Hope Cheston, who was 14 years old when she was sexually assaulted by an armed security guard in Georgia in 2012, has been awarded $1 billion in damages after she sued the security company that employed the guard, the Washington Post reports.
Cheston identified herself in a news conference on Wednesday in which she detailed the extent of the emotional trauma caused by the attack. “My childhood was stolen,” Cheston told reporters. “I had to basically build up my own self-esteem and remind myself who I am and just where I’m meant to go and remember my purpose on this Earth and not let this man feel like he took my purpose.”
Brandon Lamar Zachary, who was 22 at the time of the assault, has been convicted of rape and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Still, Cheston claims that the security company in question never contacted her or apologized for the incident.
“Every victim has that—‘Well I should’ve did this, I should’ve did that, I shouldn’t have been here in the first place,’” Cheston said at the news conference on Wednesday.
However, the significance of the amount of money that jurors in Clayton County, Georgia awarded her is “life-changing” and “history-making.” Cheston has also acknowledged the symbolism of the money: it represents how much pain is worth.
“It was a shocking moment; it was a beautiful moment,” Cheston said of the moment she heard the juror’s decision. “It showed human kindness in its purest form.”
When the trial was over, jurors reportedly walked over to Cheston, hugged her, and told her: “You’re worth something.”
Want to know what a victim of rape is worth? 1 billion.Record 12 person jury verdict. Juries are saying no to sexual assault and holding companies accountable! My client wants to be a spokesperson against rape. Will we recover all that? No but it’s what it stands for that matters pic.twitter.com/ib9wFWiFOR— L. Chris Stewart Esq (@chrisstewartesq) May 22, 2018
Although Cheston also initially sued the apartment complex and its property management company, they were dismissed, so the security company, Crime Prevention Agency, was the only defendant in the case, and therefore the only company that is responsible for paying Cheston what she is due. Cheston’s lawyer claims that the company has since changed its name.
“What that number stands for is the most important thing,” Cheston’s lawyer said. “We don’t care what we end up finally recovering from this company. We know they don’t have $1 billion. But it’s what 12 people in the state of Georgia said a victim of rape is worth that echoes louder.”
“This $1 billion isn’t just my $1 billion,” Cheston said. “This number on this sheet of paper—it’s my case, yes, but it’s all of our case.”