Victim advocate sued for "defamation" for speaking up for rape victims

by Donna Provencher

Victim advocate sued for "defamation" for speaking up for rape victims

by Donna Provencher
Donna Provencher
Case Owner
Victim advocate. Writer. Journalist. Actor. Director. Mom. Voice for the voiceless. Director of Communications for Dinah's Voice, speaking up on behalf of rape victims everywhere.
Funded
on 04th July 2018
$9,085
pledged of $12,000 stretch target from 135 pledges
Donna Provencher
Case Owner
Victim advocate. Writer. Journalist. Actor. Director. Mom. Voice for the voiceless. Director of Communications for Dinah's Voice, speaking up on behalf of rape victims everywhere.

Who is this for?

I am Donna Provencher -- a victim advocate, sexual assault survivor, freelance writer/editor/journalist, and mother (currently expecting my second child). 

My undergraduate alma mater is Christendom College, a tiny, very conservative Catholic college in Front Royal, Virginia. In January, it was alleged by blogger Simcha Fisher (https://www.simchafisher.com/2018/01/16/are-women-safe-in-christendoms-bubble-part-i/) that Christendom College mishandled campus rape and sexual assault complaints for a period of many years, and other news outlets swiftly picked up the story. When the Fisher story broke, in a closed Christendom alumni group with alumni from all over the country, many of the alumni were behaving in a rape-apologist fashion, mocking and deriding the rape victims, saying they hoped someone would sue Simcha Fisher, and defending the school's inaction. I was one of the first people to speak up on behalf of the victims, and consequently have co-founded an organization to help campus sexual assault victims at my Catholic college and elsewhere. In the course of speaking up on behalf of victims in the Facebook group, one alumnus has decided to sue me for "defamation" in district court in Virginia, even though I am a Texas resident.

In the course of speaking out in defense of rape victims and advocating for change at Christendom College among other Catholic institutions, I have been served with this civil claim for money (in an amount greater than my current annual take-home pay, which is about $20,000). In order to fight this lawsuit, I needed a lawyer who specialized in this type of case and this lawyer was retained with a substantial ($10,000) upfront investment. This investment is rapidly dwindling, and I need to raise at least $7500 to replenish my retainer so I do not lose my legal counsel.

I currently work three jobs to support my three-year-old son (in addition to my many hours of volunteer work as Director of Communications for Dinah’s Voice -- a non-profit organization which has just filed for incorporation as a 501(c)3, dedicated to supporting sexual assault victims at Catholic colleges -- and heading up victim outreach for its Christendom College initiative, CASC). I am 26 weeks into a risky pregnancy and was recently diagnosed with precancerous cells on my cervix. I am myself a survivor of rape and associated trauma, and experienced a loss of employment in the aftermath for months in 2017. 

Additionally, I have struggled with severe anxiety and recovery from an eating disorder, as well as being stalked repeatedly by my schizophrenic mother from 2016-2017. I also spent eight months in and out of court from 2016-2017 in two unrelated cases, one of them fighting for custody of my child during a contentious divorce settlement and in the other, pursuing a conviction for my rapist (who ended up walking free, because the justice system is notoriously broken when it comes to prosecuting rape cases). 

I also recently lost two of my front teeth while saving my son from a fall, which incurred a hefty medical bill. With all of this, I have very little in the way of resources, am bringing home only $20,000 a year take-home pay, and am carrying a lot of debt (legal, medical and student loans).

Through all of this, I have always tried to be a voice for the voiceless. I have worked in social services with foster care children, children on the autism spectrum, and other vulnerable populations, volunteered for New York's Stop Abuse Campaign, worked as a freelance journalist, memoirist, and editor, taught Shakespeare to children, and have always worked to be involved in theater and artistic communities near me.

I have been fighting for the last four months with Dinah's Voice on behalf of sexual assault victims at my alma mater, Christendom College. Other members and I have been publicly vilified, smeared, attacked repeatedly with all sorts of accusations and abuse from all corners. After all of this, I have now been hit with this lawsuit over a Facebook comment defending victims that was up for approximately five minutes. I do not have the financial resources to fight this case effectively, and I am desperate, anxious, and concerned about the impact of the stress on not only my own health, but the health of my unborn child and the rest of my family. By relieving some of the financial burden, it would also alleviate some of the stress on me and my family.

What will the money be used for?

 My attorney, a Virginia attorney who specializes in defamation, was retained with a $10,000 retainer which is rapidly dwindling. My take-home pay is about $20,000 a year. I need to replenish this retainer, and need at least another $7500 to do so, or I will lose my legal representation. Please, please help, and please enable me to keep speaking up for campus rape victims and other voiceless people. 

Thanks so much for reading. 

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