Have Courage, Be Kind: Memorial for Megan RondiniBy Jessa Reid Bolling | 09/11/2017 2:00am
A University of Alabama student passed away in 2016, and members of the UA community are still seeking justice in her death and honoring her memory.
Megan Rondini, a 20 year-old University of Alabama Honors College student, told police in 2015 that she was raped by Terry Bunn Jr., member of a prominent Tuscaloosa family, after he offered her a ride home from Innisfree Pub, a local bar. After not being taken seriously by local officials, having a case built against her, being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and transferring schools, Rondini died by suicide in February 2016, as reported by a Buzzfeed article several months ago.
The story has received national attention, and members of the UA community have taken steps to honor Rondini and make sure her story is the last of its kind.
Supporters have taken to social media, creating pages like “Justice for Megan Rondini” and planning a vigil in her memory.
The vigil, which took place on Friday night, drew a crowd of over 60 people. The mood was somber, but resilient as the group marched through Tuscaloosa.
Starting at the DCH Regional Medical, the group made purposeful stops along the way.
At their first stop, the president’s mansion, the group paused to sing “Lean On Me,” a favorite song of Rondini’s.
The group then stopped at Inisfree Pub and finished at the Sheriff’s Department/ County Courthouse.
Robyn Yetter, Megan’s aunt, and her husband Russ attended the march in place of Megan’s parents, as Megan’s mother Cindy is currently fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Yetter recited several Bible passages that were found in Megan’s car after her passing and thanked attendees for the support that the family has received.
“We have truly been overwhelmed,” Yetter said. “We are humbled to our core by the abundance of love to our family and the shared passion to bring about change so that no one will ever have to experience the obstructions of justice that we have seen in Megan’s case.”
Rondini’s family believes that Megan was not properly treated by medical providers and counselors and was not taken seriously by police or the University. Her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in July.
Tina Jones of Turning Point, a West Alabama agency for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, announced that a program is being implemented at DCH to create a SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, program that will provide specialized care and resources for sexual assault victims.
“This will provide in our community in West Alabama, a specific place for someone who has experienced sexual assault to come,” Jones said. “This is a specialized facility where there will be trained medical personnel that are not only trained medically… but they’re specifically trained to help and assist a victim who has been sexually assaulted. There are many parts of that process that are extremely important that they are followed precisely so that things like evidence are not damaged and being able to provide the correct comfort.”
Ross D'Entremont, vice president of Academic Affairs of the Student Government Association at the University, echoed support for the implementation of a SANE program and said that men must work alongside women to make it possible.
“It’s going to take everyone in the community to work on that and complete this… and men must play a dominant role in that,” D'Entremont said. “They must play in equal partnership with the women who so strongly want to see this program and deserve this program.”
Jordan Johnson, a sophomore and theatre major, said that she attended the event to learn more about Rondini after briefly hearing about her case.
“I went because I’m in Kappa Alpha Theta, so I heard about Megan my freshman year, but I didn’t know any specifics about her case so when the Buzzfeed article came out and I learned about more of the specifics, I wanted to be more involved,” Johnson said. “I thought it went really well and I thought the support from everyone involved was amazing.”
Johnson also said that she was glad to learn more about steps that are being taken to combat sexual assault and to better assist those who have experienced it.
"I like the fact that it seems a fire has been lit," Johnson said. "So this (event) was definitely positive. I just hate that it got this far before that fire was lit."