Content warning: This article discusses topics around sexual assault that may be triggering for some readers.
One year ago today, former Temple University Alpha Epsilon Pi president Ari Goldstein was found guilty of attempted sexual assault, attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault of a Temple student.
The verdict came two years after the assault occurred at the former Alpha Epsilon Pi house on Broad Street near Norris, where Goldstein invited the student to smoke marijuana, then pushed and restrained her on a couch while kissing her and digging his knee into her while laughing and shushing her.
Goldstein pushed the survivor onto him, pressed her head toward his crotch and thrusted his hips toward her face. The survivor was able to push him off and leave, and she saw a bruise on her thigh the next day, The Temple News reported.
Goldstein was taken to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on Feb. 18, 2020, and his sentencing took place at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice on Oct. 21, 2020. He was sentenced to 3.5 to seven years in prison and had to register for life as a sex offender.
As instances of sexual assault are prevalant as a systemic issue on college campuses, nationwide events and local campaigns have called for increased attention and discussion to survivors of sexual assault’s experiences and voices, despite cases of sexual assault being underreported and their cases rarely making it to trial.
During Goldstein’s sentencing, the survivor read a Victim Impact Statement that described their actions after the assault, how they informed family and friends about the assault, their initial hesitation to report it and their eventual decision to report the assault and pursue the case, all while being a Temple student.
“The beginning of this case took place during my freshman year at Temple University,” the survivor read in Victim Impact Statement at Goldstein’s sentencing. “Today, I am a senior. I wouldn’t say that this event defines my entire college experience, but it has taken up a portion of every year I’ve been in college.”
Read a timeline of the events and incidents leading up to Goldstein’s sentencing.
Under Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act — a non constitutional law outlining the rights of victims of criminal acts — once a defendant is found guilty, survivors are guaranteed their right to be offered to and voluntarily provide a written or oral statement to be considered by a court when determining the defendant’s sentence, according to Title 18.
At a sentencing hearing, the Victim Impact Statement is intended to provide a judge information about the physical, emotional, psychological and financial effects the crime has had on a victim’s life and is not intended as a factual recounting of the crime, according to the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney.
Courts have ultimate authority over sentences, but because not all survivors of crimes can participate in trials, it is “in the interest of justice” for Victim Impact Statements to be a part of a case’s record, wrote Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, in a statement to The Temple News.
“Incarceration on its own rarely meets the needs of victims, which is why this office is expanding restorative approaches to justice,” Roh wrote.
The contents of a Victim Impact Statement give “the court the opportunity to take everything into account” and are an opportunity for survivors, who are typically only involved in answering questions and observing proceedings in the court process, to share their experience without being cross-examined, said Donna Gray, manager of risk reduction and advocacy services at Campus Safety Services.
“It is one of those opportunities where the victim/witness has the opportunity to sort of say to everyone, but particularly to the perpetrator, ‘This is what this crime has done to me, this is how it has affected me’ emotionally, financially, could be academically, could be in terms of relationships, there’s a full gambit of reactions that a person can could have experienced,” she added.
This is important because typically when the statement is delivered at the sentencing, it is at least one-and-a-half to two years from the beginning of the case, Gray said.
“That’s a lot of time and emotional energy that the victim-witness has put into focusing on that crime,” Gray added. “And so when we talk about how traumatic the incident itself is, there’s the whole aftermath. And so the impact statement allows for that individual to summarize everything that has happened to them and sort of say, ‘Your Honor, this is what I want you to recognize as a take away from my experience.’ So it tends to, can be very emotional in terms of someone relaying the statement, but the writing of the statement, the process behind thinking about that two years, or whatever it is, it’s not just tied to that one situation, it’s tied to the whole aspect of how has this crime impacted me from incident onset to where I am today.”
Because victim’s rights in Pennsylvania are not constitutional, it can be a challenge for survivors to feel seen or heard in a court proceeding, making the Victim Impact Statement the “one moment that the victim gets to fully and meaningfully engage the justice system” without being a case witness, said Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s former Commonwealth Victim Advocate who resigned last month.
Victim Impact Statements come during a case’s sentencing, rather than another part of the court process, to honor the due process of the offender and can be presented at the sentencing, filed with the court through a prosecutor or victim advocate or sent directly to the case’s judge, Storm said.
When it is read aloud in court, the statement becomes a part of the court’s record and the court’s public file, she added.
“Some crime survivors will come to court, some crime survivors will ask their advocate or someone else to read it aloud for them, as you can imagine it can be, you know, really scary, intimidating and highly emotional things,” Storm said.
Additionally, under Title 18, there are no provisions for who the statement should be directed toward, whether it be the judge, offender or the court in the sentencing, she added.
In the Goldstein case, the survivor’s Victim Impact Statement is addressed to Goldstein and the survivor delivered the statement during the courtroom sentencing — a setting and occurrence in itself a statistical anomaly in sexual assault cases.
Out of every 1,000 cases of rape, only 230 are reported to police, 13 referred to a prosecutor and seven lead to a felony conviction, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.
Nearly one in four undergraduate women in the United States experience sexual assault or misconduct, a study prepared for the Association of American Universities found in 2019, though the statistic had been first found in 1987, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
“One night changed my entire life,” the survivor read in the statement. “In a matter of 30 minutes, you were able to damage me. Physically, the bruises you caused went away within a few weeks. Mentally, I don’t think I will ever fully heal. Beyond the lost friendships and the agony of every challenging step I had to take to find my place back at Temple, I was faced with a new issue that has made my life more difficult than I could ever imagine.”
In the statement, the survivor described initially feeling scared to tell her friends and parents about the assault. She then informed her mother about it, and later her father during Passover in April 2018. They asked if she wanted to report the assault, and at the time, she told them no, the survivor said in the statement.
The survivor was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks because of the assault, and then saw Goldstein on campus while walking to class, which triggered panic, she said in the statement. After that, she talked to a friend, decided to report the assault and contacted the Temple Police Department, where they filed a report about the assault with Detective Ryan Aitken and began meeting with other detectives and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, she said in the statement.
Guy D’Andrea, a criminal and civil trial lawyer and former assistant district attorney at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, said when working with clients to prepare Victim Impact Statements, he encourages them to explain each aspect of their life that has been affected after incidents to show the case’s judge what they went through in the case.
“In terms of first having to tell a detective, then potentially another detective, then potentially another police officer, then the university, then the prosecutor, then a judge at a preliminary hearing, then a judge and a jury at a trial, plus other people,” D’Andrea said. “I mean, you’re having to relive and have every bit of when you were sexually assaulted sort of picked apart and examined with a microscope, and it’s not easy.”
At Temple, Campus Safety Services has reported a slight increase in crimes related to interpersonal violence during the last few years in its Annual Security Report, with reports of relationship violence offenses growing from 22 reports in 2014 to 34 reports in 2019. This may be because students have felt more comfortable reporting instances of sexual assault, The Temple News reported.
In recent years, college and elected officials statewide and nationwide have pushed for increased education and programs to combat sexual assault and ease the reporting process on college campuses, paralleling the international attention around movements like the #MeToo movement that rose around 2017 and called for attention to survivors’ accusations and stories of sexual assault allegations against prominent men. In 2018, former Temple trustee Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in a sexual assault retrial, The Temple News reported.
While attention to events like these make survivors feel more encouraged to report instances of sexual assault, survivors may feel hesitant or scared to report because of fear of social impications of telling others, dealing with feelings of shame about the incident and worries about how their information will be viewed by people once reported, said Teresa White-Walston, director of education and training at WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence.
“Survivors often have to bear the blade,” White-Walston said.
Additionally, survivors of sexual assault respond to trauma in many different ways and on many different timelines, said Hillary Black, a licensed clinical social worker and assistant coordinator of sexual assault counseling and education at Tuttleman Counseling Services.
When trauma initially happens, survivors may go through a period of acute stress reaction for several weeks when they experience psychological stressors like feeling hyperarousal, having their concentration impacted and intrusive thoughts about the incident or going through periods of flashbacks or disassociation, Black said.
In the weeks, months and years following the incident, one of the challenges for survivors is psychologically navigating and healing from the violation of their personal autonomy that occurred during the incident, which could mean choosing whether to engage in activities or conversations about the incident and deciding whether to report the incident, with or without support in doing so, she added.
“Loved ones or people who care might be pushing for reporting or pushing for some sort of action,” Black said. “And we have to really manage our own reactions so that we’re not once again violating somebody’s autonomy.”
In the statement, the survivor described deciding to report not just for herself, but also to potentially protect other women from being assaulted in the future. Toward the end of the statement, the survivor mentions other women that “aren’t given the same opportunity I have today, being able to stand here telling you how you detrimentally impacted my life.”
“This is my finish line. It isn’t yours. I don’t know what your fate will be after today, but my goal in coming forward was never to put you behind bars. I had to stand up for myself,” the survivor said in the statement.
National attention to landmark sexual assault cases and continued conversations around stopping sexual violence is beginning to change the way sexual assault is viewed in supporting survivors coming forward about their cases, White-Walston said.
“When you start talking about shifting culture and climate, which it has occurred in our country on many, many levels, that the door has finally begun to open a little bit more where people are saying, you know, ‘This is really an important issue,’” she added.
Because the survivor took Goldstein’s case forward and stayed with it through conviction, White-Walston hopes young people will be encouraged to create safe spaces on college campuses where sexual assault is not accepted, she said.
The Victim Impact Statement allows people to see that behind every criminal case there is a survivor, Storm said.
“People need to not only appreciate and understand that behind every one of these criminal cases that there is a victim there, and that victims, their experiences should be understood and we should at some degree as society be looking through the lens of the victim and not always the lens of the accused,” Storm added.
The Temple News does not publish the names of survivors of sexual assault without permission.
Editor’s note: The Temple News is publishing the Victim Impact Statement from Ari Goldstein’s sentencing on Oct. 21, 2020, today at its author’s request.
As much of our coverage of this case has focused on the defendant, it is important for the survivor’s experience to be in The Temple News. This statement is not a recounting of the case, but a part of the public record of it and is valuable to ongoing conversations about sexual assault and its impact at Temple, on college campuses and in our communities.
The document below is an excerpt of the Victim Impact Statement from the court sentencing transcript from the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. The names of Temple University students are redacted.