Rape victim Julie Weil tells shocking story of being attacked & how she's helping victims nationally
Julie Weil helps Violence Against Women Act pass
Shannon Cake , Lynn Walsh
10:57 PM, May 20, 2013
3:55 PM, Nov 24, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -
To see her in action, Julie Weil looks like an everyday mom. Her life story though, is far more complicated. Her world as a busy mother of two was shattered 11 years ago.
"It was very brutal," Weil said.
It's a story so alarming even Washington lawmakers, who agree on virtually nothing, stop everything to listen.
"I'm a mom from Jupiter and I sat down with Congressional staff in the Senate and House, trying to get people to understand, telling my story over and over again," Weil said.
She has been to the depths of darkness, enduring hours of abuse while her children, ages three and 8-months at the time, were forced to watch.
Her attacker told her he was looking for a woman with children. "It makes you the perfect hostage," she said. "No mother is going to leave her child under any circumstances for anything."
Weil's torture began just after noon in October 2002. She pulled into her church parking lot with her son. Pre-school was letting out for her daughter.
"We were kind of doddling out to our car," Weil said. "I had buckled my son into his car seat. My daughter was in the very back of our van and she was playing around. I was talking to my girlfriend and then as soon as she drove away a man rushed me from behind, hit me over the head with what felt like a brick. My daughter started screaming; we were both screaming. He threw me inside, shut the door (and) turned up the radio to muffle our screams."
Then he looked at Weil and asked her if she believed in God. "Of course I believe in God," Weil said. "He said then you're going to forgive me for what I'm about to do to you and your two children, and at that point my heart sank."
Julie's abductor drove south from Homestead, out into the Everglades, going deep into the brush.
"He raped me several times, while my daughter sat within feet of me," Weil said. "He forced her to watch every minute of the beatings and the rapes."
Her three-year-old daughter was screaming and crying, she said. " He said to her at one point, 'what did your mother do that made God so mad that he hates your family this much?'"
At one point when he was raping he, made Weil turn around and look at her son.
"He said, 'every time you look into your son's eyes, I want you to remember what it feels like when I raped you.' It took me forever to get over that," Weil said.
After hours of abuse inside Weil's minivan, they drove back to civilization, to an ATM . Her abductor had a knife at her daughters' throat. Weil was instructed to take out as much money as she could and never make a signal to anyone that anything was wrong.
Then, her abductor drove them to a park and raped Weil again inside her van. What the abductor didn't know was that Weil used to play at the playground at the park and her parents still live in her childhood home just across the street.
"The most hopeless feeling was that I could see my mom's car in her driveway," Weil said.
The day grew long and Julie and her children had been hostage the entire afternoon. It was about to come to an end though, in the same place it began, right back at her church.
"He parked between some bushes so nobody could see us," Weil said. "He threw my underwear at me and said, 'now I want you to wipe all the buttons, the radio, the air conditioning, the steering wheel. I want you to wipe down this van because I want you to know I'm never going get caught.'"
Then Julie heard a stunning admission. Her abductor said he had done this before.
"'I just did this 10 days ago,' he said to me. 'I did this at a church in Pinecrest to another woman. I abducted her, I thought she was going to come back with her kids but she didn't and I raped her and she fled…But, I was smart with you. I made sure you had kids with you so you couldn't go anywhere.'"
He then laid Weil down naked in her van. " He put the knife to my neck and he played with my hair," Weil said. He then asked her daughter if he should kill her mother.
"He played with the knife and then, just like that, he just got out of the car and walked away," Weil said.
Although Julie had wiped away most of the evidence in her van, a tiny piece of the rapist's DNA was found on Weil's shirt. Six-months later, when police were called to a domestic violence scene involving suspect Michael Siebert, his DNA matched Weil's shirt and several rape cases before hers.
Siebert, dubbed the "daycare rapist," is now behind bars. He is facing seven consecutive life terms.
To heal, Julie moved to Palm Beach County. By opening up and eventually sharing her story, she's been opening doors for others, like the Butterfly House.
It's a small center at Wellington Regional Hospital. Here, rape victims avoid the chaos of the hospital emergency room and instead are examined in a private, delicate way.
"When someone is raped they don't ever think they'll be clean again," Weil said. "Here they can come and get clean."
Weil has also pushed for a rape treatment center. It's now open in the heart of Palm Beach County. But, she didn't stop there. She took her powerful story all the way to Washington D.C. Sharing every detail with Congress in an attempt to change the way rape cases are handled nationwide.
"I never thought in that moment laying naked and bleeding, that I could go from there to there," Weil said. "Let alone be able to change my community."
But, she said it's an amazing feeling. "It gives purpose to the pain that my family went through and there's nothing more empowering than that. I got justice and I got my life back."
Weil is the first to admit she didn't do any of this alone. Local and federal lawmakers, as well as victims' advocates have all been instrumental in her fight for change.