Ten years of working together around Wyoming to increase awareness of sexual assault and to increase prevention methods was discussed at the Sexual Assault Summit X at the Sheridan Holiday Inn this week.
Culminating the multiple-day Summit was a keynote address by Sarah Kelso of Casper.
The first thing you notice about Sarah Kelso are her startlingly blue eyes and her tiny stature. The next thing you notice is the shadow behind those eyes, and the courage she musters up in her small frame to bring a painful, but necessary, message to the world.
You may remember her as Sarah Kostovny. On the morning of December 11th, 2009, as she returned to her Casper home from taking her then fiance, Ian Kelso, to work, she was attacked as she entered her residence.
Brutally raped multiple times, her story would make international headlines when it was learned that her attacker, Ty McDowell, had responded to an ad on CraigsList.
The ad, investigators learned, had been placed by Sarah's ex-boyfriend Jebediah Stipe, posing as Sarah, saying that she wanted to live out a rape fantasy. Shockingly, 161 people had responded to that ad. Both McDowell and Stipe are serving 60-year prison terms.
Since this crime occurred, CraigsList has removed the adult services section from their website.
Rather than succumb to depression and live in constant fear, Sarah talks about how she's healing.
An only child, Sarah says that this whole ordeal has been particularly difficult for her mother, who accompanied her to the Summit Thursday. But she says both her parents have been an incredible source of strength for her.
Sarah discusses going through the court process that would put the two men in prison.
Sarah truly has experienced validation of her rights as a victim since that December morning not even two years ago. So how, so relatively soon after her attack, is she able to make such open presentations to groups around the country?
Sarah and Ian were married last October. She says they had a “gorgeous wedding and they have a gorgeous marriage.”
Sarah Kelso is truly a survivor.