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Update: Fundraising ongoing for sexual assault survivors monument, victims share their stories

Local News

FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WFRV)- In August, we first told you about the fundraising effort to build a sexual assault survivors monument at Ellen Kort Peace Park in Appleton.

The goal to raise $65,000 is coming along slowly, with many generous donations so far. ” The whole process is going really well. We have about $27,000 raised so far,” said Chelsea Bongert, of the Sexual Assault Survivors Monument Corporation.

The idea for the monument came from Bongert. “It really came out of a lot of my speaking in the community,” she says.

Being a sexual assault survivor herself, she saw a need for a safe space for other victims. “I thought, ‘there has got to be something more I can give to the community, something more I can do,’” Bongert adds.

In an all-new interview with Local 5, Bongert says she was sexually assaulted multiple times in her life. The first assault took place inside a high school classroom. “The first time I was raped, I was 14 years old. I was a freshman in high school and it happened after school. It was by another student who was 16 at the time, an upperclassman,” says Bongert.

She says she was helping her classmate with homework when the assault happened. “We were in the same class together, that’s how we knew each other. We weren’t dating or anything like that,” Bongert adds.

When the assault was happening, she says she didn’t really know what to do. “I tried to fight, I didn’t scream. It was like all the moisture in your throat…it just went away. I couldn’t make a sound,” said Bongert.

She says she reported the incident to Authorities and was encouraged to make a statement. “There wasn’t the training that officers have now for victims, but it was really bad. The officer’s exact words to me were, ‘tell me you liked it. I’m not going to send a young man to jail or ruin his life over a girl who has regrets,'” said Bongert.

She declined to name the officer involved in the case.

Peggy Zinkel, also a sexual assault survivor, wanted to share her story as well. “Back in 1989, when this happened to me, I didn’t have a voice. They basically told me he was going to court, he got sentenced and got sentenced to 4-years,” said Zinkel.

She says she was not given the opportunity to speak at court proceedings. Her attack happened when she was 17-years old and reportedly was an ex-boyfriend. Zinkel did not identify her attacker to Local 5.

Zinkel says when her attacker was released from prison, he did not have to register as a sex offender and she was not notified of his release.

She says an encounter at a grocery store with her attacker is something she will never forget. “He said oh look at that, there’s the [expletive] that put me in prison for 4-years,” said Zinkel.

She says she never responded to him.

For both Zinkel and Bongert years of counseling got them to a place where they no longer blame themselves for the assaults. They hope the monument will be a source of healing and reflection for others.

There are a number of ways to donate. Visit the Sexual Assault Survivors Monument Corporation Facebook page for more information. If you or someone you know is a victim, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center Fox Cities is also a resource.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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