In August 2009, Javon Cooper assaulted Heidi Damon when she was walking through a parking garage in Tampa, Florida, choking her until she passed out. When she woke up she was bruised and her pants and underwear had been removed, but she hadn't been raped. (Police believe Cooper got scared and ran.) When Cooper was sentenced earlier this month, Damon made a passionate speech, saying,
"My name is Heidi Elizabeth Damon. I have a name. I have a name that will go on forever. You have a number and the title of the crimes that you've committed. Your name is Sex Offender, Attempted Murderer. Nice to put you away."
This morning Damon appeared on the Today Show and told Ann Curry that she decided to go public to send the message that sexual assault victims haven't done anything wrong, and shouldn't be afraid to come forward. She says:
"I think so many times, we're so embarrassed, or we're so afraid of what people will think. There's so much vanity out there that if this happens to someone, they should be able to go and talk about it and reveal who attacked them and not be ashamed. Feel empowered to say, ‘No. I'm still going on with my life. You have not taken that away.'''