s relatives confused and grieving, as it was after her death when they found out that she had been sexually assaulted.
Alpha Chi Omega was able to bring Cooper to CMU because of a grant the sorority received.
“The presentation today was made possible by the wonderful women of Alpha Chi Omega, who were awarded a $10,000 grant by their national board,” Director of Student Activities and Involvement, Damon Brown said. “Program Board will only be paying for the costs of the audio and visual that are provided.”
Caro junior and Alpha Chi Omega’s Vice President of Philanthropy Ashley Williams arranged Cooper’s presentation by contacting the national board and was pleased to have CMU as one of the top contenders for the grant.
“Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy is domestic violence awareness, so this speaker was advertised to us to bring to campus,” Williams said. “Out of the 16 schools that applied for the grant, only four received it and we were very lucky to be one of them.”
Since her daughter’s death, Cooper has made it her mission to reach as many people as possible to educate audiences around the country about ways to help their friends and ways to help themselves.
“This journey has really helped me heal,” she said. “If I have helped five people in this room, I feel as though Kristin hasn’t died in vain.”
In addition to her daughter’s personal story, Cooper provided many statistics about rape, suicide and depression that both shocked and outraged the audience.
“A woman is raped every two minutes, so in the hour I am speaking here tonight, 30 women will be raped,” Cooper said.
Overall, Cooper encouraged and advised audience members to take charge and seek help for themselves or others that have been in a similar situation as Kristin, and her story was one that was appreciated by many, including Bay City freshman Marissa Neal.
“The fact that she was able to stay so calm while she was presenting was amazing,” Neal said. “I honestly don’t know how she did it.”