Thank you for inviting me to the rally and giving me the opportunity to speak with you. Gil is sorry she cannot be here but she is helping the children of Zambia with a medical mission. She feels that since she could not save her daughter that she can save someone’s child.
I am here to support the TBTN and stress the need for societal change in the respect for woman and men, that society must stop seeing women as prey. I never would have thought that I would have had to deal with the death of my precious daughter, Morgan Dana Harrington. Morgan, a junior at Virginia Tech, was murdered on October 17, 2009 here in Charlottesville by someone who likely sexually assaulted her, then killed her and left her body in a pasture on Anchorage Farm, just south of here. Morgan’s death has catapulted us to places that we would never have thought we would go, being here tonight is now an opportunity that I would not have thought of before, we have been see many times on national media, we have been in the Halls of Congress, we have spent too many hours with LE, we have been to restaurants and rock concerts raising money for Morgan and we have cried as we held our daughter’s skeleton.
Morgan was at JPJ to attend the Metallica concert. For unknown reasons, Morgan left the arena and was not allowed to reenter. That was only one of a series of errors that ultimately led to her disappearance and ultimate death. That day of the concert Morgan and her Mother shared their last time together. Morgan was a modest dresser, she and Gil picked out a loose tee shirt with Pantera printed on the front, a black mini skirt, back leggings and black boots. She was totally covered up except for her beautiful face.
On the days after that tragic night, it was reported by media and by some police that Morgan was dressed provocatively, implying that Morgan tempted someone to assault and kill her. The only thing Morgan did that night was to have her beautiful face showing and she made herself vulnerable. She did not cause her murder, a coward who could control and lord over Morgan caused her death. It is time to stop blaming the victim!
Even over the past week, Gil and I have been assaulted by the Westboro Baptist Church who published a degrading poster implying Morgan deserved to die. This so call church, has launched a post mortem attack on my dead daughter and will be at Virginia Tech tomorrow to protest and advertise that Morgan deserved to die. It is time to stop blaming the victim!
Who would have ever thought Gil and I would have had to deal with the death of our child. Our experience has given us a new appreciation for the preciousness of life. Morgan will never graduate, have a career, marry, have a child and grow old. Morgan’s killer, who had no respect for her, walks among you in Charlottesville each day doing all the things he took away from Morgan.
We are her to work for the day that women and men respect one another, that women can be safe, and can stop feeling afraid. We pray for the day that a young girl does not have to be at risk, is not blamed when they are the victim, and does not become a statistic. We pray for the day when fear is not one of our nation’s operating principles.
We need to support women men who are afraid to ask for help, afraid to press changes, and who are made to feel as if they are the problem. We need to support women and men who are assaulted so they will seek prosecution of the perpetrators. We need to not have organizations sweep these assaults under the rug and pretend it doesn’t happen here.
Gil and I are determined that Morgan’s life be remembered and that her death not be in vain. We appreciate your invitation to help you Take Back the Night.
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